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CHAPTER 6
Hide and Seek


Up in his bedroom, Remus sat at his desk and unrolled the long parchment. He stared at Hermione’s round, rather pleasant handwriting for ever-lasting seconds before he started reading.

Every now and then he looked up but instantly felt drawn back to the parchment. It was wonderful; some sentences were remarkably well written, and the general ideas Hermione had developed denoted a rare maturity. It was impossible, it really was, that it was she and not a professional who had written these words ─ yet he had a proof in front of him that she had indeed written them.

He felt helpless; why had he accepted to read this? Was he really that thoughtless? He knew perfectly well Hermione didn’t believe in herself, but there was no way he could help her with that. He couldn’t go to her saying she was the best, saying she was the most intelligent person he’d ever met. Saying he loved her so deeply.

He pushed the thought aside, thinking hard. Get a grip, he told himself. She’s eighteen. He bet he had imagined it all; she felt nothing for him. He was just… a father figure. Yes, that was it; her parents were away, she was growing up, the constant menace of war was unnerving and she needed someone to help her through all these changes in her life.

She would hate him if she came to know what he thought about her. The idea would devastate her. God, he was pathetic. Remus stared at his desk for long minutes. What would Harry think of him, too? Hermione was the best friend of James’s son; what would James have said of this? Of him suddenly having a crush─ well, more than a crush, in truth─ on a teenager? And if Sirius had still been there…

This was way wrong. Getting a glimpse of the parchment again Remus wished, for maybe the first time in his life, to disappear under the ground. He’d have to comment her work in the end, wouldn’t he? Or maybe─ yes. He could simply write the remarks down; it would be better that way. He took out a quill and a bottle of ink, took a deep breath and started to write.

Hermione,
You essay was extraordinary; I wish I knew how to tell you just how good it is, but unfortunately words don’t exist to describe ─

It was so bad he felt like crying. Remus tore the parchment, and then he crumbled the halves in his hands and flung them to the bin, starting with a new blank parchment.

Hermione,
I think it is better if we talk about this now; the sooner the better. Our relationship is quite… complicated; so maybe it would be best if we left it as it was before… we’ll just remain friends, so consider me as an uncle and─

It wasn’t much better than the first anyway. Uncle? Honestly, he couldn’t even convince himself of it.

Remus sat back in his chair, dejected, giving up.

***

Hermione felt feverish. It’d been a day and she hadn’t met Remus yet. If he hadn’t returned her essay maybe it meant that it wasn’t good at all, and he didn’t know how to tell her?

It was terrible to feel that way; a part of her wanted never to see Remus again, because she had been foolish enough to show him her work. What would he think of her now, judging her on a piece of parchment? However the other half of her wanted it back… and what was more disturbing was that she didn’t care that much about the essay itself; in fact, she wanted to see Remus again.

***

Remus had to talk to her. He approached her in the evening, when she was talking to Ron at the bottom of the stairs. In fact, it turned out Ron had something else to do, because he left, leaving them alone.

She stiffened when she saw him move toward her.

“Your essay.” Remus offered her the scroll of parchment.

“Oh─” She held out a hand to grab it. “Thank you.”

“It’s pretty good.” It was a lie. It was way more than just good.

“Really?” Her face lightened and she smiled an irresistible smile, one that made him die within because he knew he would never have it. His head spun, the blood rushing to his temples.

“Really,” Remus repeated. He hesitated, knowing that, had he wanted to act normally, he would have sat down beside her and talked about the essay. He would have commented her work and debated her views: that was what he would have done before.

“Well…” Remus could only mutter. “I guess I’ll go now.”

Hermione held his gaze for a split second before nodding, trying to erase from her features any sign of disappointment. He hadn’t told her a single thing about the essay─ and furthermore, he hadn’t… well… he wasn’t staying any longer. Maybe it was for the best. Probably.

“Er, Remus?” someone called from the door. Both Remus and Hermione turned to look at Harry. He had arrived, looking quite unusually embarrassed.

“Yes?” Remus jerked his head aside, jumping on the occasion to turn away from Hermione.

“Could I… er… talk to you for a minute?”

Remus nodded shortly, though not without surprise. “All right. Go ahead.”

“Er─” Harry blushed, looking anywhere but at Hermione. “Could I talk to you somewhere else?”

Hermione watched them as they strode out. Without knowing what she was doing she had stood up, walked around the table and followed them quietly. The corridor was quite deserted but she had the time to glimpse Harry’s foot that turned the corner. Her heart thumping loudly in her chest, she let two seconds fly by and took muffled steps toward the room where they trained every afternoon and in which Harry and Remus had just walked.

“I’ve─ well─” she heard Harry say. “I’ve never felt like that before,” he let out in a breath. Hermione wondered what on earth they were talking about. She knew what she was doing was not forgivable; if someone found her listening to the door like that she would have no excuse. And yet she did not turn away; in fact she did not move at all but remained there, taking in everything that was being said.

“Like what?” Remus was asking, his voice posed. “Are you sick?”

There was a short pause; maybe Harry had shaken his head because Remus then questioned, concern perceptible in his tone, “then what is it?”

Hermione heard Harry sigh. “I─ er─ I think I’m… in love,” he finished in a faint voice.

Comprehension dawned on Remus, though he wished it never had. He simply could not believe he was having this conversation. “Love is a beautiful feeling,” he said quietly. Closing his eyes he added, “but it should be handled with care.”

Hermione’s heart was now tearing her chest apart. Hearing these words from Remus hurt more than any spell she had ever experienced; they had pierced her heart like a thousand darts. She leaned more heavily against the wall, knowing she should have left already but strangely incapable of detaching herself from the cold, hard wall. She let the silence penetrate her, waiting for another word, anything.

“What’s bothering you so much?” Remus asked, though he hated himself because he knew where this discussion was going. “Do you think it’s wrong to have feelings for someone?”

“No─ well… maybe.” Harry fell quiet, his hands tucked deep into his pockets.

“Why?” Remus asked suddenly.

“Why what?” Harry took his hands out of his sweater and scratched his chin with disquiet.

“Why feel so guilty?” Remus questioned. God. Why? Because it was so terribly wrong.

“It’s someone I know, someone who is a good friend.”

Remus remained silent, praying wordlessly that someone help him.

“I don’t want to destroy our friendship,” Harry went on. “She’s… she almost like a sister to me…”

Closing a fist behind his back, Remus inhaled. If only someone could tell him he wasn’t hearing this… because if Harry was talking about Hermione… who else was like a sister to him? “Who is it?” He let out the breath he didn’t know he’d been holding, pretending to look only curious.

At first Harry avoided answering. “Furthermore I don’t want to hurt anyone… But every time I’m around her… every time I see her…” He looked up. “It’s Ginny.”

Relief washed over Remus, and slowly he relaxed his fingers that had been clenched into a ball. He would rather have died than admitted it, but he was relieved.

“What do I do?” Harry sounded really miserable. “She leaves here with me and I can’t even look at her in the eyes without blushing…”

Advice. Harry was seeking some advice. Remus felt paralyzed; his brain seemed to have jammed because he didn’t consider himself specially qualified to answer these kinds of questions… he knew for sure Sirius would have had more to say about how to deal with a girl.

“I mean, should I… maybe write her a letter?”

Remus didn’t laugh, but the idea of writing to someone living in the same house was rather comical. On the other hand─ he swallowed─ living in the same house as someone one loved wasn’t easy, was it? And he himself had almost done it, hadn’t he?

“You can try,” Remus knew he sounded a little off as he stared at empty air.

“Remus?” Harry said hesitantly after an instant.

Finally he moved, and Hermione heard him mutter: “Yes. You can write to her.”

“Did you─ Do you know if it works? I mean, have you ever─?”

Written a love letter to a girl, no, Remus never had. But loved one─

God, if he ever did it was now.

It was quite a personal question in truth. However much Remus appreciated that Harry considered he could talk with him as freely as he did with Sirius─ considered him a godfather, in fact─ they had never truly talked about… these things. And considering his feelings at the moment he knew it wasn’t a good idea to keep having this exchange.

“Look, try writing and you’ll see,” Remus said brusquely. “I have things to do. I hope it turns out the way you want.”

Hermione retreated from where she stood and quickly crossed half of Grimmauld Place before Remus came out of the room.

***

“Anyone want a drink?” Ron asked at large the following afternoon. They’d been training for about two hours already.

“Water would be great,” Remus said. Harry soon came back with a tray and five glasses, and they all gladly took a couple of minutes to rest.

“Why’s it so cold here?” Ginny shivered. “This is supposed to be summer.”

Remus looked at her. “Voldemort’s influence,” he said shortly.

“Voldemort’s─” Harry started, then stopped and frowned. “Surely he doesn’t control the weather, does he?” he went on with sarcasm. “Or that would have been headline news.”

“He doesn’t,” Remus explained patiently, “but there are subtle changes you have to learn to decipher. Faint signs, for example the weather getting colder, the darkness that sometimes seems to last longer than usual. Voldemort’s influence, as it extends, becomes more flagrant.”

“Now─ you’re all getting better,” Remus resumed the topic of conversation. He felt satisfied; Ginny and Ron still had problems with their Patronuses, but other than that they had all made truly spectacular progress. “I’ll show you something new,” he declared once his glass was empty. “Get into pairs again.” He waited until Ron faced Harry and Ginny and Hermione were paired.

“Now, this is called an ‘Obliter’ charm.” Remus waved his wand unexpectedly, pointing it at Ron. “Obliter!” A yellow beam emerged from his wand and hit Ron, whose eyes became strangely unfocused.

“Who─ who are you?” Ron spluttered. “Where am I?” He cast a look around as though seeing the room for the first time.

Harry came closer to him and shook him slightly, one hand on his shoulder. “Ron? Are you─”

“Ron?” Ron burst out laughing. “That’s such a funny name… is it yours? And… is that a new haircut?”

It took a couple of minutes before Ron started talking normally again. He was slightly paler than before, as if he’d been just come out of a trance. “What’s happened?” he asked, a little shaken.

Remus was prepared for the question. “The Obliter charm is an incomplete form of Obliteration. Meaning you won’t remember anything but only temporarily; your memory is not deleted and you’ll recover it after a certain lapse of time. Very useful if you’re being detained; you’ll never divulge important information to your enemy, but it doesn’t mean you’ve forgotten it. That’s assuming you still have a wand, of course, but you can cast the spell right before being captured.”

“Why not a simple Confundus charm though?” Ron pointed out. “And why did it have to be me?”

“To answer your first question, a Confundus charm doesn’t last long and you can’t try to make plans to escape if you’re Confunded. As for your second question,” Remus chuckled, “Harry was the last guinea pig, if I remember rightly and I wouldn’t want to hurt─” Remus caught sight of Hermione, “these ladies,” he said quickly, gesturing at Ginny.

“What’s difficult with the spell?” Harry questioned.

“You have to think hard of how long you want the charm to last, and also what you want the person to forget. Here I made it so Ron would remember nothing for a couple of minutes. It would have been a lot harder, for example, to make him forget only that his name was Ron and nothing else. You ready to try?”

“Yeah,” came of collective answer.

By the time the training was over they were all exhausted; but even though she knew she needed to rest Hermione couldn’t sleep fall asleep that night. She kept thinking about the one thing she ought to forget─ so she went on a night stroll. Hopping out of bed she tiptoed out of her room and aimed for the ‘library’, a round-shaped room they had named after its shelves full of books.

She was trying to escape her thoughts, trying to escape herself in some reading, trying to be buried in a see of books. The house was silent and plunged into darkness, and had it not been for the few candles lit here and there Hermione would have found herself incapable of finding her way without her wand. She knew for sure that Harry, Ron, and Ginny were asleep. Both Ron’s parents had gone to bed too as it was almost two in the morning.

Hermione wasn’t scared─ Grimmauld Place was probably the safest place in England with all the spells that had been cast on it; and beside she knew not a single Boggart or weird creatures remained because she herself had taken part in the cleaning of the house from the basement to the attic.

She reached the library and opened the door absent-mindedly, taking a step forward─

And then she froze, feeling as though someone had thrown a bucket of icy water over her head.

The room wasn’t empty; there was someone seated on the couch beside the shelves, someone reading a thick brown book by the light of the candle.

Remus looked up when she came in.

************

A/N: I wouldn't want to spoil the fun so I'm not going to tell you what's going to happen next... I hope you liked it!!! btw, anyone who wants to be on the mail list for updates, just tell me so!

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