Disclaimer: For fun, not profit.
Story Notes: Tried very hard to get one last chapter out before my move this weekend. Hope you enjoy.
Earlier in the day, Remus had tried to pretend that nothing was wrong. Now, he was sitting in the corner chair of his bedroom, hands gripping the armrests, his knee bobbing frenetically, hair falling into his eyes and jaw clenched.
An unhappy coil of dread was building in the pit of Hermione's stomach. It was Easter Sunday. They had spent the majority of the day playing nice with the Weasleys and a few of the Order members who had decided to take advantage of Mrs. Weasley's hot cross buns and roasted lamb. Remus had hardly left her side, and he'd been so focused on her that the possessiveness she'd been wary of hadn't even come into play. They might as well have been alone, for all the attention that he'd paid to anyone else.
But the past two days had been tense. Since their argument in the kitchen, the tension in their bond was undeniable yet both of them were denying it. Remus had paid her his usual attention, and he'd kissed her and had touched her and their sex had been more urgent somehow, a mix of the tender care he'd shown their second time and the desperate passion of their first.
But today was Easter.
She was leaving tomorrow.
"The first Hogsmeade weekend is the last weekend of April," Hermione said finally, the pulsing misery evident in her bond making it difficult to get the words out. "The 26th, I think."
He nodded jerkily. "I'll be there, unless..."
Unless Dumbledore sent him away again. Hermione frowned. She hadn't spoken to Dumbledore again since Tuesday night, although he'd dropped in today for a bit of chocolate cake. Remus had very firmly ignored his presence.
"What will happen to our..." Hermione gestured at the space between them. "To us? Being so far apart?"
"I don't know," Remus admitted. "I've never heard of mates being separated like this before."
"I can try researching it," Hermione offered quietly. "Once I'm back at Hogwarts..."
He shook his head. "There's nothing useful there, not really. One or two books that mention the mating process, but nothing beyond that."
"Oh," Hermione replied dimly. It didn't frequently happen that the Hogwarts library failed her. "You're sure that I won't be allowed to visit?"
From her seat on their bed, she could see his teeth clench. "Dumbledore was particularly clear on that point," he told her. "He thought that it wouldn't be safe, appropriate, or wise, given that you have exams to prepare for."
Mocking self-recrimination colored his words with a bitter tang. They'd only had six days together. Six.
"I'll owl," Hermione said. "I'll owl every day."
He looked up at her then, and a faint smile curved his mouth. "You don't need to do that."
Hermione sighed. "It doesn't seem fair."
Remus stood then, stretched stiff limbs, and walked over to sit beside her on the bed. "Dumbledore made the point," he said in a low voice, "that it if our situation were widely known, it could become dangerous."
Hermione furrowed her brow. "Explain."
"There are a lot of popular myths about werewolves," he continued, taking hold of her hand like he had done so many times throughout the day. His fingers swirled patterns into the soft, sensitive skin of her palm. "Such as the fact that a werewolf will do about anything for his mate."
It was as though ice water had crawled into her veins, spreading from her heart to her lungs to her stomach to her toes. "You think that if people knew..." The horrific realization closed up her throat. Oh god.
"It's possible they might try to use you against me," Remus said, sounding more calm than she knew he actually was. "That's why Dumbledore has been so displeased. Part of the reason, anyway."
Hermione twisted to face him. "And because you're in the Order..."
Remus nodded. "Dumbledore thinks that if you were in danger, I'd be a liability to the cause."
"But you'd never compromise the Order!" Hermione cried out passionately, clutching his hand and pulling it to her chest. "You'd never‒how could he think that?"
Remus watched her evenly. "Wouldn't I?"
She stared at him.
"It's not all mythology, Hermione." His voice was quiet and his shame was palpable; she could sense it in the air like a kind of acrid, infectious smoke. "I don't know what I might do. Dumbledore is right to be angry."
"I don't believe it," Hermione said shortly. "You wouldn't, Remus. I know you wouldn't."
"The same way you might have thought I wouldn't proposition a student?"
Hermione stilled. It felt like her heart had stopped. "You didn't."
An odd mix of directionless anger and sadness was welling in her gut. "I'm sorry if it feels that way to you, but I felt like it was a mutual decision."
"You couldn't have known what you were getting into. I did. And I did it anyway."
It felt like he'd punched her. She dropped her head to look at her lap, her heart suddenly racing and her mouth dry. He couldn't‒he didn't regret it, surely? The presence of him in her mind was there; it was solid and sure and it felt the same as it had from the beginning, except that the edges seemed frayed somehow, as though the stress they were feeling was a kind of ivy, attaching itself to their pristine, unshaken bond and infiltrating it.
"Do you wish you hadn't?"
She was proud of the way her voice didn't tremble.
A long, drawn-out exhalation. "No. I couldn't possibly regret it."
Relief spiraled through her. "Okay, then," Hermione breathed, hating how pathetically afraid she'd been that he would demur. "I don't believe that you'd give up information that could hurt the cause, Remus. I don't believe it." She didn't give him a chance to disagree. "But there's no point in not being careful. I obviously won't say anything, and I'll ask Ginny and the boys not to, either." She wrinkled her nose. "Not that it's their business regardless."
"Most definitely not," he muttered darkly. "God. I wish this were simpler."
Hermione swallowed. "Me too. I don't want to‒I don't want to pretend like you're not there, like I don't have you‒"
He whirled to face her, bursting into motion like a sprinter at the start of the gun. His eyes were bright amber in the darkness, his gaze narrowed, and she knew that she had somehow provoked him. "I am yours. I will always be yours."
"I know that," she replied faintly.
His hand shot out, gripped her chin and made her look at him. "Say it."
Like it did every time he spoke to her in that commanding tone, like he couldn't stop himself from demanding of her what he wanted, desire curled through her abdomen. "I'm yours," she said breathlessly, completing the little ritual that they had somehow developed over the past week.
He surged forward, kissed her roughly. "Don't want you to go," he told her, speaking lowly against her lips and teeth, his breath puffing into her mouth with each fierce, angry word. He pulled her lip hard into his mouth, bit down on it, and she yelped a bit.
He liked the sound, and wrapped his arms around her. "Want everyone to know you're mine," he was saying now, possessive hands at her back and sides and hot, demanding mouth moving to her
His voice was doing strange things to her. Hermione threw her head back as he dragged his teeth roughly over the tendons of her neck, over her collarbone, over the scabbed-over mark he'd made. She twitched and jerked, half in pleasure, half in pain as he sucked the damaged flesh into his mouth. Her hands scrabbled for purchase against him. How had this escalated so quickly?
Just as rapidly as his initial assault , he released her skin and pressed his face into her neck, arms holding her tightly. "I never want you to go," he rasped.
The sudden lump in her throat made Hermione realized that she was very close to tears. The thought of separation from him‒of true, unconquerable physical distance‒made her heart hurt and the bond in her mind throb with anticipated pain. How could she leave him?
She had to get closer. She twisted into him, swinging a leg over his thighs so that she could straddle him. His face still pressed against her neck, she ran her hands over his hair and pressed her lips to whatever part of him she could reach: his ear, his jaw, his temple. The bond between them hummed and sang and she just wanted to be closer.
It didn't take long for him to strip them both of their clothing. He was rough and uncontrolled, hauling her body towards him and onto the bed, slipping his fingers up her thighs to touch her labia without preamble. His breathing was harsh and loud to match hers and she gasped when two of his fingers pushed inside her.
She was wet, and he thrust and twisted his fingers only for a few moments before withdrawing, swiping his thumb over her clit, and bending down to kiss her.
It was a devouring kiss. Their legs and arms twisted as they fumbled for the center of the bed, and his intent was so clear, so demanding, that Hermione simply allowed him to arrange her as he wished, her body on fire at his touch, adrenaline and lust coursing through her as he dominated and manipulated her body.
She loved this. She loved seeing him undone and unrestrained; taking his pleasure from her and making her take hers; her body his to master and to worship. The thought made her heart pound and her abdomen contract with arousal.
He broke away, panting, and leaned over her, rolling his hips so that he settled between her legs, his cock hot and hard and pressing against her slick entrance. "You're mine," he mumbled, lining himself up and pushing inside without hesitation, pressing his mouth into her shoulder and dragging his teeth over her. "I'm going to fuck you."
Hermione shuddered. The combination of his body invading hers and his low, harsh voice saying vulgar things in her ear was overwhelming. She thought she might understand, now, why Remus liked her to talk to him during sex.
He set a quick pace, wasting no time in easing her or in waiting for her to ask him to move. His hips snapped into hers at a steady, hard clip, and his chest was pressed into hers, and his hands on either side of her. "You feel‒fucking good," he growled at her, digging his forearms under her thighs and forcing them high up over his shoulders, opening her wide, and the added depth and power that the new angle lent him sent bright flashes of sensation through her.
She couldn't think. She was climbing towards orgasm so quickly, so wildly, and he was gripping her thighs in a way that would surely create bruises, and his expression was dark and furrowed and concentrated, and the heat that was pulsing in her was making her toes curl and her heart stutter.
"R-Remus," she gasped out, winded, casting her unoccupied hands around around for anything to hold onto as he drove her body towards completion. Her knuckles snapped into the wooden headboard. The sharp flare of pain made her gasp, and it was combined with one of his hands dropping down to pinch and rub her clit, and she reflexively clutched at the wood, trying to find something, anything to ground her. Her nails bit into the finish.
"Your cunt," he said, breathless himself but not faltering in his fast, punishing rhythm, "is perfect. Want to be‒inside you, fucking your pretty little cunt, all the time."
Hermione shattered. She shouted and cried out, vision going white, as her body was torn violently into orgasm, dragged into it by the sound of his voice saying those dark things to her, by the wet, organic sounds of their bodies colliding.
He didn't stop. Instead, he pulled her limp, quivering legs down from his shoulders, still thrusting into her contracting quim, and dragged her torso up to him, kissing her ferociously.
Weak-limbed and still coming down, Hermione felt like a strange, thirty-party observer as he set his big hands around her hips, twisted her around to face the headboard, and placed her hands back on the stretch of wood that she'd‒had she gouged the wood?
The moment he let go of her, she sagged, her thighs shaking and her chest heaving. God. Tiredly, she leaned forward until her upper arms rested against the headboard, the carvings of snakes and leaves and hounds rampant making impressions in her skin.
He positioned himself again behind her, moving her legs apart wide enough so that he could slip back inside her. His mouth came down on her shoulder, the one he hadn't marked before, and the feel of him behind her‒so like their first time‒stoked again the flagging fire in her blood. She was still humming, still flooded with the electricity of her orgasm, but he pressed inside her again, grunting harshly against her skin where his teeth were set, and it didn't seem to matter anymore that she was tired or oversensitive.
His urgency was obvious now. He pounded into her, his thighs flexing and trembling behind her, one arm around her waist, one holding the headboard himself, and she could do nothing but try to breathe, managing nothing more than short, panting gasps and whimpers.
Her entire world had narrowed to a focus on this moment; this time; each place where their bodies met and their sweat mingled and they were one physically and through their bond. She was climbing again, nearing a second orgasm, and the weakness in her limbs was nothing in the face of her desperate need to keep this going.
He didn't last much longer. His teeth bit down hard as he came, his back arching and his arm tightening around her, yanking her up off the headboard as he jerked his hips spasmodically and the shock of it, the sudden violence of it, was enough to send her over the edge again.
They fell hard into the mattress, his body mostly cushioning hers but for a sudden knock of her skull to his shoulder that her hair didn't protect. He was breathing in great, heaving gasps like a blown horse. He was still inside her, but he slipped out as she slid from his chest to his side.
Hermione fancied that she could hear her own heartbeat and the rush of blood in her veins. She lay on her back, nestled between his body and his arm, their legs twisted together.
It might have been a minute or twenty before Remus reached across his chest to trail a finger from her sweaty forehead, down her jaw and neck and sternum. "I'm going to miss you," he told her quietly, his breathing having finally begun to slow.
Hermione shifted a bit so that she could look at him. "It'll be over before we know it," she said optimistically, flattening her palm over his heart. "Summer term always flies," she continued. "And we'll have Hogsmeade in a few weeks."
"'We'll always have Hogsmeade?'"
She mustered a smile and nestled her nose into his chest. "And Grimmauld Place?"
"That's significantly less cheery."
"It is, isn't it?" Hermione mused. "Maybe by the time term ends I'll be ready to try the transformation."
"I don't doubt it."
"What do you think I'll be?"
Hermione laughed. "A jarvey?"
"Mm. Don't think I don't notice that you like it when I say all those nasty things."
Hermione grinned. "Learned it from you, I suppose?"
"Reckon so. You are very easily led, you know."
Hermione laughed again, and Remus began humming absently under his breath, rubbing his feet against hers.
"Is that what I think it is?" Hermione asked after a moment, delighted at the hints of a light tenor that she hadn't known existed.
He smiled at her and leaned over to her ear.
His voice was pleasant and clear; he had the kind of effortless singing voice that felt unstudied and natural. Hermione could not help but flush brilliantly at his breath tickling her ear as he sang:
"Moonlight and love songs, never out of date. Hearts full of passion, jealousy, and hate. Woman needs man, and man must have his mate. That no one can deny."
He finished his little bit of "As Time Goes By" by pressing a sloppy, open-mouthed kiss to her ear. She squirmed a bit and twisted away from his grasp, and he laughed at her.
"I like your voice," she told him, feeling almost bizarrely shy, and his eyes glowed warmly at her.
"I like you," he replied simply, and it hit her again: she was going away.
She heaved a sigh and curled into his embrace. "I'll owl every day," she promised again, her eyes drooping, and his grip on her tightened.
"All right there, Hermione?"
Hermione blinked once, twice. Harry was watching her cautiously from across the compartment. She swallowed. "Fine," she managed after a moment. Her heart ached, and she could actually feel the physical distance between her and Remus. With every minute that passed, their stretched-taffy bond grew tighter and tighter. The corner of her mind reserved for Remus was miserable.
"'S'alright if you're not," said Harry kindly. "Remus looked pretty, well, awful at the platform."
Hermione smiled shakily. "It just‒it actually hurts, you know," she said after a moment.
He looked sympathetic. "A lot's changed in ten days, eh?"
It was such a understatement that Hermione couldn't help but laugh a little. "Yes. Speaking of which, Harry... you can't say anything about it. About me and Remus, I mean."
Harry furrowed his brow. "Why not? 'S'not like he's our teacher anymore."
"It's not that," Hermione said uncomfortably. "It might endanger the Order, that's all. So we'd rather be cautious."
Harry looked confused, and opened his mouth to respond, but the compartment door opened before he had a chance.
Ron stuck his head in. "I've been looking all over," he announced grumpily, sidling inside with a brown paper bag that had Mrs. Weasley all over it. "Didn't see you on the platform."
"We got here early," Hermione replied, keeping cautious. She had seen Ron only twice since the day after the full moon. He'd very carefully ignored her both times. "Professor Moody didn't want to deal with the crowd."
Ron settled his long, lanky frame next to Harry and peered inside his bag of leftovers. He wrinkled his nose at the contents. "Dunno why you call him 'professor,'" he commented. "Since he never was, was he?"
The sudden happiness that bloomed in her chest was almost enough to outweigh the pain of her separation from Remus. "Guess he wasn't," she said dumbly.
Ron selected a lumpy sandwich from his bag, offered it cursorily to Harry, who declined, and began to unwrap it. "All right then, Hermione?"
Hermione couldn't help the smile that broke out. "Ron, you're‒you're not upset anymore?"
He took a huge bite of the sandwich and chewed thoughtfully for a few minutes. "Cad eg'adly cha'd an'fing, cad I?"
Hermione fought not to let her revulsion at his manners show. "Well, no..."
He swallowed, and then actually looked at her. "Had a lot of time to think about it," he told her frankly. "What with Harry spending most of his time at Headquarters and me stuck at the Burrow."
Hermione winced. "Ron..."
He waved a hand dismissively. "Forget it. Point is, I know just as well as anyone what they say about werewolves," he said, sounding almost shockingly calm. "Lupin always seemed to, I dunno, not fit the mold. S'pose he was bound to fit it one of these days." He wrinkled his nose. "Not that I want to know any of the details, mind."
It had been an emotional day, to be sure. An emotional week. Hermione felt tears welling up even as she couldn't help but smile at Ron's alarmed expression. She was so relieved.
"Guess I just figured," Ron continued awkwardly. He shrugged. "You know, that we'd..." he trailed off a bit, and the tips of his ears reddened. "Reckon we weren't meant to be after all."
A year ago, or even a few months ago, Ron's admission that he had believed they were meant to be together, that they were fated for each other, would have set her heart alight. She'd have been incandescent with joy.
But now it simply made her sad. "Oh, Ron..."
He shook his head. "Don't." He took another bite of his sandwich. Mercifully, he chewed and swallowed before speaking again. "Dunno if I can really be happy about it, mind, but I know when a cause is lost." He met her eyes and suddenly, a wicked grin split his. "Always did have a thing for teacher, eh?"
It was too much. The events of the day had left her in a whirlwind state of emotion, and Ron's lightheartedness, and acceptance, and Harry's gentle concern‒it all combined and she began laughing and crying at the same time.
Through the blur of tears, Harry and Ron both were staring at her like she'd quite lost her marbles.
"S-sorry," she gasped out. "I'm just‒so happy!"
Ron leaned forward and slung a very long arm across the compartment, gingerly patting her on the shoulder with the tips of his fingers. "There, there," he said weakly, looking over at Harry pleadingly.
"What d'you want me to do?" Harry whispered.
The tears subsided a bit, leaving her just laughing. She wiped her eyes. "I'm sorry‒I'm just‒emotional," she explained stiltedly.
"Didn't notice, mate," Ron said, attempting to tease her a bit.
She smiled wetly at him. "Thanks, Ron."
His smile faded a bit, and he inclined his head in acknowledgement. "'Course."
Grimmauld Place, London
31 March 1997
Library, Hogwarts Castle
Train arrived on schedule despite at least one of its passengers wishing desperately that its engine would change direction and return to London. Dinner was served and announcements announced and I pretended to still have homework left to do for tomorrow so that I could get away and write to you without a certain Miss Weasley peering over my shoulder. I suspect you know the kinds of things she is looking to ask me, so I shan't repeat them here.
I suppose that you spent a lot of time here in the library as a student. I have a table that all the years know is mine; it's a lovely table, rather close to the Restricted section in a bit of a recessed area next to Charms History and Charm Development. Do you know the spot? It has a very nice window that overlooks the cloisters and in the springtime it must be one of the loveliest places in the world, because Professor Sprout takes her younger years to plant flowers down below and I can smell them from here‒the flowers that is, not the students.
Tonight, though, the window is shut and it's quite dark out. I did look over one of my essays, of course‒a Charms one, because I spotted a really fascinating looking book having to do with long-form animation‒but then I sat here wondering what to write to you. It seems like you would have had a table too, when you were at school. Perhaps a spot where you wouldn't be noticed, like I have, where you planned mischief like I planned the D.A. last year. I like to think so, anyway; because maybe then I could sit there and it might be like we were together, but that you'd just gone off to search for a book and would be back soon.
Hermione let herself into Gryffindor Tower with a mumbled "Excalibur" and ducked inside. For the first time she could remember, the warm, welcoming room did not immediately assail her with the sense of home. Home was Remus Lupin.
The Common Room was mostly empty; the long day of travel and the early start of classes tomorrow had sent most students to bed by now, which was just as well since it was nearly midnight. She'd posted her letter to Remus in the Owlery and had ambled her way back to the dorm; she wasn't joking when she had written to Remus that she was trying to avoid Ginny.
But, ah. She was not so lucky. Ron's sister was sitting on one of the squashy red armchairs by the fire, legs up over the side as she read one of Mrs. WEasley's salacious romance novels that she must've nicked.
"There you are," the youngest Weasley said without looking up from her book. "Honestly, Hermione, a lesser person than myself might have been offended with all your sneaking around."
Well, there was nothing for it now.
Hermione walked over and sat down in the chair across from Ginny and looked at her warily. "I haven't been sneaking."
"So what do you call disappearing left and right at Grim‒at Headquarters? And running off to the library the first chance you got here?" Ginny was peering down at her over the cover of the book, her big brown eyes bright with curiosity and mischief.
Hermione's gaze drifted to the book she was reading.
Vilkas Vargo and the Vestal Virgin
Something unpleasant simmered in her stomach. Vilkas Vargo? Hermione looked closer at the mostly-naked male model that was grinning darkly from the cover, flexing his muscles with each wink. "Tell me that's not what I think it is."
Ginny turned the book around to peer at its cover, grinning wickedly. "S'pose that depends on what you think it is. If you thought it was one of Mum's stash of romance novels, you'd be right. If you thought it was part of a very scandalous collection of stories about my friend Vilkas, werewolf, who is on the prowl for his one true love... you'd also be right."
Hermione's face flamed. "Ginny‒!"
The other girl laughed. "What?"
Hermione shook her head. "That was your mum's?"
Ginny nodded. "Found it when I was going bonkers because I wasn't allowed back to Headquarters. Mum reckoned there might be another werewolf looking for a mate," she explained sarcastically.
Hermione glanced around the Common Room nervously.
"No one's here, just me," said Ginny cheerfully. "So. I'm not letting you run away now. Tell me everything."
"Hermione," she mocked back. "Come on. I'm not upset or anything! It's just wild that this‒" she motioned to the book she'd been reading, and at Vilkas who was now looking quite bored without anyone's attention‒"kind of thing can actually, you know, happen. It's so sordid. And Mum's cooled down a bit, you don't have to worry. She's just stubborn you know, a Prewett."
Hermione smiled weakly. "Ginny... it's a bit, you know, private?"
Ginny threw her head back against the arm of the chair dramatically. "Merlin! Aren't you a girl? And don't you not have any other girl friends? I've been waiting a week to talk to you about this, give me something! What's it like?"
Maybe it was the fact that she'd been separated from Remus for twelve hours now, and that there was a rock in her stomach and tension in her mind because of the unnatural distance between them, but Hermione finally just relented. "Right now, it's awful," she told Ginny frankly.
This was disappointing to Ginny. "Awful?"
Hermione nodded. "There's a... well, a bond between us. And we're so far apart, and it just... hurts."
Ginny looked enthralled. "It hurts? Cor, that is so romantic."
Hermione glared at her. "It's not romantic. It's awful. And I won't be able to visit for‒you know‒full moons. I'm not going to see him for four weeks. It's awful, Ginny."
Some of the excitement fled the other girl's face, replaced by something thoughtful. "You'll see him next Hogsmeade weekend?"
Hermione nodded. "Yes."
"That's not terribly far away," said Ginny bracingly. "I mean, only a few weeks, right?"
Hermione sank back into her chair. "Feels like it's ages."
"Well, tell me what happened after we all left last week," said Ginny eagerly. "Mum was in a right state, let me tell you. No one really knew what was going on at first but after the howling and stuff stopped, you know, when you went down there, Dad explained what he thought the situation probably was."
Hermione winced. The status of her relationship with Lupin was not something she wanted Mr. Weasley to be thinking about.
"Mum was all set to go raring down there, but Dad and Ron stopped her," Ginny continued matter-of-factly. "Can you imagine? She's just barmy enough to do it‒walk into a room with a werewolf in her dressing gown, that is, and start threatening him. Oh, Mum."
"She waited until the next day for that," Hermione mumbled uncharitably, remembering the awful scene in the kitchen that morning.
"I heard her," said Ginny. "It was awful. Dad was really upset after that, because, you know, he really likes Lupin, we all do, and of course Fred and George weren't happy either. Moony, you know?"
"And then, when Sirius said that she wasn't allowed to take you back to the Burrow forcibly‒you did know that part, right? It was after you went to bed, but Mum and us didn't, and she was really upset, you know, thinking that you were about to be taken advantage of, and no one was thinking about you‒that kind of stuff‒and she was going to basically Side-Along you to the Burrow, and Sirius wouldn't let her into your room. He blocked it somehow, and the house listened to him."
Hermione didn't know this part, and she wasn't sure how to take it. On the one hand, Mrs. Weasley's interference was definitely not appreciated, but on the other, she knew that it was well-intentioned. Mrs. Weasley had been honestly concerned for her, not angry as she'd thought later.
"So what happened after we all left? Did you know‒you know‒go wild?"
The idea actually made Hermione laugh. "No," she said, now smiling at Ginny, because somehow‒miraculously‒talking about it really was making her feel better. "No, Sirius knocked on my door and talked to me a bit. He basically said that he knew I wasn't stupid, that I'd probably figured out what was going on, and that it would need to be my call whether I wanted to even talk to Remus about it. He said that Remus was ready to basically never see me again if that's what I wanted."
Ginny's mouth dropped open. "No!"
Hermione nodded. "So I wasn't having that of course, and so I told him that I had questions, and Sirius laughed and said, 'I bet you do,' in that way of talking he has, and he told me to go down to the library in ten minutes. And so I did."
"And then did you go wild?"
"Ginny, no. We talked. And it was‒" Hermione broke off, remembering the conversation that now seemed so long ago‒"it was so uncomfortable. It was incredibly awkward. I felt terrible for him. For Remus, I mean."
"Cor, I can imagine," said Ginny sympathetically. "Didn't really think about it to be honest, but poor Lupin, right? I mean, how embarrassing to be that old‒"
"‒he's not that old‒"
"‒and realize that your mate is a teenager," Ginny continued on blithely.
"Yes, well," Hermione said uncomfortably. "Anyway, we talked for quite a while."
Hermione couldn't help it. She blushed brilliantly and Ginny let out a loud cackle of laughter.
"I knew it! You did go wild," the redhead said, beaming at her. "Was it good?"
"Well, was it?" she persisted stubbornly. "I mean, he is older. Nothing like the boys here." Ginny wrinkled her nose. "I bet it was ace."
Hermione sighed heavily. "Ginny, I‒"
"If you don't tell me, I'll assume it was terrible," Ginny interrupted wickedly. "I'll tell you about mine. Michael and I didn't really do that much until last spring, but Dean and me‒"
"It was wonderful," Hermione said very quickly. "I really don't want to say much, but, it was‒" she broke off with a sigh. "This bond we have‒it's hard to explain, Ginny, but it just makes‒everything‒lovely."
Ginny grinned a slow grin. "Can you like‒feel him through the bond, or something? Can you do all kinds of kinky things with it?"
Hermione sent her a withering glare. Ginny sighed. "Well, I suppose all this amazing sex you're having explains why you kept vanishing over hols," she said practically. "I'm jealous."
"Well, he's mine."
Ginny laughed. "Your soul mate," she said with a little sigh. "It really is romantic, Hermione."
A bubble of warmth spread in her chest. Hermione suddenly felt quite bad that she had been avoiding her friend. Why hadn't she guessed that Ginny would be so supportive? Why hadn't she realized how lovely it would be to talk about this special thing with someone?
"Thanks, Ginny," she finally said, reaching forward to clasp the other girl's hand. "I appreciate it."
Ginny smiled at her brilliantly. "Seriously though, can you do any really randy things with that bond?"
It was very late by the time Hermione climbed up to the sixth year dorms, yawning and worn-out. She undressed for bed mechanically, stumbled over to her four-poster and flopped on the coverlet.
She winced when something hard pressed into her lower back, and stiffened at the crinkle of parchment. It couldn't be...?
She twisted around, shut her curtains, and cast a quick Lumos.
There it was. A thick yellow parchment envelope, clearly holding more than just a letter. On the front in black ink was her name, written in the familiar elegant, utilitarian hand that she remembered from her third year.
Gryffindor Tower, Hogwarts Castle
He must have sent it the moment she'd left! Hermione eagerly opened the letter. A small, square package covered in brown paper fell into her hand as she drew out the letter.
31 March 1997
Library, Grim Old Place
It seems my misery was so overbearing within a few moments of your departure that our friend Mr P felt compelled to take me aside and set me straight. 'Mr M,' he said, in that disappointed, condescending manner of his that I've forcibly grown to love, 'don't tell me you ignored Messrs Weasley's gift?'
Ashamed to admit that I had, in fact, quite forgotten the gift‒and to be perfectly honest, witnessing Mr P the Younger's amphibious appendage rather put me off another WWW product‒I was forced to accept Mr P's well-earned censure for the oversight.
'Mr M, you disappoint me,' Mr P said sadly, 'I contributed to that gift. I slaved over that gift! Messrs Weasley prostrated themselves before me‒'
'Mr P,' interrupted I, 'bowing before us is something they do frequently and voluntarily.'
'Such is the price of fame,' agreed Mr P sadly. 'But I digress. Open the damn gift, you ponce.'
See enclosed gift. Included is one half of a set of two-way mirrors. You may remember the set that Mr P gave to Mr P the Younger (which, as I've been incessantly informed, have seen rather less use this year than Mr P would prefer). This set has been modified to reflect scent and touch as well as light. To reach me, tap twice with your wand and say 'M.' Mine is currently set for 'Hermione,' but Mr P has promised that you will be receiving a juvenile nickname of your very own once your claws come out to play.
A smile spreading her face and her heart pounding with excitement, Hermione pulled open the brown paper and a small, unassuming mirror slipped onto her bed cover. She immediately cast Muffliato‒for all that she disapproved of the Half-Blood Prince, that was a rather useful spell‒and spelled her curtains shut.
She tapped the mirror twice and whispered, "Moony."
The mirror's edges glowed a bit as the magic activated. What if he were asleep? What if she'd disturbed him from something?
She held her breath and suddenly Remus's dear, tired face swam into view, his eyes half-lidded with sleep but smiling brilliantly nonetheless. "Hello, love."
Hermione beamed. "Hi."
"Found our gift, I see," Remus commented, settling himself back on what looked to be his bed‒their bed.
"Did I wake you?"
"Glad you did. Burning the candle at both ends?"
"Something like that. Gossiping with Ginny, if you want the truth."
He grimaced. "Don't want."
Hermione giggled. "She was actually... she was rather lovely, Remus," she told him softly. "I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised‒she and I have been friends since third year, you know. And she was still Ginny, of course‒totally irreverent and inappropriate and a bit vulgar, but it was nice‒it was really nice how kind she was tonight."
Remus's answering smile turned into a yawn. "It doesn't surprise me. That girl will do the opposite of anything Molly wants or says, and will get away with it besides. Bit's got her entire family wrapped around her finger."
"She does, doesn't she?" Hermione agreed fondly. "I loved your letter."
He grinned. "Padfoot kept telling me not to poncy it up. He's started coming up with names for you, by the way."
Hermione winced. "Do I want to know?"
"I suppose that depends on how you feel about 'Claws,' since that's all he's got so far. He's very excited about all of this."
She snorted. "I'm not going to call myself 'Claws,' Remus. That sounds like I'm in a gang."
"Well, he wasn't entirely joking about inducting you into the Marauders, so how does the Muggle phrase go? 'If the shoe fits?'"
"I hardly think I'm needed. Don't you have two disciples right there in London already?" Hermione leaned back and snuggled under her bed covers, turning on her side to lean the mirror up against a pillow.
"Oh yes," Remus agreed mildly. "Padfoot is quite enjoying the attention."
Hermione laughed. "I'm glad he's happy."
Remus's serious tone sobered her quickly. She opened her mouth to speak, but yawned instead. "Do the mirrors really transmit scent and touch?"
"Scent, definitely," Remus confirmed for her easily. "You smell lovely as always."
She blushed, and then touched a finger to the cool surface. "Try it?"
She saw his hand reaching for the mirror, obscuring his face, and then‒
His warm, roughened fingertip touched hers. It wasn't quite like real life‒she could still perceive the barrier between them, but she could also feel him. They were no closer physically‒her bond still ached‒but even this semblance of touch was enough to ease the strain. "What a brilliant bit of magic," she breathed out.
Remus's finger dropped away, and was replaced by his lips, which kissed her fingertip very gently. "It is," he agreed quietly, and she felt his breath on her skin.
She blinked very rapidly. "I miss you."
"'All days are nights to see till I see thee,'" Remus murmured. 'And nights bright days when dreams do show thee to me.' Get some sleep, my love, and I'll see you again in the morning."
Author's Note: So many of you were so curious about Fred & George's gift. I hope it didn't disappoint? :)