Written for the Remus Remix Challenge
(in which each participant wrote a 100-word drabble centering on Remus Lupin, and then had to remix
somebody else's randomly-assigned drabble, while remaining true to the pairing or scenario in the original).
Summary: A Coming Together in Eleven Parts with Eleven Second-hand Titles.
A/N: Many, many thanks to Gaeta for the speedy, way-past-her-bedtime beta. Also, I've shamelessly stolen Ars Alchemica - my favorite imaginary scholarly journal - from the SS/HG side of the fandom.
"...as we join this man and this woman..."
1. "Isn't it Romantic?"
Hermione sat in the back of her parents' Volvo on the way to King's Cross Station, thinking about how incredibly silly and immature she'd been during her second year at Hogwarts. Just the thought of how she'd wasted all that misplaced devotion on last year's Defense teacher - a man who was possibly the biggest fraud in the entire history of the wizarding world - was enough to make her cringe. Gilderoy Lockhart had been good looking, but he possessed not a whit of substance. And he'd turned out to be evil, as well!
She shook her head and clutched her dog-eared copy of Hogwarts: A History close to her chest. This year, she vowed, things were going to be different. She was going to concentrate on her schoolwork and try to forget the childish way she'd behaved the previous year. She'd take as many classes as she could and learn as many new things as possible and spend time with her friends, but she would not waste her time mooning over some man.
Her vow lasted exactly seven hours, thirty four minutes, and seventeen seconds, when the strange, rumpled wizard who had been taking a very long nap in their carriage awoke. He took one look at the ghastly, chill-producing spectres who had invaded the train, drew his wand, and with a shouted Expecto Patronum, drove the creatures from their carriage.
This wizard - Remus Lupin - was worthy of teaching Defense Against the Dark Arts! He was brave. He was funny. He spoke to her as if she were an adult. He had a seemingly endless supply of mood-enhancing chocolate. And he thought Hermione was clever, which was the best thing of all.
Because, of course, the truth was, she was clever.
Even before the first term of her third year at school had come to an end, Hermione figured out that Remus Lupin was a werewolf. She didn't tell anyone, not even her best friends. For some reason, this was a secret she wanted to keep for herself. She read as much as she could about werewolves (not that Professor Snape seemed to appreciate her knowledge on the subject), and while much of what she learned was frightening, it only intensified her feelings for Professor Lupin. Such a tragic and romantic curse for such a good man. He must feel so very alone.
She held her feelings close to her breast all year, right up until the moment when she saw him transform in front of her, at which instant every single one of her romantic illusions about werewolves disappeared.
2. "Remembrance of Things Past"
He'd spent most of the summer in a small detached house on the outskirts of Milton Keynes. The location made sense in an 'Albus Dumbledore comes up with a plan' sort of way. If you were a Wizard trying to keep out of the path of other wizards, Milton Keynes was just about the perfect place to be. There was no town more Muggle than Milton Keynes, or so Harry's friend Hermione had said, which meant that the chance of Lucius Malfoy or any of his cronies discovering Remus's whereabouts by accident was practically non-existent.
It was safe, but it was also boring. Vague rumours of Death Eaters gathering once again notwithstanding, very little seemed to be happening to warrant Remus being given the task of collecting and coordinating information for Albus. In fact, Remus suspected that the whole set up was little more than a way for Albus to pretend he wasn't just doing a charitable turn for the poor, downtrodden, unemployed werewolf. Ultimately, though, it didn't matter. Remus wasn't in any position to turn down a job and somewhere to live, no matter how unnecessary he believed the work might be.
Then Sirius showed up on his doorstep, and after that, things were anything but boring; they were wonderful. Their reunion brought more joy to Remus's life than he'd known since he was a young man. There was so very much to catch up on, so much lost time to make up for, so much love to be rekindled.
It didn't take long, however, for Remus to start wondering if it wasn't also a little . . . horrible.
It wasn't that Sirius wasn't still recognizable as the young man Remus had loved before Peter's betrayal and Sirius's twelve lost years in Azkaban. It's that he was. All the brashness, all the exuberance, all the thoughtlessness, all the selfishness, all the charm that had defined Sirius as a young man were there, but now they were magnified a hundred-fold . . . and he was wearing Remus out.
Perhaps he had just become an old man before his time.
3. "Mad Dogs and Englishmen"
Hermione felt sorry for Sirius Black, honestly she did. She'd only been in the old Black House for a few weeks before she knew that if she had to stay there - a virtual prisoner in a home she hated, as he did - she'd most likely go mad. But try as she might, she couldn't understand how anyone could believe that Sirius was the right kind of father-figure for Harry.
Sirius could be funny and clever and charming when he wanted to be, but even at those moments when he was at his most charming, there was an odd, manic undercurrent to his behaviour that unnerved her.
He ignored the fact that he was one of the most wanted men in the wizarding world and paid impromptu visits to Diagon Alley and Muggle London against the direct wishes of Professor Dumbledore, who'd asked that Sirius keep well within the wards of the house, both for his own safety and the safety of the other members of the Order.
If it weren't bad enough that he took foolish risks with his own life, he was no more sensible when it came to the safety and well-being of Harry, the boy he claimed to love as his own. Time and again, over the course of the following year, he goaded his godson to take chances, almost daring Harry to prove he could be the same as his father had been when he was a boy and behaving as if the fact that Harry was the chief target of a powerful, dark wizard was nothing but a trivial concern.
The most frustrating thing was that no one, with the possible exception of Mrs. Weasley, who had worries enough about her own family to contend with, seemed able to recognize the potential for disaster in Sirius's behaviour. Ron, of course, was hopeless. He'd had just as much opportunity to observe Sirius as she had, but according to Ron, Sirius was 'cool' and Hermione was 'mental' to worry so much.
But worry she did, and not just about Harry.
There was also Remus to worry about.
Hermione was sure she wasn't the only person who'd noticed, but honestly, someone would have to have been placed under a Confundus charm to miss how often Remus Lupin was in Sirius's company or how close they were or how unhappy Remus seemed to be so much of the time. Of course, this was another subject she couldn't discuss with anyone. Hermione knew that if she broached the topic with any of the grown-ups - if she told them she was worried about the kind of negative effect Sirius seemed to be having on Remus - they would just tell her (kindly, but firmly, of course) that it really wasn't any of her concern. And Ron . . . well, there were only so many times she wanted to be accused of being mental in one year.
Sometimes, although she hated herself a bit whenever the thought crossed her mind, she couldn't help thinking that they'd all just be better off without him.
4. "Reflections in a Golden Eye"
For weeks after the battle at the Department of Mysteries, Remus walked back and forth through the halls of Grimmauld Place, each mocking creak of the floorboards in room after empty room a bitter reminder that, once again, he was alone. Was it possible that less than a year ago Remus had been growing exasperated with Sirius for being constantly underfoot? What a fool he'd been to waste a single minute of the brief time they'd been given.
Yes, he'd been a fool. Only a fool could have believed that everyone had been oblivious to his relationship with Sirius. Since Sirius's disappearance - since his death - there had been a perpetual supply of well-meaning, but painfully unwelcome sympathy: from Molly's sighs and endless cups of tea to Kingsley's hearty pats on the back to the offers to 'talk' from almost every other member of the Order. Even Severus was being less caustic than usual, although that was probably due less to any sympathetic feelings on his part than to the utter exhaustion of leading a double life.
Only Hermione Granger, who was staying at Grimmauld Place for the summer with the Weasleys kept some distance. She didn't ignore Remus, of course. When he walked into the kitchen and found her sitting down to a meal with Ron or went to get a book from the library and discovered her already ensconced in his favourite chair, she always smiled at him and said a few words. But every time their eyes met, the expression on her face was so inexplicably guilt-stricken - almost as if she had been responsible in some way, for the loss of Sirius - that Remus felt as if he was looking into a mirror.
Strangely enough, Hermione's response to his presence was more comforting than anyone else's.
5. "Tea and Sympathy"
How was it that Hermione, clever witch that she was, had somehow missed the fact that the deaths brought about by Voldemort's return would hit so close to home? After all, she had known Cedric Diggory. Not well - he was in a higher year and was Quidditch-mad - but she'd spoken with him about Arithmancy in the library many times and had seen him in the Great Hall during meals for almost four years and when Voldemort so casually took his life away ("Kill the spare," Harry said Voldemort had snarled, as if it meant nothing), it hurt. Of course it hurt.
But it didn't hurt the way it did when they learned that Hagrid had been cornered on his way back from Provence and killed as part of an initiation rite by the newest crop of Death Eaters, his great size and strength no match for their curses.
It didn't hurt the way it did when Dennis and Colin Creevey both disappeared during the Yule holidays, with the only evidence of what had happened to them burned into the film in Colin's ever-present camera.
And, oh God, it didn't hurt the way it did when Ron . . . nothing hurt like it did when the news was delivered that Ron, who'd finally got his wish to have a more active, independent role in the fight against He Who Must Not Be Named, was captured by Death Eaters while waiting to meet with a contact and executed a month before the end of the school year. It was all so damned unfair, to lose Ron just when she'd finally understood how much he meant to her . . . how much she loved him.
She threw herself into her work, balancing her NEWT's preparation with whatever tasks she was allowed to do for the Order. She hadn't been the first one to suffer a loss, and she certainly wouldn't be the last. Falling apart would do no one any good whatsoever. She had to be strong.
And she was - until one night, as she was washing dishes in the kitchen of Headquarters, she dropped a tea mug on the floor and it shattered into a hundred pieces. Such a small thing, the loss of a mug . . . except it was a Chudley Cannons mug. Ron's mug. She tried Reparo, but she couldn't seem to get enough breath to say the word exactly the right way. No matter how many times she tried, nothing happened. She couldn't get the broken pieces to go back together.
Hermione dropped to the floor and collected the shards of the cup in her hands, trying to fit them back together, holding them tightly - so very tightly - until their sharp edges started to cut into her skin, and it was that pain which finally allowed her to cry.
She had never felt so alone in her life.
And then a pair of warm arms wrapped themselves around her. It was Remus - Remus who had been so stoic and so strong in the wake of his own lover's death - and he was holding her, letting her weep, keeping her from breaking apart.
When Hermione finally stopped crying - minutes, hours, days later - she could still feel hot angry tears falling down her cheeks
She turned and took the grieving man into her own arms.
6. "Sometimes a Great Notion"
Remus knew that he had a reputation for being calm and level-headed, or at least that was the case all but one day each month, but sometimes Severus Snape could enrage even the most mild-mannered person.
"No? That's it? That's all you're going to say?"
"I was endeavouring to make my answer as simple for you to understand as possible, Lupin. Unless you have an illegal Time Turner in your possession, there is no possibility of my finding more hours in the day than the twenty-four which I am already given."
"This is important, Severus. You know we've been trying to forge an alliance with the werewolves for years, and all they ask is that we provide . . . "
Snape slammed his hand down on the kitchen table. "No! Are you utterly incapable of understanding the meaning of the word? I. Have. No. Time."
"But you already make the Wolfsbane for me each month."
"Yes, I do, don't I?" Snape spat. "And a longer, more arduous process you cannot imagine. Yet have I heard any thanks in the past six years? No."
Remus took a deep breath. "Of course I appreciate the effort you've gone to on my behalf, Severus. What I meant was . . . . "
"I know what you meant! Surely if I can make one batch, I can make an infinite amount - enough to satisfy every mangy Dark Creature in Europe. I'm sure that you, in your ignorance, believe that brewing a larger supply of this highly volatile mixture is like baking a bigger batch of biscuits - just double the flour and the currants - but that is not the case, and if you weren't such a complete . . . "
Snape whirled around and faced the young woman who'd been reading quietly in the corner. "Do not interrupt while I'm speaking, or I'll . . . "
"Take points away?" she said quietly. "A little late for that, Professor, given that I left school months ago. I just thought that if you were to teach me how to brew the Wolfsbane, you'd be freed from one of your most disliked duties, and I could work on developing a method of making larger batches."
"Idiot witch," Snape snarled, "Don't you think if that could be done, I'd already have found a means of doing so?"
"If that's all you were working on, of course you could, Sir," Hermione said evenly. "But as you said, you don't have time, what with your responsibilities at Hogwarts and . . . and your other obligations."
Remus looked at Hermione, then turned back to Snape. "Severus, is the Wolfsbane something that requires a Potions master to brew?"
"No, of course not," Snape said begrudgingly. "Just someone who's not a complete ignoramus."
"And would Hermione . . . "
"Perhaps." He snapped. He turned to Hermione and scowled. "Miss Granger, I do not intend to waste my time teaching you the rudiments of . . . "
"I already know the ingredients and the basics of the brewing process, Professor. I . . . read your article in Ars Alchemica. It was quite brilliant, actually."
Remus smiled. If there was any way to bring Severus Snape around to one's way of thinking, it was by complimenting his intelligence. Why hadn't he remembered that himself?
"8:00 p.m. tomorrow night, Miss Granger. Do not be late. And Lupin? You will need to make yourself available whenever Miss Granger requires your presence."
Remus turned to Hermione, and she smiled at him. He breathed a sigh of relief as the feelings of anger and frustration that talking to Snape always engendered began to dissipate.
Yes. He'd be happy to make himself available.
7. "Chicken Soup for the Soul"
For almost a year, Hermione and Remus had been putting in long hours, cloistered in the small workroom at 12 Grimmauld Place, dividing their time between potions development and spell research. Neither one ever thought to complain about the time they gave to their work, but drive and determination can only carry people so far, no matter how dedicated those people are to their work. One morning, Hermione awoke feeling tired and feverish, and that hot, tired, achy, scratchy-throated feeling had only intensified by evening.
When Remus came into the lab with a goblet, Hermione looked up with surprise.
"Pepper-up?" she asked hoarsely. "I thought you told me you'd forgot everything you ever knew about brewing potions."
Remus looked at the goblet, then back at her. "Actually, " he said, looking a bit sheepish, "it's chicken soup. I heard somewhere that was the universal cure-all."
She smiled. "You've been slipping out to watch Muggle films again, haven't you?"
"I know. I just thought you might like a little reminder that there's still a world out there beyond this room."
She could feel tears begin to prick at the corners of her eyes.
"What's wrong?" he asked, worry written clearly on his face.
She wiped the tears from her eyes. "Sorry. It's nothing. Just . . . I must be more tired than I thought." She took the goblet from his hand, then lowered her face until it was just above the surface of the soup's comfortingly warm steam.
"Mmm," she said, closing her eyes and breathing deeply. "It smells wonderful. This didn't come out of a tin, did it?"
"Absolutely not," Remus huffed, all mock indignation and offended culinary pride. "And before you ask, no, I didn't get Molly to make it, either. I know my way around a saucepan, even if I accept I'm quite useless with cauldrons."
Hermione grinned, then took a careful sip of the savoury, hot liquid.
"Oh, it's lovely, Remus! Thanks ever so much. I'd kiss you if I wasn't worried about you catching whatever it is I'm coming down with."
"Werewolves have a very fast recovery period, Hermione."
For a moment, neither of them moved, then Hermione put down the goblet, crossed around to the other side of the table, and placed her hands on either side of Remus's face.
"Do they?" she whispered.
"Yes," he answered, then leaned in and touched his lips to hers for the first time.
Remus stood up and stretched, hearing the vertebrae in his back click into place one by one. It was odd how pleasant this sort of spinal adjustment could be, especially when compared to the agonizing monthly reshaping of his skeletal system.
"Going to call it a day?"
He turned his head to answer her and was struck by the fact that he didn't have to look down to meet her gaze. When had Hermione grown so tall? He wasn't a particularly tall man, but there couldn't be more than an inch or two separating them.
"Oh, sorry . . . yes, I think it's about time to finish up."
"Okay, hold on just a bit. I have to finish the write up on this last trial."
Remus leaned against the counter, leafing through the pages of the Daily Prophet which had been delivered by owl post earlier that afternoon.
"I didn't think it was possible for this newspaper to get worse, but . . . .did you take a look at this rubbish they put on the front page?"
Hermione nodded. "An editorial about the danger of introducing Cricket into wizarding schools. 'Will Quidditch Soon Be a Thing of the Past?' Honestly, who cares? I'm thinking of changing my subscription to The Quibbler."
"Luna would be thrilled," Remus said with a grin. "Oh, speaking of Luna, was that note you got in the post this morning from her? I thought the seal looked a little like a Crumple-Horned Snorkack"
Hermione smiled. "It was an invitation from her and Neville for Selena's first birthday party. She asked if you were going to be free on the 14th."
"We are, aren't we? Or is our meeting with the Bulgarians on the 14th?"
"No, that was pushed back to the 21st."
"Ah, right. You told her yes, then?"
"I did. It was funny, though, Luna not sending you your own invitation. I wonder what made her think I'd even know your schedule, to say nothing of being able to answer for you?"
"The mind of Luna Lovegood-Longbottom works in mysterious ways," he said as he picked up Hermione's notes and carried them to the door.
9. "Already Gone"
It wasn't the same as losing Ron to the Death Eaters in Seventh Year, of course it wasn't. But Hermione still wanted to cry when Harry sat down with her and Remus before the Order meeting and told them that he was leaving the wizarding world for good.
"I just can't . . . I can't stay here anymore. Not very Gryffindor of me, I know." The words were little more than a whisper - a sad little boy's voice coming from an exhausted man's body.`
"Voldemort's gone, Harry," Remus said quietly. "Nobody will blame you. You've done your part."
Hermione wanted to add something to Remus's words to make Harry feel better, but there was nothing she could say. Voldemort had been defeated, but it hadn't brought an end to the fighting. How could anyone have thought it would? The Dark Lord had not appeared ex nihilo; the ground from which he'd grown was fertile soil indeed. The ranks of Death Eaters had continued to grow over the years, and the death of their leader at the hands of The Boy Who Lived Again turned out to be far less of a blow than anyone in the Order had expected.
It might have been a finely-honed sense of self-preservation that kept them so fiercely rebellious, since they surely knew that if they gave up the fight, not one of them would escape punishment this time. Or perhaps it was simply that they'd grown far too enamoured with the feeling of power that being in the service of the Dark Lord had given them over the years.
"I swear I'll keep in touch," Harry said, his head bowed and his hands clutching theirs tightly. "I'll let you know when I settle somewhere."
Hermione knew he believed the words he was speaking, but when she and Remus glanced at each other, it was obvious that neither of them thought they'd ever hear from him again.
" . . . all right?"
"What was that, Harry?" Hermione asked.
He sat up and looked from one to the other. "Just . . . look after each other for me. Promise."
10. "The Company of Wolves"
Remus wanted so very much to be gentle with her.
It wasn't the first time for either of them, of course, but it was the first time for them together.
Remus wasn't truly worried that she'd be frightened of the wolf within him. After all, she had faced the wolf when she was barely more than a child, and the memory of her compassion and that fierce Gryffindor courage shining in her young eyes was still strong.
But there were no guarantees in this world - he'd learned that lesson well - and if this were to be their only time together, as, of course, it might be, he wanted to leave her with only good memories of this night . . . and of him.
The candles were flickering dimly in the wall sconces when Remus led Hermione into his small bedroom on the third floor. Muggle films always seemed to suggest that the glow of candlelight was a necessary prerequisite for romantic encounters, but Hermione had spent so much of her life in the wizarding world that it was impossible for Remus to know whether the association of candles with romance would be as meaningful to her as he hoped it might be.
For two people who'd known each other such a very long time, they were surprisingly tentative as they began to remove their robes. Remus sat down on the edge of the bed and smiled reassuringly, drawing Hermione slowly toward him.
And then . . .she pounced.
There was no other word for the way Hermione pushed Remus on his back, then climbed on top of him, her thighs straddling his hips, as she began to taste his skin, her tongue hot and wet as it trailed a path down his cheeks, his neck, his chest.
She drew back for a moment, and it was just long enough for him to see the expression on her face - her raised eyebrows and the uncharacteristically wicked grin that dared him to just get a move on and do something.
Remus laughed. Scared of the wolf, indeed, he thought before wrapping his arms around her and flipping her beneath him onto the bed.
"I'm ready," Remus said with a wan smile as he adjusted the unfamiliar tie. "This Muggle suit is ridiculous, Hermione."
She grinned as she planted a kiss on his cheek. "You look wonderful, of course. Very dashing. Besides, I still think that since Katie's family are Muggles, it's only right that we . . . ."
The bedroom door flew open and Fred burst in, followed closely by George.
"You have to hide us," said Fred.
George pushed the door shut behind them. "No one's safe from Mum . . . "
". . . when she's on a mission."
"You owe us your protection, since we gave up our room to you and all."
"Even if, technically, we don't actually live here at the Burrow anymore."
Hermione traded a quick smile with Remus, then pushed both the twins back toward the door.
"Out you go, you two" she said. "There'll be no aiding and abetting from this quarter."
"Have a heart, Hermione!" begged George. "Come on, Remus, talk to her, mate. She'll listen to you. Or better yet, tell our mum that . . . ."
"Tell me what, George?"
Nobody had noticed the door open, but there stood Molly Weasley - hands on her hips and lips pursed.
"Honestly, you'd think I wouldn't have to go chasing after you two on this day of all days. Aurors stalking all over the lawn, house packed to the rafters with guests, Charlie looking more terrified and sickly than your father did on his wedding day, and where do I find the two of you? Upstairs chatting with your friends as if you hadn't promised faithfully two hours ago that you'd spell those flowers onto the bower in the garden."
"Sorry, Mum," said Fred and George in unison. "We'll get to it right away."
Molly aimed a pair of swats at her grown sons' backsides as they passed, but a lifetime's practice at staying far out of reach of the long arm of the Weasley household law allowed them to slip out into the hallway unscathed.
"And mind you don't you dare charm those flowers to squirt fruit juice at the guests the way you did at your cousin Artemis's wedding!" she called after them."
Hermione smiled. Some things never changed. "Would you like help with anything, Molly?"
"Oh heavens no. Everything's under control, now that I've made Arthur leave his bits and bobs in the shed and change into his dress robes. You know the boys, though. Leave them unoccupied for more than a minute and Merlin knows what they'll get up to."
Molly took a step to the door, then turned around and looked at Hermione with a wistful expression in her eyes. "I always thought the first wedding we'd have at the Burrow would be yours and our Ron's," she said quietly.
"Oh, Molly." Hermione took the other woman into her arms and held her tightly. "I miss him, too."
"I know you do, my love," Molly said. "I know you do." She stepped back and dashed a stray tear from her cheek. "Hermione, if you've been holding off on any announcements of your own to spare our feelings, well . . . my dear, you do know that everybody would love to hear that you and Remus were happily settled together, don't you?"
Hermione's eyes opened wide. People were expecting her and Remus to marry? What would make them . . .
She looked over to where Remus was standing, still tugging at the unaccustomed tie and looking a little as if he were trying to fade into the already-faded wallpaper. She smiled. He really was incredibly cute when he was embarrassed.
"Oh, just listen to me going on like this when I have a wedding to get underway," Molly said. "I'll leave you two to finish getting ready. Remus, love, is that bit of cloth around your neck meant to be at that odd angle? Help him with that, Hermione . . .you already look beautiful."
Then Molly was gone, the sound of her hurried footsteps echoing on the stairs.
Hermione turned toward Remus, straightening the imaginary wrinkles on her dress with her hands.
"She . . . well, you know . . .that's Molly," she said, as close to being tongue-tied as she'd been in his presence since she was just a little girl.
Remus cleared his throat. "Molly's right. You really are beautiful, Hermione," he whispered.
Hermione could feel tears welling up in her eyes.
"So are you," she whispered in reply.
Sometimes it takes a very long time to really see the people you know best in the world, but when you finally do, that's a genuine cause for celebration.
"I'm ready," Remus said with a wan smile as he adjusted the unfamiliar tie. "This Muggle suit is ridiculous, Hermione."
She grinned as she planted a kiss on his cheek. "You look wonderful, of course." She turned away. He was struck, not for the first time, by her tired eyes. What was left of innocence - for everyone, it seemed, not just the schoolchildren - had vanished in a haze of pain and loss. They had managed to look forward to celebrating the wedding of their friends, but the empty seat that would have been taken by Harry...
He shook his head and cleared his throat. "You're beautiful, Hermione," he whispered before he could take it back.