Without realizing it Hermione closed the door. She hadn’t planned on this; it hadn’t even occurred to her that she might meet someone in the house. Was it that Remus couldn’t sleep either?
He smiled slightly but hesitatingly. As an unpleasant silence settled Remus could already picture himself walking out of the room─ because he did very much feel like running away─ but on the other hand, he was the one seated. Hermione, of all the people. She was so young… so innocent. So beautiful too, but he knew that such feelings had no place in his heart.
Both their eyes met for a short instant, stopping the course of time as Hermione met Remus’s troubled gaze. The charm was quickly broken when she took a step forward, knowing she must justify her presence here in the middle of the night. She had no choice but to say she wanted to borrow a book now. Yet, she thought, not wanting to speak─ why did she have to give him a reason? He wasn’t her parent, and no one had forbidden her to roam Grimmauld Place in the middle of the night.
“Trouble sleeping?” Remus asked, laying his book down on the small table beside the couch. He attempted to sound calm but his voice came out choked.
Hermione noticed his unusual tone. It was as though there was something in his throat making the words scrape, or something constricting his chest. At the same time it sounded fake. False, somehow. She didn’t know why; it was just a feeling that he was just talking to relax the almost palpable tension rather than because he wanted to converse. Was he tired? Worried? Had he had a long day; maybe he wanted to be left alone?
Or maybe─ she swallowed─ maybe it was something else. She’d rather not think too much about it. Right now she needed to say something… give an answer to his question. What was it again? Oh, yes, he wanted to know if she had trouble sleeping.
“Yes, trouble sleeping,” she replied nervously. Then the words came out before she could stop herself, and she blurted out, “Apparently I’m not the only one, Professor.”
He stared at her, his face half in the shadow, glad there was almost no light to reveal the sweat on his forehead. He knew he ought to be distant─ he had to─ but he simply couldn’t. “Hermione…” He spoke so quietly it was almost a whisper. “I’m not your teacher anymore; you know you can call me Remus.” Saying so many words cost him a great effort. At least he had managed to make a complete sentence; how many times before had he told her to call him Remus? Harry, Ron and Ginny did.
She opened her mouth to speak, closing it back almost instantly. She didn’t know how to answer, she didn’t know what to answer. There was no way she’d ever call him Remus. Calling him by his first name would break her, it would mean reaching a state of impossible intimacy she knew she wouldn’t be able to bear because it would be nothing more than an illusion.
Her voice, when she spoke, was at least as strangled as his. “I’m sorry, Professor,” she whispered. “Habits don’t come off easily.”
It was her way of implying she was aware of the degree of complexity in their relationship. He understood.
The ghost of a smile formed on the corners of his mouth, as he didn’t miss the irony of the situation. Both of them were here in the middle of the night, alone, by the candlelight. Both wanted nothing but to throw themselves in the other’s arms. It was human to imagine some things could happen.
Both knew it was an unattainable fantasy.
He set his gaze on the door handle on her right, trying to stay composed. He had to refrain himself from succumbing to his desire to look at her intently. “You know, your essay was… truly good.”
Hermione stared. Why on earth was he talking about her essay again? “Oh.” She was quite at a loss for words. “Thanks. I didn’t want you to lose your time─”
“I didn’t lose my time at all,” he cut her off. “I didn’t,” he repeated, his lips barely moving. Finally he took his eyes off the door, thinking that if only he could just get closer to her…
No. That was insane, it really was. He wasn’t who she wanted, just a dream. She was too young, he was too old. He was the adult here, the one responsible. The one supposed to be responsible.
“I just─ just wanted to ─” Hermione stammered to break the silence. “Er─ borrow a book.” Awkwardly she advanced to the numerous shelves against the wall, feeling his stare on her back.
When she found herself in front of the alignments of books she realized she had no idea which one to borrow. Even after three years, she only knew an insignificant part of them. There were so many… so many. Rows and rows of dusty books were aligned. She stretched out a hand and a very old, green book slipped into her palm. She hadn’t even chosen it; she could as well have taken the one next to it, or the one above.
Her eyes fell on the title: Ancient remedies for ancient illnesses.
It wasn’t what she had had in mind, but it was a good excuse to leave.
Remus stared at her while she went to the shelves. Then despite himself he got up, knowing already that it was the wrong thing to do but incapable of stopping. A part of his mind knew just what he was doing: for the first time in a week he was walking to Hermione and not away from her because, deep inside, it was what he had been longing for all these past days.
She was holding the book now, so that the only thing she had left to do was to say ‘good night’and leave.
She wheeled around and jumped in surprise, gripping tightly on the book to avoid her hands from trembling. Remus had gotten up but he hadn’t just stayed in front of the couch; he had also silently walked to her. Now he was staring at the book she had in her hands, not truly seeing it but not daring to look anywhere else. He had never noticed how delicate her hands were. So frail…
He saw them tremble slightly, bit his lips and took a step back. He knew he was close, very close to her. Much too close.
“Here,” he muttered, scanning the rows of books and choosing one he knew, thus justifying the fact that he had approached. “This will be much better.” He handed it out for her to take. The title read History of Curses: how they were invented.
He knew she’d like it more; she had always enjoyed history. Ancient illnesses were boring, they had disappeared, and though he was sure she’d read anything, he remembered books on curses were by far her favorite.
She took it carefully from his hands and their fingers met for an instant. Hermione reddened─ she was also glad it was dark. Remus stared at his own feet more intently, knowing he had blushed too. She placed her first book back on the shelf. “Thanks,” she said quietly, then looked up.
It hadn’t been her intention to cross his stare; she would rather have disappeared under the ground, or done anything to forget he was there next to her.
They eyes met for the second time that night and both felt drawn to the other, submerging themselves in the sea of the other’s gaze. Remus’s eyes had a deep, blue-gray color that Hermione found immensely attractive; her own eyes were light, pure. Remus found himself lost into them, lost so deeply he forgot everything else in that moment because he was discovering the vastness of the worlds concealed in her eyes, the immensity of what she offered. She was so outstanding, so ideal. So striking.
He gawked at her face, his mouth slightly opened, and came nearer until he was merely inches from her body. Then he brought his hand to her face, slowly, very slowly, and caressed her chin with a finger. Her skin was smooth and warm.
“Hermione…” he muttered in a breath. He knew that against his own feelings it was a pointless fight. His heart pounding in his ears, Remus placed a soft, gentle kiss on her forehead.
Hermione closed her eyes─
And the clock rang two o’clock, bringing them both back to their senses with a jolt.
When he realized what he was doing Remus gritted his teeth and stepped back. “I’m sorry─” he said very quickly, holding out a hand between them. “I didn’t want this to happen, please accept my apologies.” The words were louder than he would have wished because the room was empty. He felt terrible. “I mean I didn’t─ I never─” he stammered.
Hermione wanted to die. Die, rather than have to listen to this. His very voice was enough to make her shake madly from head to toe; his mere presence made her want to run to him. But having to hear apologies from him─ she just couldn’t stand that. She would have wanted to tell him that he hadn’t hurt her at all, that he could do it again, take her close, and enfold her in his arms. She would have wanted to make him feel better, make him forget he was a werewolf, persuade him he wasn’t disgusting.
“I─” Remus started again, but she silenced him with a wave of her hand. His face had lost all its serenity and she had noticed despite the darkness that he was awfully pale. She wanted to comfort him but she couldn’t do that, not now.
Quickly she walked away, passing him, running toward the door. She opened it without a glance back, and as soon as she was out of the room she closed it, leaving him alone, disturbed and bare in the darkness.
Remus stared at the door for a long moment, strongly shaken. She had disappeared now, because he had─ god, what had he done? He felt sick. What had he wanted to do?
He swore inwardly. Losing control was dangerous. It would lead to nothing good. He couldn’t let this happen again, he wouldn’t let it happen again. He just needed to… to convince himself to forget about it.
Hermione climbed the stairs two steps at a time. She didn’t care if she was too loud, she didn’t care if someone woke up. She needed to be alone, she needed to cry. She locked herself in her room, the tears flowing freely from her eyes, rolling down her cheeks.
She felt utterly miserable now because everything had been her fault. She hadn’t forced Remus to get up but she should never have entered the library… Now she’d never be able to face him again, because it was entirely because of her that he felt guilty, it was because of her that Remus had─
She brought her hands to her chin.
She had no idea how long she cried but the sobs didn’t stop. It must have been nearly ten minutes before she heard footsteps.
Remus was getting up to his own room that was located a floor higher than Hermione’s. When he reached the first floor he noticed some light inside under the door of her room. His feeling of nausea increased His heart pumping fast, he let his feet carry him almost unconsciously to the door. Shaking his head, he hated himself for what he had done. Why had he destroyed their friendship?
Well, it wasn’t really friendship, he thought, his throat dry. It was mutual love, a reciprocal feeling neither of them had ever truly expressed.
The sobs stopped abruptly when Hermione raised her head to listen, holding her breath, knowing perfectly that Remus was outside.
He wanted to say something, to try the door to see if it was locked, to apologize again, to talk to her and maybe sort things out between them before anyone noticed. At the same time, in a way, he knew he’d done enough damage already.
Hermione waited without making a noise. Deep inside she wanted him to come in. She knew it was a crazy idea, particularly now, but she wanted to see him again… an instant… to stare at him for a just another second…
Remus hesitated, then brought his hand toward the handle. There was no point in them waiting on each side of the door. She was crying, for god’s sake.
His hand was on the handle now, his fingers slick with sweat on the cold metal─ and still he was not moving. As suddenly as if the handle burned he let go of the it and turned on his heels determinedly. Desperately trying to ignore the sobs that had started again, he came back to the stairs with a feeling of total emptiness, climbed to the second level, swung his door open with his palm, and locked himself inside. He fell on his bed fully dressed, remaining in the dark, trying to calm his breathing. He wasn’t a boy any longer, he was mature, an adult in charge, who was to take care of Hermione and her friends. He was to protect them as a father would have done.
In the story, he was never supposed to have feelings for her.
Eventually Hermione went to bed, exhausted, and managed─ she later had trouble remembering how─ to fall asleep despite all the thoughts twirling in her mind.
Remus’s eyes had closed before he had had the time to undress or get under the bed covers. He wanted so much to forget that he managed to draw a black veil over his mind.
And then he was witnessing something he should never have witnessed…
There was a man in front of him; that man had his back turned on Remus, who could not see his face. But he knew it was Severus Snape.
There was a flash of light.
They were in Dumbledore’s office, which was dark and gloomy. The headmaster was talking to the portrait of Armando Dippet, a former headmaster. His beard was grayer than ever, the half-moon spectacles on the tip of his nose.
“Time flows─” the portrait said loudly.
“But heroes are never forgotten,” Dumbledore finished.
Another flash. The scenery changed.
They were in the heart of a forest; the trees were so close together that it was almost dark. And suddenly the trees were dead, the ground was covered with snow… things were blurred and mixed up…
Yet another flash of light.
They were again in Dumbledore’s office.
“Time flows─” the portrait said and Dumbledore completed the sentence, “─ but heroes are never forgotten.”
Hermione awoke with a start.
Late in the next morning she went to take a shower then came down the stairs to the kitchen, hoping with all her might she wouldn’t cross Remus on her way. She didn’t believe she could ever bear talking to him again; not with what had happened. The memories of the night came back in a rush, and as she saw him seated at breakfast upon her arrival the blood rushed to her cheeks.
He didn’t look up as she entered; he seemed engrossed in a wizard magazine he had probably found lying around, his hands clasped tightly on each side of it.
Remus knew she was coming before she entered; she had footsteps he couldn’t mistake with anyone else’s. It was a trait of her personality. He stared ahead at a dull article on a wizarding contest, not seeing it at all, just as an excuse not to look up. Form the corner of his eyes he saw her stopping slightly on the threshold, then muttering a quiet ‘good morning’ around.
All the others answered: Molly, Arthur, Harry, Ron, and Ginny.
Remus felt tense, and he cursed the window that let in so many sunrays at a time. The kitchen was so hot he knew his face was sweating again, but most of it wasn’t due to the heat.
Hermione went to the fridge and took a bottle of milk out, then went to the table. The only seat left was beside… beside him.
Slowly she walked toward Remus and sat there, with him on her right and Ron on her left. His insides squirmed when he smelled her perfume; she had tied her hair with a purple ribbon that matched her dress and when their sleeves touched he literally jumped.
Thankfully, no one seemed to have noticed. Mrs Weasley served Hermione fried eggs and bacon and she started eating in silence, trembling slightly every time she brought her fork to her mouth, knowing that Remus wasn’t reading at all.
“Slept well?” Harry attempted to engage the conversation.
“Er─ oh, yes, thank you,” Hermione tried to smile in order not to arouse suspicion. Remus frowned when he recalled the dream he’d had.
“Everything all right?” Mr Weasley inquired, taking a glance over Remus’s shoulder as he passed him to get to the fridge. Ron’s dad had come home for the day although he’d be back at St Mungo’s the next morning, at seven o’clock sharp.
Remus looked up, thinking hard for an answer. Hermione stared at her dish more intently than ever, her jaw clenched.
“Oh, yes─” Remus said in reply to Ron’s father. “I just thought I knew the man on the picture, but no, it was someone else.” He folded the paper, willing them to stop looking at him. He especially wanted to avoid that someone took a glance inside to see who he was looking at─ in truth there were no pictures on the page.
Hermione had had the time to take a glance aside. She knew he’d read nothing of it, she knew he had just made up that excuse.
Remus turned to Harry in that instant, crossed her gaze, and swore inwardly. His insides shriveled with embarrassment because she knew he had invented it.
As Arthur turned around he met Remus’s eyes, who realized Arthur had been looking at him with a slightly concerned expression.
“Harry, Ron,” Remus started hastily, “anything you plan to do today?”
The conversation took boring turns; Hermione couldn’t believe she was there, lost as him, as the others continued to eat, oblivious to what could be going on between them.
When Remus could have no more he dropped his fork in a clatter and everyone fell quiet. “I’ll be back,” he said, and then he got up and left.
Ron and Harry exchanged a questioning glance, then Ron shrugged and they resumed their conversation.
As soon as he was outside the kitchen Remus leaned against the wall, breathing hard. He felt imprisoned, the air was suffocating─ and what was worse was that he saw no escape, no way to solve this situation.
Suddenly door he had just closed opened and hit him quite hard in the shoulder. Arthur emerged from the kitchen, quickly coming forward to Remus, who was still against the wall, rubbing his shoulder.
“Sorry,” Arthur muttered.
Remus said nothing, knowing Arthur was not only worried about that.
“Are you all right?” Arthur grabbed Remus’s arm, speaking quietly because the door was still ajar. When again he received no answer Arthur added concernedly, “Remus?”
A/N: Sorry for the delay, I know it's taken me some time to update. However I promise I won't stop writing (never!) so check frequently for updates.
Also, thanks everyone who reviewed, it's really great to get some feedback!
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