A/N: I just wanted to let all of you out there know that I'm not abandoning anything-I'm just in a bit of a rut in terms of writing. You'll see that when (if) you read this, because I'm honestly warning you all that this is not up to my usual standards. I know it, you'll know it, but just realize I'm trying to get back in the groove of writing after a very long, very difficult few months.

So be kind, please.

I dedicate this to madhatterette and everyone else who has been patient with me over the past few years.


Catch My Breath

Hermione Granger inhaled deeply. Then she exhaled. Then, inhaled once more. Then exhaled.

There were moments when she sometimes forgot how to breathe and she occasionally found it necessary to remind herself of the basic principles involved. It was usually most acutely needed when he was in the room, and if she was honest with herself, it was probably because he was in the room.

Remus Lupin always made Hermione's breath catch. Always.

She knew that Ginny thought her mad. After all, what was so attractive about a quiet, bookish, handsome-but-decidedly-older man when there was a houseful of Quidditch-playing, Death Eater-fighting, good-time-having young men to choose from? Hermione couldn't really answer that question. She admitted to salivating over the half-naked form of Charlie Weasley as much as any hot-blooded female.

But Remus made her breath catch.

Perhaps it was the way he was always there when she needed him. Even if it didn't necessarily involve his direct presence, as she tended to find oxygen scarce when they shared the same space. But he seemed in-tune to her in a way few others were, Harry and Ron included. He seemed to know the precise moment she needed the perfect cup of tea, or when she needed a new book suggestion, or when to walk half-naked out of the shower, adorably bashful, at the exact moment she was stepping out of her own room in a daze of half-wakefulness.

Best. Alarm clock. Ever.

It could have been all or none of those things, but it didn't really matter all that much to her why. All she knew was that the world faded away when he was around. Her eyes took in his tall, lean, lithe body, kind face and intelligent grey eyes that threatened amber; her ears his low, raspy, sexy voice that teased her with a varied vocabulary and general brilliance. Her nose caught the scents of freshly-cut grass and pine and just a hint of rich, dark chocolate.

Her other senses were harder to come by. Light touches were mostly accidental, but her fingertips seemed to have minds of their own when he was around. There was nothing too suspicious—the passing graze over the warm wool of his cardigans or the accidental-on-purpose caress of her hand over that one, silvery scar on his left hand—but she felt fluttery after every one. She tried to gauge his reaction when those occurrences happened. He remained maddeningly stoical.

It wasn't until earlier that evening, however, when the tension in her body had become so unbelievably unbearable that she was given a glimpse of what he tasted like. It had been brief—a flirtation, if you will—but it had not been disappointing…

Hermione closed the door of the Grimmauld Place library, effectively shutting out the sounds of the rest of the house. She inhaled deeply, held it for a moment, then exhaled; she felt her blood pressure slow and the flush on her cheeks dissipate. It was just her, a crackling fire, and a room full of leather-bound tomes. This was her sanctuary from the world around her, and in that moment, she needed the solitude.

Why, oh why, did he have to look so incredibly sexy in those glasses? And why, dear Merlin why, did he never notice whenever they were so adorably askew?

Shaking her head, Hermione hoped the piles of reports she had trucked home with her would clear her mind of the man who was slowly becoming an obsession. A glimpse at the truly astonishing number of folios on the long library table told her that she would have plenty to do. She sighed. Even though she loved her job with the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures, she knew that she was one of the few who actually took it seriously. Most saw the department as a stepping stool for other, "better" departments within the Ministry of Magic and therefore did not see the need to try to change the broken system. Hermione never ceased to be amazed by the sheer tonnage of bureaucratic nonsense required to work in politics.

She was just settling down to her reports while simultaneously wondering whether she should go get some tea when the door to the library opened and Remus walked in. Under his arm was the Evening Prophet and in his hands he carried a tea tray with two cups and a large tea pot, complete with garish purple and orange tea cosy that the residents of Grimmauld Place had received from a rather proud Dobby the Christmas prior.

Hermione felt breath leave her as she watched him set the tea tray in front of her, and she thought, 'He always knows. How does he always know?'

"I thought you could use some tea," he said with a warm smile, setting the paper down momentarily before moving to pour the piping hot beverage. "Thought I'd save you a trip down to the kitchen. The twins are experimenting in there. Best to keep well out of it."

Hermione couldn't help but smile as Remus chattered on a bit more about the twins and their general tomfoolery, and how much they reminded him of James and Sirius, and how Sirius was very glad indeed that Hermione had convinced him to invest with the identical troublemakers, as his already-vast fortune had almost doubled. All the while, he poured their tea, making hers without asking and Hermione trusting that there would be just enough milk and sugar.

It was all so comfortable and intimate that when he moved around the table to set the cup next to her, without thinking, she kissed him lightly on the lips.

He froze, eyes locked on hers and Hermione felt her cheeks colour as she realized what she had done. She swallowed hard, quickly averting her eyes. She concentrated on the taste of his lips—chocolate, of course, and blackberry and something just a little exotic, perhaps cinnamon. She took just a moment to savour it; 'just enough time,' she thought, 'for him to get over his shock and try to let me down easy.' Then she turned to him with a warm smile.

"Thank you for the tea, Remus," she said, trying to keep her voice light and polite and passionless. "It was very kind of you."

Then she turned her attention back to her work, pretending as though nothing of consequence had happened, and all the time thinking that chocolate and blackberries and cinnamon should forever be incorporated into everything she would ever eat in future.

She had deliberately ignored his movements from that moment forward, though she was almost certain there were a number of times when he had opened his mouth to say something, thought better of it, and remained quiet. He didn't, surprisingly, leave the library, instead choosing to sit on the long, black suede sofa and read his copy of the Evening Prophet, the only sound being his occasional sip of tea.

When Hermione found that she could no longer focus on her work, she excused herself and went up to her room, hoping a shower would at least ebb the rush of sexual frustration that seemed doomed to live inside her. She was just stepping out of her bathroom, steam licking at her ankles, when she caught sight of Remus leaning against her bedroom door frame.

They locked eyes in silence for a moment before he spoke, "May I speak with you for a moment?"

Hermione tried to think of a compelling reason to put off the conversation, but found that words were evading her at the moment. Perhaps it was the vulnerable nature of standing in front of her obsession in naught but a towel, trying to remember how to breathe. So she nodded meekly, inching past him into her room and feeling him follow her.

He closed the door behind him, then turned to her, saying, "I think we need to talk about what happened in the library."

"I really don't think we do," she replied, finally finding her voice as panic started to swell. She didn't want to hear his rejection. That was why she had pre-empted it in the library.

"I have a feeling you think I'm going to react in a certain way, and I'm fairly certain my reaction is not the one you think it is."

It took her a moment to translate the sentence, brow furrowing. "I'm sorry…what?"

He took a step forward, eyes inching past grey toward amber. "I've been waiting for the right moment to kiss you, 'Mione. You just happened to find it before I did."

All of a sudden, Hermione could breathe again. And more than that, there was ether in the air, sweet and intoxicating, but her eyes started to burn as tears started to fall in an overwhelming sense of relief. She collapsed on the edge of her bed, burying her head in her hands as the weight of her own emotions—the timidity, the obsession, the longing and the hoping—crashed into her.

Any other man would have been confused. Any other man would have been uncomfortable.

Not Remus. He knelt in front of her and took her head in his hands. The grey in his eyes was almost completely overwhelmed by amber. The pad of his thumb ran over her cheek, and she could see that beautiful, silvery scar on his left hand.

Her eyes flicked over to his and he smiled, saying, "You take my breath away."

The towel never really stood a chance.

Remus's hands were large and gentle, and his body a collection of silvery scars. Hermione decided that she wanted to trace all of them. Trace them with her fingers and her tongue. He was deceptively muscular and the scars ran across those muscles like short lengths of patchwork stitching. Hermione thought they were the most beautiful things she had every seen and told him so. He had responded by kissing her so deeply, she felt like he wanted to crawl inside of her.

She felt drunk on chocolate and blackberries and cinnamon.

His skin was warm to the touch. He had mentioned that werewolves ran a bit hotter. She had smirked and replied in an affirmative double entendre. In spite of everything they had done, he still blushed at her innuendo. Then he smirked back, because even though he was quiet and bookish and not at all like the loud, boisterous boys she had grown up with, Remus Lupin was still very much a Marauder.

When the early morning hours started to creep upon them and sleep swept over them, they settled into the same breathing pattern.

Inhale, exhale.

As I said...I'm well aware that this is not my best work.

Please be kind if you decide to review.

Thank you for reading...I hope to do better in future.