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Fuck the Timeline; or, A New, Practical Approach to Chronomancy

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Prologue: Hindsight

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JUNE, 2000 - GROUNDS OF THE HOGWARTS SCHOOL OF WITCHCRAFT & WIZARDRY

Hermione took a deep breath and, after pausing a moment to sip from the glass of water, returned her gaze to the crowd.

“There are, of course, many I know we all wish were here to celebrate with us today.  We must never forget their sacrifice as we go on to forge the future of the magical world.  How can we honor them? Remember them? Ensure that our own children, someday, do not join them in dying too young?”

She noticed some restless shifting in seats, particularly further back, where families sat - but the students, with few exceptions, had their eyes and attention on her.

“I say it is through kindness.  Not the sort we’ve grown up with, but the sort that will unite us all across the lines that have always formed faults in the cohesion of our community.  You may be surprised,” she said, fidgeting with her cards, “to learn that my current partner at work in the Ministry is both a former Death Eater and a friend ,” she said, pausing to let some gasps and whispers die down before continuing, “And we are working together to better understand the differences and similarities between the magics of all kinds of sentient magical beings and creatures. It is our mutual hope that this work will create a foundation on which we can campaign for everyone - human or otherwise - who is capable of wielding a wand to be entitled to bear one and study here,” she gestured behind her to the castle, “both to learn to use magic as human mages to and to show classmates of different backgrounds how similar we really are - as teammates.  Housemates. Chess partners. Academic rivals.” 

She said this last smiling wryly to Draco, who was in the audience among official guests, half-heartedly attempting to glare at her.  

“Everyone here knows I am a Muggle-born,” she said, holding her scarred forearm to the side where it could be seen, “and I hope I have helped to prove that status has no impact on magical ability unless it is because those born in this world work to exclude and marginalize us.”  She paused a moment for some cheers before continuing. “It may surprise you, however, to learn that none of us might be here right now were it not for the courage and independence of a house elf, who gave his life to save Harry Potter, Ron Weasley, Luna Lovegood, Griphook (a Goblin of Gringotts), and myself from imprisonment by Death Eaters.”

She let the hush sit a breath. “It may also surprise you to learn that same Goblin was in part responsible for the destruction of one of the means by which Voldemort held his power, and that without his help, we could never have prevailed. Or that Harry himself was saved from Voldemort in his very first year at Hogwarts by a Centaur from the Forbidden Forest Colony.  I hope… I hope you are less surprised to know that,” she paused, her voice breaking, “without the tutelage of Remus Lupin, a werewolf and our best Defense Against the Dark Arts Teacher,” she paused for cheers from the 7th years, who’d studied with him, “we would never have been half so able to complete the work necessary to defeat Tom Riddle and put his Pureblood Supremacist movement to rest.”

She looked around, meeting as many sets of engaged eyes as she could.  

“So this is my advice to you: befriend a rival. Get to know someone you don’t understand. Learn Mermish, or Gobbledygook. Spend a few weeks among Muggles and learn more about who they truly are, and how they - and many of the Muggle-borns among you, like me - live or have lived.”

She bowed her head and chewed her lip a moment, then looked up again with fire in her dark eyes. “Do not let fear and hate divide us again. Do not let your friends do it, and do not let your enemies. Give up now on having enemies, and we might just be alright.”

She looked around, uncertain, always, when speaking to a crowd, if she had chosen the right words.  But she carried on. “I… I believe these are the ways we may make a new mark, as the children of the war, on a new age.  A kinder one. A more inclusive one. We must transcend the fear we all learned together and honor all those who fought for our futures or emerged wiser from the crucible of war.  If we must fight, let us do so to ensure those we falsely believed to be less than or separate from us can enjoy every right and privilege any pure-blood wizard enjoys”

She smiled sadly. “Grand plans aside, do it for yourself - for the opportunities to know incredible people that pass you by when you pass them over.  There are so many people I wish I’d known better, and even if we all strive our hardest, nothing about the future is guaranteed.”

Faces flickered and faded in her mind as she considered all those who should have been making this address instead of her.  But she gathered herself, and sighed.  

“I hope you will join me in working for a safer, kinder tomorrow, my fellow Hogwarts graduates, and wish you my sincerest congratulations upon your Commencement.”

As she looked up with a slight step back to indicate she was done, there was applause.  Much of it contemplative. Some of it thunderous and standing. There were, at least, mercifully few seated and glaring.  

Well, maybe  someone could befriend them yet.  Hermione was tired, and hoped she could be forgiven for not wanting it to have to be her.

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HEADMISTRESS’S OFFICE

Later, she sat with Headmistress McGonagall in her office, looking around at the slumbering portraits and sipping firewhisky.  

Minerva eyed her thoughtfully over her own gillywater. “And how are you doing, my dear?” she asked, finally.

Hermione smiled back wearily, her right thumb and forefinger reflexively worrying at the dent where the ring had once been. “I’m alright.”

Minerva gave her a stern look that said I know when I’m being lied to, young lady.

Hermione shrugged and let the smile fall away.  “All things considered, I’m alright,” the younger woman sighed. “Draco, of all people, has been grand - brings me soup, shows up at my flat most mornings to make sure I’m awake and drops me straight into the shower if I won’t get out of bed.  Won’t let me out until I’ve washed, either,” she mused, shaking her head with a half smile and tired eyes. “Harry’s trying, but of course he’s caught in the middle, what with various entanglements, even though he’s said he agrees it was for the best.  Molly keeps throwing things at Ron and asking me for tea, but I only went the once and she sobbed the entire time, and as much as the Weasley’s have been family to me… he needs her more. Ron keeps blustering like I’ll think better of it all and come back to him.  But I won’t.”

Minerva nodded, letting a rare bit of concern show through.  “No, I don’t imagine you will. Mr. Weasley is… a good boy, but not yet a sufficient man to be making decisions about the course of the rest of his life if it’s to be a happy one, I think.  He’s cleverer than he believes himself to be, after suffering so very much comparison, and he nurtures more jealous than is healthy.  And he’s very stodgy, in some ways - I do not think, Ms. Granger, that you were any more cut out to marry immediately upon reaching your majority than I was, in love or otherwise.”

Hermione smiled a bit.  “That sounds like a story.”

Minerva scoffed. “Oh, read the frog card, I don’t cry in front of my former students.”

Hermione shrugged.  “Perhaps, someday, you could tell a friend.”

McGonagall looked back at her appraisingly.  “That… could be agreeable.” She sniffed, then, looking about as if to locate a good reason to change the subject. “That all, though… well, it leaves you rather adrift.  Are you making new friends, Hermione?”

She shrugged.  “Maybe? I’m talking to the Slytherins some, as Draco drags me to the Leaky after work some days.  Astoria’s nice, and I like Blaise, but I want to jinx Pansy more the more I talk to her. I chat with the volunteers, of course, those participating in the Ministry study, but… well.  All the people I was closest to in both the Muggle and non-human Magical worlds are gone, and many of the mages left are estranged on account of that other business. And that’s…” she took a deep breath, damned if she was going to cry or let her voice break, “Well, that’s hard .”

Minerva put her hand on the younger witch’s and they sat, unspeaking and looking into the fire, for a few minutes.

Eventually, Minerva stood up, and Hermione blinked and turned to look at her.  “I have something for you. The magic… well, that bit’s done, but I want you to see… well. Wait a few minutes?  I’ll go and get it.”

The older woman stood and quickly disappeared into the adjoining meeting room, which Hermione knew held a door that led to her quarters.

Hermione looked around, missing Fawkes’ brilliance and warmth.  Her eyes caught on the sleeping Dumbledore - he was always sleeping when anyone who might wish to cross examine him was there - and then stopped at the sight of a very awake, very attentive Severus Snape.

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“Befriending Slytherins, Ms. Granger?” her old Potions Professor drawled.  “How very… fascinating.” He looked at her piercingly and she folded her arms across her chest as he gazed at her.  She had to wonder if a portrait could perform Legilimecy - and raised her walls in case.  

 “Yes, I am,” she replied with an arch of her brow. “Any tips for me, Professor?”

He paused, looking at her thoughtfully.  “If they scare you, shame you, or fluster you, smile . Let them think they’re rather cute in their childish antics.  It would never have worked for me, but it might for you.”

She furrowed her brow, surprised by the real helpfulness of the reply, before standing to walk over to him. “If you could do it over, what would you have done differently, do you suppose?  Little things. Not banishing Riddle as a toddler or something.”

He scowled at her, clearly thinking the impertinent question poor repayment for his sincere advice. “What could I have?”

She canted her head in inquiry.  “Is there nothing?”

He was silent a long while before he spoke.  “When the Dark Lord took... Mr. Potter’s parents… I was sufficiently distraught that I didn’t close the door when I re-entered my home upon returning there to look for respite at the bottom of a bottle.  Not… dreamless sleep. Ogden’s. I… felt I should feel everything, and after so much Occlumency, I needed help to… unfold.”

He looked up, searchingly, as he thought. “Lily… she had sent me a half-Kneazle kitten from her cat’s litter, as a peace offering since I’d joined the Order.  She knew I had never had either pet or familiar. It was very young and I was very angry - I threw furniture and screamed and howled all that night. I scared it away and I never saw it again.  I should have kept it safe.” He massaged his brow with one hand, glancing up at her. “Instead I failed her, again .  A little dig into a very deep wound.”

Hermione looked at him, trying to conceal how her heart ached in response to the picture he’d painted, but he still scoffed at the look on her face.  “Do not, Ms. Granger, make me regret this confidence. I do not want your pity. But I do wish to remind you that even Ms. Parkinson is a person, and that you do not know what made her who she is today.  I have only known one man who I believe was born unable to love.  To muster the compassion to  determine what has closed the hearts of others seems to me to be central to the real pursuit of the goals you yourself set today’s graduates.”

Hermione shook her head, looking around exhaustedly.  “I didn’t know you had heard it.”

Snape shrugged.  “The ghosts are occasionally useful in keeping those of us who are less mobile informed.”

She nodded and was quiet for a long moment, conscious of him watching her face.  Sighing, she looked at the sword of Gryffindor, hung by its belted sheath between Snape and the slumbering portrait of Dumbledore.  

Well.  Some questions could be asked.

“Professor,” she said, looking at Snape with a strange mixture of long-ingrained caution and new-found verve, “Much as I’d like to muster compassion, I have to admit I didn’t find your Pensieve memories as exonerating as Harry did, and as we’ve developed a sort of rapport, I have to ask: do you regret treating Lily as...  something you were entitled to?”  Impulsively, as she spoke, she drew the sword.  She had never actually touched it before, and she marvelled at its lightness in her hand.

Snape’s eyes flitted to the blade a moment before they returned to her eyes warily.  “It becomes very difficult to learn some things, when you have wanted the opposite to be true hard enough.”

She glanced at him over her shoulder as she stood there, holding an ochs guard.  Funny; she thought the sword had been smaller, before.

“I wonder, now, if rather than making excuses, you could simply say yes , you do.  Simply acknowledge that it was never right.”  She swept down to alber .  

“Ms. Granger,” he replied, his words becoming a bit clipped, “I am not Mr. Weasley, nor am I the patriarchy incarnateYou do not understand the circumstances of my own childhood, nor of the great leaps of improvement I fancied even my misguided actions made upon what was modelled for me.”  He huffed an exasperated sigh. “Of course you are correct, but who is there left for me to atone to?”  He sighed impatiently. “Besides, I will live, in some respects, well beyond my own death with the regret of the wrongs I did her, the most important person in my life.”

She shook her head, holding the sword loosely by her side in one hand, now.  “That doesn’t -”

“I know,” he said, glowering even though his voice broke.

They simply looked at each other for a long moment.  

“I’m attempting to befriend old enemies, to figure out how to atone, or when.”  She shrugged. “I’ll let you know how it goes.”

He looked more ennervated than angry, now.  “Then try understanding rather than judging,” he sighed.  “Yet another thing that would never have worked for me.”

“I’ve no idea why you’d say that,” she muttered, not seeing him shake his head at her in exasperation or reach a hand up to push his greasy hair out of his face with more force than necessary.  Rather, with a tired shake of her own head, she had turned to sheathe the sword.  

… And yelped when she nicked her finger.  She reflexively sucked the offended digit into her mouth.  Her hand… her hand hadn’t been anywhere near the blade, had it?  Was she that out of practice?

Still holding the sword in one hand, she lifted her finger to look at it, perplexed, as bright red blood pooled on her finger tip.  

“Ms. Granger?  Ms. Granger!” Severus looked panicked and paled as she realized she’d stumbled a bit, barely catching herself on an end table as the corners of her vision blurred. “ Hermione!  Phineas, Minerva, someone , run for help, dammit , the sword’s cut her, it’s imbued with basilisk venom, you can’t - you can’t … dammit, Granger, open your eyes!”

His voice grew muzzy, and she barely felt the jarring impact as her knees hit the stone floor.

“Hermione!!” She heard his voice tearing, and others - McGonagall's, even Dumbledore’s? - joining it as her eyes fluttered closed, and the room seemed to fuzz and dim, a strange sparkle limning the edges of things.  

The last thing she saw was McGonagall running toward her, a map of what looked like a loch fluttering from her hands, and then everything went black. 

 

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Book 2: False Idles

(or Idols, or Idylls, if you will)

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NOVEMBER 1, 1981 - GODRIC’S HOLLOW

Hermione blinked awake, or tried to.  She had a nausea-inducing headache and her eyes weren’t focusing, and something hard and jagged was under her back.  There was… smoke, and darkness.  

And a strangely warm, familiar weight in her right hand.  

It wasn’t her wand, she realized, picking it up.  She was still holding the damned sword.  

But where in the hell was she?

Groaning as she tried to scramble over uneven ground - rocks?  Rubble? - she blinked and tried to focus, taking stock of herself.  

She was relieved to feel her wand still safe in her sleeve, and dithered a moment about what to do about the ostentatious bit of metal currently in her hand.  Grumbling, she pulled her beaded bag from an inside pocket of her Aran cardigan - knitting had panned out, sort of, for the paranoid girl-about-town who wouldn’t go anywhere without plenty of pockets.  She reached in with her left hand awkwardly, feeling it would be somehow irreverent to rest the sword on the ground, and fished out the first piece of cloth she groped in the dark - a lacy pair of scarlet knickers, she snorted to see.  

Well, this would make some Freudian somewhere happy, she thought.  

So she transferred the sword to her left hand and coaxed the wand into her grasp with a flick of her right wrist, pleased the little flourish worked. She’d practiced and practiced in order to stave off more maudlin days, but she couldn’t yet quite flick the wand into her hand without a 35% chance it would end up hurtling through the air. 

Finally, she transfigured the scanty panties into… well.  Into a quite spectacularly garish new scabbard, but it would serve.

She managed to get the sword away and into her handbag, then took better stock of her surroundings.  There were trees, but also land that looked recently tended, and… oh. No, this was definitely rubble.  What on earth…?

And then she heard the cry.

It was such a melancholy, helpless little sound that it scorched directly through her heart and into her viscera.  

And she was off.

Oh, fuck , this… oh, oh god, no, it couldn’t -

She walked past the man she’d been certain was Harry, eyes blank and a jaw set in undying determination where he lay amid the fallen stones.  And then, she’d managed to swing herself up onto what was left of the interrupted stairs.  

Lily had looked nothing like Ginny but for her long, red hair.  But there… 

“Severus?” she asked, seeing the sobbing young man holding the woman limp in his arms while… while tiny Harry wept in his crib.

He had his wand pointed at her in an instant.

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She didn’t even bother to take up a defensive posture, rushing over to the crib to pick up Harry and then sinking to the floor, rocking him in her arms as tears streamed from her face.  She did see his wand following her, but he, too, was unwilling to put down his burden, and so they just glanced at each other when either could tear their eyes away from the loved one they held.

Hermione finally sucked in a snotty, miserable breath, fumbling a handkerchief from her sleeve. “Severus, I’m so very, very sorry for your loss.”

His red-rimmed eyes widened in shock that he tried to transmute into rage. “And who the hell are you, to call me that, to offer condolences to… to me?!”

She shook her head as she wiped her eyes and nose.  This had to be some sort of hell, or purgatory - the venom-imbued sword, having somehow pricked her, ought to have killed her.  She supposed it could be a dying dream - though she’d have preferred the sort in which one’s memories flash before their eyes than the sort that engendered guilt about tragedies that happened when one was only a sodding infant

Maybe, though,  maybe it was a real - real, and a fucked up magical mishap of epic proportions she’d have to make some quick decisions about how to handle, because fucked up?  Wasn’t really strong enough, if she were actually where she appeared to be.

Right now, on the off chance it mattered, Hermione Granger let her compassion drive. 

“Chuck me the nappies from over by you, will you?  There’s a bag, you see it? It’ll have a kit in.”

He looked at her, startled. She looked at him, expectant and telegraphing her diminishing patience.

Finally she sighed testily and gave him a fraction of a glare. “Lily wouldn’t want her son to be orphaned and saddled with a horrible case of nappy rash on the same day, nor would she wish for the care of her lifeless corpse to take priority over the care of her living and traumatized child .  Give it here, or I’ll revise my decision to give you the benefit of the doubt.”

He blinked twice, and then, slowly, extended the bag over to her, his other arm still cradling the body of Lily Potter.

Hermione nodded and started to unpack what she needed, relieved to see that Harry’s inquisitive green eyes had started to clear.  Fuck, if she really was here, there’d be a reckoning for her not having arrived just a few minutes sooner.

As she lay her best friend down on the traveling changing pad, having swept the debris away first, she glanced around, her eyes settling on Snape. “When you’ve left, and presumably reported to Dumbledore and screamed yourself hoarse about how he let this happen, you need to make sure you close the door behind you when you get back to Spinner’s End.”

He just stared at her.

She continued as she fished what she needed from the bag and went to work.  “If you don’t, you’ll lose your kitten, and you’ll regret it. Try not to scare the poor thing senseless with your temper, either.  Maybe,” she grumbled, figuring out how the bouncing baby Boy-Who-Lived’s romper snapped, “Maybe try petting it instead of breaking everything.  Maybe try Dreamless Sleep instead of Ogden’s.”

He’d gone very still, but for the thumb still stroking Lily’s temple, and very, very pale.  “Are you a Seer?”

She snorted.  “I stormed out of Divination in my first year of it.  Drivel. No no, no I’m not. And perhaps you should steer clear of prophecies in the future, anyhow.”

She ignored Snape’s wince and let him falter into crying more softly over his best friend.  He looked so fucking young she wanted to comfort him, but that was not going to happen, not tonight. Atonement was necessary and compassion only went so far.

Looking down to her task instead, she realized with a sigh that she’d never thought her relationship with Harry would stoop to literally wiping his bottom for him.  It was, however, an awfully cute one. One she’d ruddy well protect with every iota of her life or afterlife or subconscious manifesto of whoever the hell she’d been.

He was trying to reach his chubby little fist to grab a little toy snitch from beneath the bureau.  Her mind cleared a little with his eyes diverted toward something harmless, and she looked up.

“Snape, you need to leave .  You need to alert the Order. Dumbledore didn’t know the Potters had changed their protocol.  Sirius Black will be here soon, and while I hope that the two of you needn’t permanently be schoolyard nemeses, this would not be an ideal night for to bump into him here, wouldn’t you agree?”

Snape snarled.  “Sirius Black is the one who-”

“No,” Hermione cut him off.  “No, he’s not. He knew he was being targeted and that everyone would think it was him, so he asked that the Potters change their Secret Keeper to Peter Pettigrew.  He’s your rat - well, literally, I suppose.” 

Severus gaped at her.  She was snapping Harry back up now, a bit relieved that these were disposable nappies, as she rather thought she shouldn’t be trusted with pins the way her hands were shaking.  

“How… why should I believe you?” Severus asked, his voice breaking over the question.  “Why should I leave her… him… with you?”

She smiled slightly, glad he’d seen fit to notice the real priority.  “Have a look,” she said, opening her eyes and looking guilelessly into his.  “I know you can.”

As he considered, or feigned any pretense he would ever hesitate to invade her thoughts, she braced herself to keep her walls open, and to let him see she was doing it.  She remembered… oh, Harry, and history, and the war, and Potions, and the Battle of Hogwarts - and the conversation she had just had with his own portrait.

When he pulled his eyes from hers, he scurried out from under Lily and ran to the window to throw up.  When he was done, he leaned on the sill - a funny sight, given that most of the wall other than what supported the window was gone - and goggled at her.  He was… so very not her professor, she thought.  Her age, but with strong whiffs of the know-it-all self-righteousness of an insufferable 15-year-old still clinging to him.  He was gangly and awkward, though she could see he was growing out of it into… well… still being seriously in need of better shampoo but conceivably hot to goth girls, she supposed.

Then she heard the engine and shook her head.  “Severus, that’s Sirius. You have to go .  You have to.  Now. I’ve… I’ve seen the memory, I think it was just outside campus.  Do you know where to meet Dumbledore?”

“Yes,” he murmured, looking down at Lily.  

“I’m very sorry, Severus, but you really, really have to go,” she said, bouncing Harry to keep him calm as he sensed the adult tension in the… well, she couldn’t really still call it a room.

He shook slightly, looking down at the woman who had meant the world to him.

“She would want you to live to protect him and fight another day,” Hermione growled. “Take it from another swotty Mudblood girl who outperformed the Slytherins.  And don’t forget about the damned cat. And… when you see Harry again, look at his eyes.”

He looked up sharply.  “What?”

She shook her head.  “Harry has Lily’s eyes. They’re still a little blue now, but that will change. Any time you want to write him off as being just like his father, I want you to know that even though I will do my utmost to prevent at least some of this history from repeating itself, he’s on track to have as miserable and abusive a childhood as you did.  And he’s got Lily’s heart and Lily’s eyes. He will never, would never bully anyone as those boys did you. He will not grow up with an inflated sense of himself, but rather being told he’s so small… well, no he won’t , but it won’t change him a whit, I know it.”  She shook her head. “Eyes. Compassion. Ability to see the beauty and strength in unlikely places.”  She swallowed a sob for the boy she knew, the one who’d never be, or never be the same to her, before she could continue, irritably stabbing at her eyes with the least soggy corner of her hanky.  “ Those are the characteristics I want you to keep in mind, Severus Snape, because I have a feeling that, even now that I’ve thrown a wrench in, you will have an impact on this child’s life.”

He looked at her as if she were frightening.  She found, on reflection, that she approved.

Then, he started to turn.  

Do not forget about the kitten!” she called to his Disapparating form.

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Hermione looked down at Harry, who was gurgling in wonder at his play - which involved his chubby little hand pulling her curls straight then letting them spring back, over and over.  He was surprisingly gentle, and somehow it broke her heart a little more for him.  

God, she had never wanted to see this.  She knew, years and years later, he would remember, but for now… he had a small child’s ability to forget.  She remembered him wanting to let the Boggart remind him more and more of what his parents had said, before the end.  She gritted her teeth for the second time in what, to her, was the same evening, and promised herself that this time she really would not cry .

And then, impulsively, she fished something out of her bag with a summoning charm, the sound of the engine still not quite near enough.  

“Hallo, Harry, I’m Hermione.  Can you say Hermione?”

He looked at her, awed, his little mouth a round o

She shrugged. “Yes, well, people are always telling me it’s difficult, but I know you’ll get it eventually.  You see, you’re my best friend, Harry, and I’m going to make sure you’re alright now. Only, I’m going to put you down just a tick because… because I think, later, this might mean something important to you.

And, sighing, she used delicate slicing hexes and, for James, a summoning charm to gather locks of each of his parents’ hair, plaiting them together with sticking charms at the ends and putting them in the locket that had once belonged to Regulus Black. The locket had recently been left to her by Kreacher, his Regulus’s doting House Elf.  As she closed the locket, she considered just putting it on Harry’s neck immediately, feeling like… like it was important , somehow, for him to have them with him.  

Then she considered his propensity for getting into near-fatal trouble even as a much older young wizard and decided she’d hold onto it for him.  

He watched her, standing and holding on to the rail across the wall of his crib, still fascinated.  

“This is for you, Harry, once you’ve reached the stage when you can handle it safely and responsibly.  You’ll… you’ll understand. I don’t know if I’ll still be here then, but I’ll leave it with… oh, I don’t know, Minerva maybe, if it looks like I won’t.”  

She sighed, then set about chucking the diaper bag and all the other baby clothing and accoutrements she could salvage - including his cot, which looked antique -  into her beaded bag.  

She looked down at Lily sadly as she stepped past her reclining form.  “I hope, someday, I have a family I love as much as you did yours - I’m so, so sorry that it was taken from you so soon,” she murmured, stooping to empty some low drawers.  

She almost choked up to find the tiny toy broom, which she eventually coaxed into the bag - it was as if all brooms hated her, even the toys - along with any stuffies and suchlike hanging about.  

She’d picked up Harry, who’d begun to grow restless again, just after she thought she’d taken whatever she could and stuffed the bag back into her pocket, and was bouncing him on her hip singing the patently absurd Hogwarts school song when Sirius blazed up the stairs.

Damn .  She thought, briefly, as their eyes widened at the sight of each other.

“You’ve Muggle girls in bikinis up with permanent sticking charms all over your room,” she blurted out as quickly as she could. “And you loved the Potters because they were your chosen family.  Harry is your godson and you’re livid that Pettigrew sold him and Lily and James out. You’re… Padfoot, and so help me God , Sirius, if you leave here in pursuit of Peter Pettigrew today, you’d better hope the Aurors and Dementors find you before I do, not that they could, because I do not want Hary to grow up a ward of Petunia sodding Dursley again, and he may yet if you don’t stay put and bloody well listen to me now.”

She took a deep breath, taking in the young, storm-like man’s shock and trying to slow her next words. “I’m a friend. And if my bona fides still aren’t sorted to your satisfaction, you’ve a…” she paused to roll her eyes, blushing furiously, “fuck am I kidding, em, sorry Harry, but I’m sure every girl your age in Wizarding Britain knows about that birth mark.”  

He blinked and looked puzzled instead of poised to kill for a moment while she shook her head to clear the image of an older version of this wizard running up the stairs of Grimmauld Place with his towel around his hair rather than his ass. 

“Em… you can have Dumbledore use Legilimency on me,” she finally mustered, “or, or ask me questions, but do not bloody well move from this house, Sirius, or I’ll have your guts for garters for what it’ll do to this child.”

He still looked at her suspiciously.  And she let herself look at him a bit.  

The Legend of the Devourable Young Sirius Black had not been exaggerated, it seemed.  He was all pale and raven and roiling gray in rangy, graceful lines, clad in punked out chrome glints over black denim and leather, and his face would incinerate the guilty and make angels double-check to see if the Morningstar had actually fallen all the way to hell.

And he was teetering in taut indecision at the top of what was left at the stairs, clearly calculating the various stratagems by which he could safely separate his godson from this unknown and extremely confusing witch - not to mention whether, indeed, he should.

She sighed, half delirious in a wave of sudden shock and exhaustion, even as she continued to bounce Harry. “Merlin but you look good before Azkaban has more than a decade to chew on you.”

That certainly drew him up short - he’d started to take a step, until she’d said that.  

Very well, blurting it would be, then.  

“Em. I’m from the future by the way, and you should summon Remus, because if you two are left to form your own conclusions separately after you let him think you were still the secret keeper, it’ll be murder on you both.  Also, you know damn well he’s more sensible than you and the moon’s hardly waxed from new at all... and will you please lower your wand because I suspect at present that I’m a faster draw than you, even with a baby on my hip.”

She blazed defiance at him even as she panted to catch her breath and sagged around the shoulders.  And while he was heartbroken, and angry, and stalking like a panther, he saw the way she was holding Harry, entirely for his comfort and neither to keep him away from Sirius nor to use him as a shield.  So, with a growl, he shot off a Patronus, presumably to find Lupin, and stalked over to her.

“I’ll have my godson, now, witch ,” came his low, velvety voice, unmarred yet by years of howling and screaming in vain.

She shrugged and handed Harry over, making sure that Sirius saw that she was tucking her wand up her sleeve as she did so.

He looked down at the little boy in his arms with storming gray eyes, occasionally darting a glance to her.  

Then he positively fumed when Harry, whose favorite he’d always been, started reaching again for her hair.  He adjusted his hold and bounced from his knees some, but looked at her strangely and kept the child to himself while resentment flashing across his face.

“I’m sorry,” he finally ground out, “But I haven’t had the pleasure.”

Her hand flew up to cover a little gasp as she winced at her own… awkward... self-introduction, “Em, sorry.  This… em, I don’t know if there’s even etiquette.” She took a deep breath and tried to start over. “My name’s Hermione Granger.  Pleased to meet you.” She looked at his wary eyes as he bounced Harry, who was still reaching for her, on his more distant hip. “And I’m… Godric, Sirius, I’m so sorry for your loss.”

He narrowed his eyes at her, then looked down at Harry, who was cooing, smitten eyes on Hermione’s bobbing corkscrew curls.  Then he looked back to her. “Gryffindor, then?”

She rolled her eyes and then, after a moment that made him step back in alarm, fished the hilt of the sword from her bag to show it to him.  “Yes.”

Marginally, he seemed to relax, looking at her more thoroughly - though what came out of his mouth was,  “It must have been Riddle.”

She sighed, drooping.  “Yes.”

He shook his head, looking the sort of exhausted that she remembered feeling during all those months in the tent.  “How did Harry…?” He faltered, shaking his head. “Did you save him?”

She tried to smile, shaking her head as tears filled her eyes despite her.  “Em, I’m sorry,” she stammered, fishing a handkerchief from a pocket. “No, I didn’t get here until after it happened.  No, Lily… Lily sacrificed herself for Harry.  She… she had a chance to live if she gave him up, as someone close to Voldemort had asked she be spared, but she wouldn’t do it.  And that invoked some incredibly powerful protective magic.”

She shifted forward a little, and he automatically stepped back, putting his body between her and Harry.  She smiled in earnest, though tears still streaked her cheeks. “Good. You keep doing that for him and I may learn to tolerate you yet.”

He scoffed at her, looking over to Harry and then back.  

“May I?” she asked, gesturing to the infant, who was fussing because she was no longer in his line of sight.  “Please, may I? It’s… it has to do with what happened.”

Slowly, Sirius turned Harry back toward her, watching her for any sudden motion.  Harry, of course, was a font of sudden motion, groping up for Sirius’s little silver stud earring and then again for her hair.  

She slowly leaned forward to part the inquisitive child’s fringe on his forehead, revealing an angry red scar.  “That’s… that’s from a Killing Curse, Sirius. Voldemort cast it at him, but it rebounded, and Harry lived .”

Suddenly, her eyes widened. “Shit.  Where are Alice and Frank Longbottom?”

He blinked at her.  “They’re in hiding, just as… oh sweet Merlin’s sagging left buttock, alright, I hear you.”

She shook her head vehemently.  “Your cousin Bellatrix and friends are going to hear what happened here tonight and go after them - not sure when other than after James and Lily died.  They… they have to go to… to Hogwarts?  I can’t think of anywhere else, and I don’t know who their Secret Keeper may have been or even if that person was involved in how they were found, but they’re in danger.  They can… they can kip in the Room of Requirement or something, the castle’s more than half empty anyhow, there’s room, and under…” she sighed, “Under Dumbledore’s nose, they’ll be safe, but until the Lestrange brothers, Bellatrix, and Barty Crouch-” 

“Barty Crouch?” Sirius repeated incredulously.

“Junior!” Hermione said, glowering and picking Harry up out of his arms.  “Barty Crouch Junior. Senior’s a shit dad, okay?” She raked her hair back, and then, immediately seeing Harry’s look of impending tantrum, hastily shook a few curls back forward for him to play with.  “Until they’re all put away the Longbottoms won’t be safe. No work, no nothing, they have to hide, and they have to follow a different plan. We should… we should probably do something else to lure their would-be torturers out”

Sirius groaned.  “You… would have gotten on well with Lily.”  He shot off two more Patronus charms. “Look, Dumbledore should be here, and…”

“OOOoOOooOH NO!” The sobbing roar cut off any further conversation. “He didn’!  He didn’! Oh, no, poor little babbee, Harry, oh, oh, no!”

They heard wails from below and both looked down immediately.  Hermione shook her head. “Dumbledore sent Hagrid to pick Harry up and you… let him have your motorbike and went off to your doom.  That’s what happened the first time around, but we must do something different”

Sirius looked like he was stewing as he gazed sidewise at her.  “I was just thinking that that’s what I should do.”

Hermione shook her head vehemently.  “Do not , Sirius Black, you stay right by this child! So help me, if I have to rescue your ass from a tower from a Hippogriff’s back again, I’ll-”

He cocked his head, “Really?”

She shook her head, looking out the window, “When I was 13, I think, yes, and I hate flying.” She stuck her head out and looked to the newcomer on the scene while Sirius helplessly sputtered about the impossibility of hating flying.  “Hagrid, hello, my name’s Hermione, I’m here with Harry and Sirius, and we’re coming down the stairs now. Don’t try to come up, the structure’s quite damaged, alright?”

She wasn’t at all sure she’d been heard over the sobs. 

She looked back to Sirius.  “Would you go first, and I’ll hand him to you over the gap?”

He looked at her strangely again, then nodded.  “As you wish.”

She stiffened a moment then nodded, marching out to the landing, trying not to look at Lily again.

Chapter Text

Sirius decided he should listen to Hermione after watching her cast a quick Impervious on her own ribcage and then charge into Hagrid’s arms to hug and comfort him. She was still in there, somewhere, murmuring.  “There there… oh, Hagrid, you mustn’t blame yourself, only Voldemort’s at fault for this, I know it’s very very sad, I’m so so sorry.” He listened, bouncing his godson and roiling with the feeling he’d been robbed of any outlet for his rage and misery and guilt.

Lily had always told him to take deep breaths to control his temper, so he tried.  He tried .  Harry seemed to think it was some new form of game, and cooed, which helped.  He had… he had responsibilities, now. Fuck, he had responsibilities now.  He would have to… 

Deep breaths, Sirius, she said in his memory.  In, and out. In, and out.

Sirius shook his head.  It would take a great deal of firewhisky and perhaps some very spirited sexual gratification before he could sleep again, deep breaths be damned.  He’d been a fool and two of the people he loved most in the world, who had always helped him not go off half-cocked, who helped him stay good and be kind, who helped him not be all the demons who whispered to him, had died, and he… he should have prevented it.

Sirius stirred at the soft “pop” of Apparition as Remus arrived.  It happened just as Hermione was starting to slowly extract herself from Hagrid’s arms to introduce herself to the half-giant.  The werewolf looked … gray and thin and threadbare somehow, though still tall and beautiful in all the light ways Sirius himself would always be dark.  He shone, even through the exhaustion and grief. 

It had been far too long.

So, Harry still in his arms, Sirius stumbled over and swept his dearest living friend into a hug, sandwiching Harry between them as both men wept and the infant, nonplused, tried again to grab at his godfather’s ear.  

Hermione, once she’d settled Hagrid and told him he should likely take the seat of the bike, and she’d enlarge it, walked over to see… to see Remus with Sirius and Harry.

It was like a punch to the gut.  She stumbled and held on to a broad wood beam that had once supported the cottage’s upper floor, watching the two men cry around their best friends’ child, who was looking between the two with exasperated impatience and gnawing on his little fist.

Remus has always been… well, she’d always had the sense that, if they’d been closer in age and he hadn’t been her professor, they would have been friends - friends in all the ways she never really had been with anyone in her own class, the way she sometimes wondered if she might have had had she been sorted into Ravenclaw.  She’d never admired anyone more, and didn’t think she’d ever known anyone else so like her.  

Perhaps, she thought, if this wasn’t all some dying daydream or punitive afterlife, she could right some wrongs.  Part of how she’d tried to build trust for the werewolves in her study in the Department of Mysteries had been by learning to brew Wolfsbane Potion and setting up free distribution and sponsorship for it.  She knew it didn’t even exist here, yet - that invention would come in the mid- to late-eighties. She could find most of the ingredients in the Forbidden Forest, if they still grew where they had in her time, and if they didn’t, well, she carried her fortune with her, which might not have been her first choice, but a witch with a ten year Gringotts ban who won an Order of Merlin, First Class, had to do something with the galleons.  

Remus already looked sad, but not beaten.  Scarred, but not badly - not that it had ever looked ill on him.  And his hair was blonder, his shoulders broader, his posture, straighter.  It was… strange, but beautiful, to be transported to witness this moment that… well, had never happened.

She was going to have to have a rather strange talk with Dumbledore, she suspected.  

First, though, she stepped timidly toward them and cleared her throat.  Remus had his wand leveled at her faster than she could see him move - she’d have been disappointed at anything less, though, and had expected it.  His green eyes shot through with yellow as he pressed the wand’s tip to her jugular and backed her into the beam upon which she’d just leaned.  

“Who are you?” he said, his voice a growl. 

Sirius was already putting a hand gingerly on his shoulder.  “Remus, she’s… I think she’s alright, she’s who told me to send for you, just listen to her a moment, will you?”

Hermione blinked, her hands raised to show they were empty, her head tilted up to spare herself the worst of the wand’s sharp jab. “My name is Hermione Granger,” she rasped, licking her lips and panting in the fear no foresight could prepare her for while pinned under his feral gaze. “Em, You’re Remus John Lupin.  I’m… I’m so sorry about your loss, Remus. We… were friends, in the future, and… em…” She searched her recollections for some fact to establish trust. “Well, I suppose your father’s still alive for me to scream at for being a hidebound bigot, now? Because that might be worth being thrown back most of my lifetime if this isn’t just some dying fantasy.” The pressure eased slightly as Sirius barked a half-laugh, half-sob, and Remus blinked at her in confusion.  “Em. You… you gave me chocolate after I first met a Dementor, and you had nothing , and you were among the best professors I ever had.  Em, and I… I helped heal you, after the moons.” The pressure returned, as did the yellow that flooded his eyes.  Hermione squeaked. “There’s a potion, Remus, one that can help you, and I can brew it, you can stay yourself when you change, I can help you, please, you were… you are a friend,” she rushed, her voice breaking.

Slowly, Sirius shaking his head in his peripheral vision, Remus lowered his wand, voice smoothed when he eventually spoke.  “I… am very interested in what Dumbledore will make of you.”

She nodded, trying to catch her breath and massaging her throat.  Lupin frowned at the bruise he had left there and, extending his hand without his wand, brushed it, muttering “ Episkey” as fingers grazed the spot.  He waited a moment before nodding in satisfaction - presumably that the mark had healed - and then returned his just-green gaze to her eyes. “I apologize. You must realize, though, that this  is very suspicious. Given his tendencies, that Sirius seems to have decided to trust you so quickly is… odd. I suspected some enchantment.”

She shrugged and reached for Harry, who was leaning toward her.  Remus looked startled when Sirius handed him over. “I get it. The second war was even worse.”

Both men blinked and went very still.  She shook her head. “We have to go. Sirius, I… well, I can’t imagine anyone wants to leave anyone else alone right now, so I suspect we should cast an extension charm on both the sidecar and the bike itself then sort who’s sitting where.  It’s not safe here anymore. We have to get Harry to Dumbledore - and… well, he allegedly slept well as a baby, so I suspect he’s going to need to sleep and have a good feed soon, and we can’t care for him here, anyhow.”

They all looked wistfully around, biding the crumpled little cottage farewell. Hermione resolutely refused to look again at her best friend’s father and doppelganger, James, while Remus and Sirius stooped to pay their respects and smoothed closed his eyes.  After a moment, she left them to it, muttering, “ Please just both come out after, please, please, please don’t do anything stupid, for Harry.”

And then she walked out to see to the charms for the bike.

Chapter Text

The Hogwarts Groundskeeper had taken a Portkey to the Village, arriving several streets away, but apparently the Order hadn’t dared add any unauthorized magical transit signatures to this area before his reconnaissance had been done for fear that they might taint future investigation.  He’d been intended to escort any survivors overland several miles and await contact - but now this unanticipated and more expedient option presented itself and Hermione wasn’t feeling particularly patient.

Sirius arrived outside just in time to shriek and lunge between her wand and his bike, tying his hair back with a ratty red rubber band and muttering through the extension incantations himself. Apparently, Sheena (the motorbike) was particular. 

Or at least Sirius was, not that he could find any better solution than what Hermione had already worked out.

Ultimately, Sirius enlarged the bike itself enough for Hagrid to ride astride, and, after Hermione mentioned a carnival she'd attended with a car where riders straddled a lengthwise bench, also implemented that sort of architecture in the sidecar. While Hermione created copies of the single available helmet, Sirius lengthened the sidecar’s chassis until the remaining, smaller passengers could all fit inside. 

“Ooooh, Sheena, yer a right lov’ly wee machine-monster an’ no mistake,” Hagrid said after Sirius showed him how to start the engine, embracing the opportunity to think of anything other than grief with his entire, childlike heart.

“A punk rocker. Sheena is a punk rocker,” Sirius muttered through gritted teeth, fumingly stepping over the bench and gesturing for Hermione (holding Harry) and Lupin to get in behind him.  They’d decided it would be safest for the wizards to flank the witch and, after Harry’d pointedly refused to let go of her hair, for her keep the baby in her arms.

As she sandwiched herself in, she muttered a dome-shaped Protego over then, wishing that infant safety seats existed for such situations - in the early eighties, no less. 

Harry watched in animated fascination while all this played out, weighing in with the occasional thoughtful “gooo,” or surprised “eh!”   It was easier for Hermione, despite her displacement, to try and follow him to a place of curiosity, pointing to things and naming them as they caught his eye, than it was for the Marauders to break from their grief and wariness. She wasn't sure, otherwise, she'd have been allowed to hold the baby rather than just having had her hair cropped - unless this was patriarchical bullshit at work, which was always a strong possibility. 

It was an exciting takeoff, in any event, with Hagrid whooping in glee, Harry following suit, and Sirius’s white-knuckled hands warping the contour of the sidecar body.

“Ms. Hermione… listen,” the half-giant whined over the wind, “I know ye’re from the future and whatnot, but… I’m meant to meet Dumbledore at Privet Drive!” 

“Sorry, Hagrid,” Hermione yelled, wrestling Harry away from peering out over the edge of the car, “But that plan has changed.  To Hogwarts, please!”

When Sirius and Lupin, dull-eyed, didn't disagree, she sent a Patronus to a Minerva McGonagall who didn’t know her from Adam, announcing the alteration.

Well, this will make me popular with Dumbledore , she thought, not at all repentant.

It was an interesting ride. 

Hagrid started to speculate, rather poetically given his state of sobriety, that motorbikes were a lot like dragons.

Meanwhile, the others slid into each other through several awkward bumps and turns midair.  

It was clear that Sirius had called … shotgun?... because he wanted to be able to yell directions to Hagrid, who’d never before driven… well, anything not drawn my magic or magical creature.  And Hermione caught several things whipping back along the wind, including “Hagrid, the clutch!  No, the clutch! That’s the sodding nitrous!” and  “Shift the other way, oh god, that gear will be utterly demolished, maybe… maybe I could sit in front of you on the saddle and drive?”

Memorably for all concerned, Sirius somehow helped them recover from a near-disastrous stall when Hagrid attempted a loop-de-loop over Lancaster.

They all screamed (though for Hagrid it was more of a squee) in the sickly steep descent toward Hogsmeade when they neared the castle, even though Hermione tried to persuade them all that magically powered Muggle vehicles could enter the wards.  Harry giggled at the weightlessness at first, and then Hermione quickly yanked Sirius’ shoulder to make him turn and take Harry, as she feared otherwise the tiny child would be hurt in the crush. The three adults in the car compressed backwards as Hagrid (perhaps accidentally?) accelerated.  

Hermione found herself packed between a Remus Lupin and a Sirius Black as-yet unspoiled by time and hard living.  Her legs wrapped around Sirius’ posterior and hips while Remus’ long thighs surrounded hers to the knee. In a whirl of disbelief, terror, punchiness, skepticism, and grief, she let herself feel a strong back, muscular and broad at the shoulders but tapering to a narrow waist, wedged against her front. Simultaneously, a tall, strong chest, its topography hard and contoured by lean strength, pressed up behind her as her head tucked under the young blonde’s chin. Pinned between the two men, she decided she might as well enjoy being crushed while her stomach faltered and looped in the absence of gravity.  

Definitely the stomach thing was because of gravity, she thought, shimmying slightly to a more comfortable position.

To say nothing of the smell, even though the wind carried it off rather efficiently, alas.

Her eyes drifted closed.  Maybe it wasn’t an entirely punitive afterlife, if that’s what this was; they really hadn’t made Gryffindor men like this in her time.  Eat your heart out, Lavender and Parvati .  

Which, of course, made her remember that Lavender had died, which made her remember everyone else who had died, including Lily and James this very night, before she’d arrived too late to sodding do anything about it, which quickly sobered her with a cold deluge of guilt and the jolt of a hard landing. 

Chapter Text

HOGWARTS SCHOOL OF WITCHCRAFT AND WIZARDRY

They finally sputtered up to the castle door, where an embattled-seeming Dumbledore, looking much as she remembered him, stood holding a tabby cat. He held the cat in a way that indicated professionalism and respect - which is hard when you have to support an animal’s hindquarters.  The cat, in turn, looked unusually aloof and severe, even for a cat.

Hermione looked up at them both as she wriggled out from between the world’s headiest bookends, plucking Harry from Sirius’ arms as he started, again, to descend into twitching melancholy and rage.  The novelty had worn off and moment of action passed, evidently, and the grimness of the day was again descending.  She could see her infant friend starting to worry at his beloved Godfather’s tense energy, and whatever else might be in play, she at least had a little more… distance from this time’s current events.

She carried Harry resolutely up to the professors.  “Professor McGonagall,” she said with a nod to the cat, “Headmaster Dumbledore,” she said, gazing up at the man.  “I apologize for insisting on a change of plans, but I could not in good conscience let Harry be delivered into the care of his horrible aunt and uncle when other solutions may now exist.”

Sirius looked up, brow furrowed.  “I’m meant to be Harry’s guardian, now.  That wouldn’t happen.”

Hermione looked around at him before Dumbledore could speak.  “Yes, which is why I begged you not to go after Pettigrew, which would have left everyone thinking you sold the Potter's out." Sirius paled and stepped back, too shocked as he contemplated it to speak. "However,” Hermione continued, looking back to the headmaster, “the issue of the protection of family blood remains.”

Albus’s eyes narrowed slightly, a pleasant smile curving his lips.  “Fascinating.”

She arched a brow.  “Is Legilimency necessary for you to believe me, sir? Or am I doing well enough without?”

He looked at her a moment, then shook his head, gently putting the cat in his arms down.  “I think… that old men should avoid unnecessary temptations. Besides, I’ve already spoken with Severus.”

Hermione nodded, even as Sirius snapped out of his horror and sputtered, “Snivelus?! What in the hell does he have to do with this?”

Minerva grew tall into her human form, regarding the unsurprised-looking Hermione, who smiled at her wistfully, curiously.  Dumbledore may be the same, but her favorite professor looked much younger and less careworn, though still stern and… at the moment, sad.  

“Harry,” she cooed to her friend, “That’s Minerva McGonagall, your head of house - and perhaps the most formidable witch of our age.”

McGonagall blinked at Dumbledore, who was still looking at Hermione, his expression distant. “Yes, you do share his blood, tenuously, but not by birth.  Were you adopted into the family?”

It was her turn to be surprised.  “Em, we joked once, before I left the Aurors for the Department of Mysteries about six months ago, about becoming blood siblings.  We’d both gotten injured rounding up Rabastan Lestrange and bled all over each other, and since we’d already been family to each other in every way that mattered to us for half our lives, anyway...”

Dumbledore peered at her, his wand flicking silently from his hip through small movements too quick to decipher.  She glanced up at him. It was rude to cast spells on someone without their permission, outside of combat. Combat… well, everything was rude inside of combat.

“Please forgive an old man his caution and curiosity, Ms. Granger.  I suspect you know that love and intent are powerful forces in magic. I detect that both of those effectively bound you to the young Mr. Potter, perhaps even before the incident of which you speak, but that your bond of blood may be too tenuous to count upon. And…” he blinked owlishly.  “Well. It would appear… that the two of you enjoy similar defense against Voldemort due to… ” He trailed off, sagging under the weight of the realization that this child, too, would die. “I… did not realize that was why you were so happy to see him alive, even though, now, I doubt your relationship will be the same.”

Hermione wasn’t sure she could endure getting into horcruxes tonight, so she thought for a moment.  “That’s a long story. Harry did die for me.”  She glanced down at the bright-eyed infant.  “But… he has a way of conquering death.” She looked up, glancing briefly at the headmaster’s wand before meeting his eyes.  “Did you know that the Potters are descended from the Peverells, Headmaster?”

He wasn’t blinking now.  “How… I'd… well ,” he mused, “I can see we'll have much to talk about,” he murmured, half to himself, as gears clearly whirled in his incredible mind.

Whatever issue she might take with the man’s decisions, Hermione would never kid herself about his intelligence.

Any further conversation was halted as the Longbottoms, young and fully in control of their faculties, ran up the path from the school gate - a sleepy infant in Frank’s arms.  

“Oh, Albus, we heard, and Sirius' Patronus said to come straight here -  it’s so terrible !” Alice said, throwing herself into Dumbledore’s arms.  Frank stood sadly, holding his son close and darting sad glances at the now-orphaned Harry.

Hermione was so exceptionally glad to see them.  “Thank goodness you’re here. I don’t think I could take it, if," she faltered, remembering them in the Janus Thickey Ward, "em, if anything happened to the other family the prophecy could apply to.”  She turned to stoop to her other old friend’s young eye level, addressing him a moment, “Look at those cheeks! You would have had it all sorted by fifth year, Nev, I’m just sure of it,” she cooed to the blinking child.  Straightening, she looked back to his parents again, a genuine if tired smile spreading on her face. “I'm glad Harry will know Neville before school,” she said, sniffling only slightly.

While Alice and Frank gaped between the stranger and the seemingly unruffled headmaster, McGonagall and Sirius both looked at her warily.  But all were safe now - ramifications of the Longbottom change to the timeline could be addressed later.  

“Headmaster, you know that I bring… unprecedented intelligence about the enemy and the war.  I… well, Voldemort’s not dead, only weakened, but because of the blow dealt his followers tonight and their remaining numbers, it’s imperative that any children to whom the prophecy could possibly apply and their parents all be protected.”  She took a breath. She’d looked, but better safe. “I only knew of Neville and Harry. But… if you can keep the Longbottoms safe here, the Death Eaters who attacked them might look for another target, or even attempt to get into the school if their flight here becomes known.  I don’t know exactly when they were attacked in my timeline, just after … after Harry’s parents died.”

Dumbledore nodded slowly, glancing at the child trying to hold his head up in her arms.  “I think, perhaps, if you wouldn’t mind, Alice and Frank, you could take one of the faculty family apartments for the time being.  They’re on the same hall as my rooms, and I trust you’ll be quite safe there. And… well, I do not want to presume, but given your greater current skill and the company young Neville might provide young Harry, here, would you mind taking him with you?  He’s… had a very, very long night, and I would see him in good hands.” He looked back at Hermione, eyebrow raised. “I suspect this will be alright with you - especially if I also put certain Order operatives in place to make it look as if the Longbottoms are still elsewhere?”

Hermione nodded rapidly.  “I think… I think that would all be wise, yes, particularly if you have a store of Polyjuice potion, which I can’t imagine Severus wouldn’t have on hand in these times.”

Dumbledore was nodding before she had finished naming the potion, and had already shot off several Patronuses by the time she quieted.  

There was a lull, then, as if all concerned were catching their breath, letting their minds come abreast of their new, shared reality.

Then Hermione, rubbing her eyes and visibly starting to sag, glanced up at the headmaster. “Do you not challenge each other’s identities at this time, in the Order?”

Dumbledore smiled.  “My dear, I fear everyone here is thinking quite loudly.  I’m satisfied all are who they seem, as… unusual as that might be, in at least one instance.”

She nodded, ignoring the flush riding on her own cheeks. She’d have to work hard to improve her Occlumancy. “Alright, then.  So… then one of us needs to question you, correct?”

He looked at her as if she should be awarded house points as others blinked at what was either her cheek or their oversight.  “Just so. By all means, proceed.”

She bit her lip, thinking.  “Who was your first great love, Professor?”

He looked a little sad.  “Ah.”

She shrugged, satisfied, while others looked between them quizzically.  She’d seen the pictures and knew he’d been both brilliant and beautiful.  There were reasons why Dumbledore was uniquely capable of identifying what Tom Riddle might become from early in their acquaintance.

Dumbledore, meanwhile, had taken off his half-moon glasses and was polishing them with a small cloth he’d produced from a pocket somewhere.  “And, this is common knowledge, in the future?”

“Not… in such terms, nor when it would…” She paused, searching for words. “Em, not when it would bother you, sir.”

His blue eyes were appraising as the lenses slid back down in front of them.  “Hmm. Very interesting.”

It was Frank Longbottom who stepped up, breaking the restive silence that ensued.  “Em, we’d be very happy to see to Harry as long as you’d like, Professor, sir. Em.” He turned to Hermione, blushing, “And, er, Miss…?”

Alice stepped up to Hermione with a shy smile.  “Hello. I’m Alice Longbottom.”

Hermione ducked her head and placed Harry tenderly in Alice’s extended arms. Despite valiant efforts, he was tired enough now not to fuss much to be in the arms of someone who so radiated maternal goodwill.  “I’m Hermione Granger. Good to meet you Alice, and you,” she said, smiling warmly (if exhaustedly) at Mr. Longbottom, “Frank.”

The couple smiled, each in a completely different way that reminded her of another great friend - one who currently lay against his father’s chest, eyes vainly attempting to remain open.

McGonagall broke her silence with a clearing of her throat.  “Ahem. Please follow me. The school elves will bring food to your quarters, which I will now show you each to.  The faculty has at times been quite a big larger, so you should all be able to stay in staff quarters on the same floor and wing, but … well, it’s been a dreadful night, and the morning will bring much more to do.”  

All nodded and shuffled wearily after the Transfiguration professor into the castle.

Chapter Text

Book 3: Into Action

Chapter Text

There really had been enough room, and plenty to spare besides, for at least twice as many battle-weary refugees as marched into the hall beyond the Headmaster’s office.  There were other ways out than through the office itself, but none known to any of them - even the Marauder’s Map hadn’t encompassed this area. Minerva pointedly mentioned this as something to discuss at a later time and no one questioned their host’s desire to contain the mess that was their presence at the school.

Hermione felt simultaneously anxious and relieved when the door closed behind the Longbottoms and Harry.  She drew in a long, shaky breath, and let it out as slowly as she could force herself to. She’d gone through quite a lot in order to emancipate herself from an early surrender to parenthood.  It was strange that she’d landed here, where it might effectively be imposed on her in ways she couldn’t imagine, right away.

Thank Merlin for the Longbottoms, she thought, at least for tonight.

Her rooms were between Remus and Sirius, and included a small study and an ensuite with a generous bath.  Someone had known she was a Gryffindor, though she couldn’t remember mentioning it - the bed clothes and decor of the room reminded her strongly of the tower, which was comforting.  

The silence, however, was not. 

And so it was that Hermione Granger, who’d bantered and barged her way through the utter demolition of the past as she knew it in the course of a couple hours, ended up sitting wrapped in a throw blanket under her borrowed desk, her head between her knees, trying to stop shaking and hyperventilating and cursing herself for not carrying calming draughts.  

She could hear the floorboards creaking in a repetitive rhythm to one side of her room as someone paced, and hard, wet impacts and little grunts from the other, so she didn’t imagine the remaining Marauders were doing all that well, either.  Once again, she was flanked by the two.

From the babies, mercifully, there was silence - although she wouldn’t be surprised if Alice and Frank cast silencing charms on their rooms to keep the sound in as a matter of course. They seemed almost as eager to be unobtrusive as Neville - odd for Aurors, but perhaps not for close family (and probable cohabitants?) of Augusta Longbottom.

Not that the relative peace was stopping the racing of her mind or breath as she thought, tugging herself into this moment - this moment, which had been the past but was now somehow the present - and trying, trying to calm down.

She’d nearly returned to breathing normally and the tremor had decreased when there was a furtive knock at her door.

She looked up, and then with a deep inhalation to gather herself, went to answer it. She only opened the door a crack until she saw who was standing there and let it swing to shoulder-width.

Leaning on his elbow against the door frame, a just-opened bottle of firewhisky dangling from one hand, was Sirius Black.

She looked up at his dark, wild eyes.  They were red rimmed and, she saw, the knuckles of the hand holding the bottle were bruised and bleeding.

Godric, he was so young.  

“Company?” he asked, his tone low and dark and unambiguous.

That had escalated quickly.

She looked at him guardedly. “And if I give it?”

He shrugged, his face saying he’d already won. “I don’t go off and do something rash.”

She scrutinized his expression. He oozed wolfish hunger, grief, and a little entitlement, but no… worrying entanglement.

Hermione, who’d been meaning to try something well and truly ill-advised ever since she’d extricated herself from her disastrously short-lived marriage, paused only another moment before stepping aside, opening the door wider to let him in.

Chapter Text

He strode into the room with a predatory gait, clearly still buzzing with anger and misery and the will to break things.  

Well.  She could help him with that, she supposed. She had always wanted to sublimate while angry.  Ron had never understood .

She took the Ogden’s from his hand as he walked past on his survey of the unexplored territory of her quarters, and he turned to watch her take a long, slow swig, throat bobbing several times under the upended bottle before she offered it back, wrinkling her nose a touch at the burn.  

He took it, his eyes on hers as he took his own long pull.

Then, he put the bottle down on the nightstand and stepped into her space.

She looked up at him, curious, as he looked down at her, fascinated.

And then he kissed her.

She’d have to call it that, for all it involved growling and teeth and someone getting a cut lip.  

He threw her on the bed and eased her flats off her feet, which still hung over the edge, then paused and nipped at her arches before whipping her jeans and knickers from her with only one button unfastened and a hard, quick tug.

As she watched him stretch his arms up to throw off his battered black t-shirt, she realized she’d almost certainly been doing this wrong.  

He liked her eyes on him, she saw.  He watched her watch him as he unfastened his black leather belt, covered all over in chrome studs, and then as he undid the zip on his close-fitting black jeans.  

She made sure to give him her rapt regard, propping herself up on her elbows and watching with darkening eyes.  She’d already taken off her sweater.  She had a feeling he’d be upset if she disposed of her blouse and bra herself, and more upset if he didn’t have her undivided attention. 

He was wearing nothing under his jeans.

She shuddered as he growled, pulling her hips to the edge of the bed and flipping her onto her stomach.  She gave a little gasp and, if his low, dark chuckle was any indication, he enjoyed it.

He skimmed his hands up from the backs of her knees over her buttocks, spreading wide her most intimate areas to his gaze with a little guttural huff of approval.  She shuddered and involuntarily thrust her hips back against him when she felt his teeth sink into the swell of her hip, biting not quite gently. He followed this with a lick and a small string of other bites before he buried his face in her folds - just long enough to drag his tongue over the length of her opening and sharply suck at her swollen clit.  Then, he bit her other hip, hard.

She cried out, shocked to hear her own pleasure.

Looking over her shoulder to see Sirius’s eyes light up at her response, she knew he was surprised, too - and enthralled.  With a little moan, he shook his head a little, his teeth holding fast, before letting go.  He struck a sharp slap to the area he’d bitten - sending a stinging rush through her sore, marked flank just as the blood and sensation rushed back in.  

She shuddered and fell, face pressing into the mattress as she cried out and helplessly arched herself up to him, trying to grind back against him.

But he danced out of the way.  “Tsk, tsk,” she heard as he yanked her up by her hair, pulling her to her feet with her back pressed against him.  

She heard a wanton little mewl arise, involuntary, from her own lips as she felt the frustrating jab of his heavy, hard erection to the small of her back, but she was suspended, standing, by his fist in her hair, all gathered at the crown of her head, her toes barely touching the ground to relieve the ache.

He lazily raked his free hand down the front placket of her blouse, ripping free buttons and cloth alike as his fingers moved, before grabbing the back of her collar and yanking the remains of the garment off her shoulders and then her arms.

It only took him an instant to pop open the hooks at the back of her sheer gold bra with the same hand, then to reach around and grasp it by the center gore, pulling it away from her chest and off her arms.  Rather than simply throw it, though, he pulled it behind her, and by the sound of it, lifted it to his nose to smell it.

“Bloody hell ,” he murmured, and she heard another long inhalation.

And then, dropping her hair, he pushed her roughly onto the bed again, grasping her hips and holding them at the edge before pushing her torso down into the coverlet.

“Do you want this, Hermione?” he rasped, his low voice taunting as he leaned down to her ear, his stiffness sliding along her slick lips teasingly. “You can tell me to fuck off, and I’ll go.”

She snarled at him, pushing up onto her toes and adjusting the cant of her hips until, there.  Before he understood, she thrust herself back over him, taking away the beginning he’d wanted her to beg for and swallowing him into her greedy center.

He cried out, “Fuck!" He shook and only half voluntarily started thrusting in and out of her, still scrambling to reconcile himself with her theft of his initiative - but clearly unable to be properly mad about it. "Godric, fuck ,” he groaned, punctuating his syllables with thrusts, “fuck, fuck, oh, fuck , woman, I’m going to fuck this fucking castle down around you, fuck , you mad, mad, mad little vixen!”

Into the counterpane, she smiled, then turned her head so that he could hear her clearly enunciated reply. “With claims like that, I’ll hex you if you leave me able to walk in the morning.”

She cast a quick, wandless silencing charm - perhaps a bit late - as he roared and pounded into her.

Chapter Text

Dawn found them floating together in the center of the room, their hair rippling in little air currents. The side of his nose was pressed to the side of hers.  They’d fallen asleep with their arms around each other - with her legs still around him - and his cock, which had refused to go entirely back to soft in her presence, still buried inside the clench of her.  

That their slow rotation sometimes left them upside down seemed to have negligible impact on their bodies, which at present only gravitated toward each other.  

Sirius woke first, stirred to life by the heat of a beam of sunlight that happened to warm his back.  It felt exquisite, after the soreness she’d worked him into. 

He pulled back enough to see the entirety of her face, peaceful in repose, and think.

The night before, he’d lapped whisky off the dip of her spine at the small of her back, just deep enough to hold a swallow.  He’d drunk it from her navel, then from her mouth after he poured it onto, into her.  But they hadn’t gotten through the bottle, because she’d proven the headier intoxicant - soaring above the degeneracy he’d thought he’d wanted to lose himself in and tugging him to some higher plane with her.  

Sirius hadn’t bothered to remember the name of any woman he’d fucked since Marlene, he thought, watching her curls float around her in a shining cloud.  Marlene had been the one he’d always come back to, but she wouldn’t have tolerated half of what this woman had enthusiastically consented to, would have rolled her eyes instead of giving more of herself when he showed the weakness of need .  

Hermione had pulled him to a point of forgetting everything but her, fomenting him into greater abandon at every turn, then let him discover the weight of everything all over again only to cry himself into exhaustion in her arms - then wake to start again.

He wasn’t alright.  Nothing was alright.  Nothing had ever been alright, he thought, scratching absentmindedly at the old, old burn scars dotting his upper arm.

He had a strong sense, though, that she knew the way to alright, would recognize the opportunity to make alright happen, but had known depravity and depredation and war well enough she’d learned to roll defiant in the gutter.

She’d certainly rolled him.

Thinking about it, of course, had made him harden again. 

“Mmmmm,” she whined, stretching her arms as she woke to the little half-voluntary rolls of his pelvis. “Yes, please.”

His eyes fluttered closed and he shuddered before he lifted his hands to her hips and worked her weightless form over himself.  Easier than his own hand wanking in the shower.  God, he’d always wanted to try this spell.  Yet, after one interesting foray in the absence of gravity… 

She frowned, cracking her eyes open in the bright sunlight with a pout. “Get your weight on me.”

She may as well have plucked it from his mind; he wanted her squirming beneath him.

He looked down at her, not slowing as he kicked off the nearest heavy object - a wardrobe - and sent them floating through the open bed curtains. 

“Finite,” she murmured, not scrupling to halt his spell without warning.  

They both moaned as his weight came down on her, sending them gently bouncing back from the bed through two reverberations before they were more or less only moving under volition.

He could tell they were both sore, but Merlin, it was the best sort of soreness.

He reached down to hook his hands under her thighs, dragging her legs up and pinning her knees to her chest.  She shuddered at the depths he hit, then, when he resumed their congress with slow, hard thrusts, each grinding against her cervix with a delicious ache before it receded to be followed by the next.

“Tell me, Hermione,” he asked, “Are you typical of women of your time?”

She burst out laughing, only to look up and see he was… serious.  “Em, no.”

He didn’t know whether to celebrate his luck or lament that she wasn’t a sign of things to come.

“So not every woman, twenty years from now, would do all these devilish things with me?”

She looked up at him, smiling and biting her lip as she rolled her hips with his.  “I’ve never, like this, before.”

He blinked in surprise.  God, that little flash of innocence in her pinking cheeks was about enough to murder him, layered over this debauched, delicious creature.

She laughed again, seeing his thoughts flash over his face. 

And so, to bring her attention back to the important thing - him - he put a wicked little twist at the end of the next thrust, watching with satisfaction as she shuddered and moaned, all humor suddenly held in abeyance.

She wasn’t quelled long, though.  “Since I don’t know if we’ll do this again -”

“We will,” he promised.

“- since I don’t know that we’ll do this again,” she repeated, “I’ll let you try another.”

He looked down at her thoughtfully as she stretched into his strokes with every sign of relishing them.  “Anything I want?”

She smiled. “I imagine so, especially if you’ll let me read this naughty little book of yours at some point. I’m very curious,” she said, leaning up to kiss him for a long, beguiling moment before falling back and looking up at him expectantly.  “Well,” she panted, smug with her hair hallowed riotously around her, “let’s see what kink you conjure next, then.”

He grinned down at her.  “No.”

She looked up, surprised and a little coy. “No?”

He shook his head.  “Next time.”

She frowned.  “Sirius, I-”

He cut her off with a devouring kiss, and kept kissing her to the end.

Chapter Text

Breakfast appeared in the room around ten, and they roused themselves to eat before taking showers.  Hermione chased Sirius out of hers when he tried to sneak in, but he managed to lean forward enough to apply his lips to her left nipple in a long, hard suck, and she was worried, desperately worried (but also slightly hopeful), that she’d let the dog follow her home.

She wasn’t a panacea, though, and her very bloody-minded contempt about the timeline ensured she knew she’d be increasingly ordinary here.  Every move she made guaranteed the future would be less predictable for her, and that would make her… just another Order member, ultimately. And she knew that no one held Sirius Black’s interest long; that was legend, well-documented in anecdata from interviews, letters, and diaries from the first war and before it. There was no way she’d prove captivating to the him as he was now, all sex and leather and dangerous eyes, once she had faded into being unremarkable and relatively useless.  

Well, not useless .  She’d still be Hermione Granger, and her Draco and Minerva had continued to remind her that that was rather a lot all its own for so long now that it had started to make a dent.

Aaaaah, hell. She realized she was going to have to try to get to Narcissa.  If she could keep Lucius from getting off on the Imperius defense… well… it might be possible.

She kept having to slap Sirius’ hands away as she tried to get dressed, eventually settling to just pull on a black wrap dress with polka-dots, which fell to her knee and had long sleeves. She figured it looked reasonably good with no underthings (he kept vanishing them back into her bag as soon as she produced them), and she thought it would look fairly normal in most marginally recent time periods with her bulky burgundy cabled cardigan.  

Looking from the Scottish November out the window to her bare calves in the mirror, she shrugged then fished some spare yarn left over from the sweater and some needles from the little beaded bag.  It was a simple enough thing to enchant a couple matching leg warmers into being within a few minutes.  She was fairly certain they were legitimately an 80s thing.  

When he kept coming up with reasons they shouldn’t leave the suite yet, she relented and let Sirius have her again.  He’d complained he still had some morning to make her unable to walk, which she supposed was a fair point, and tried another of his sex spells as he took her against the wall, clothed.  It turned out that Geminio Phallus, a hybrid human transfiguration/charm, was a thing that existed.

And even one of him had been quite a lot.

She allowed she was at least a bit wide of gait after, and cast a couple quick cleansing spells before he could stop her opening the door to the hall - where, she knew, he worried the rest of the world would crash down on him again.

She’d never much cared to help others hide from reality.  It never ended well.

Hermione brushed past Sirius’s schemes for how they might make it look like they’d come from separate rooms, simply stepping out and pulling him after her.  She dropped his hand, though, with a slight frown, once they were past the threshold. He’d seemed worryingly content to hold on.

When they emerged, Remus was sitting in a sort of lounge area at the end of the hall, reading.  There were a lot of windows overlooking the lake, here, and the sun was coming in, making his hair glow white, all the shadows of him bumped to maximum contrast in an unearthly way.  Which was not to say, she thought, that it was a bad look.

She smiled solicitously at her favorite werewolf, still finding it… a lot harder, for some reason, to see him alive again than it was with anyone else. “Are you holding up alright, Remus?” she asked.

His eyes flicked over her, and over Sirius tagging after her, so quickly she wouldn’t have caught it had she not been expecting it.  “The obligatory answer is yes, but I’m afraid my heart wouldn’t be in it,” he said with a shrug. He turned his gaze to Sirius.  “And you, Padfoot?  Are you feeling better?”

The addressed stood too close behind Hermione, looking down at her shoulder from behind her.  “I … have at least worked through some of my frustration.”

Hermione couldn’t help turning her eyes heavenward and shaking her head a little, which made both men laugh. Remus gave a little snort as he tucked a bookmark into the volume in his hands.  “Well, Ms. Granger, you are either at least as bad as he is or a saint for putting up with him.”

She shrugged.  “Bit of both.  Spent too long being too good.  Didn’t pan out.”

Remus studied her, his smile fading a bit into a look of frank consideration.  “Ah.  Yes, that can happen.”

Sirius glanced between them curiously for a moment before he shook his head and sighed, raking his shoulder-length black hair back as he flopped, slumping into the armchair across from Remus’s.  “I wonder if Lily would ever have developed a sense of mischief.”

Hermione chuckled a little, shaking her head.  “I think … well.  Being good had been panning out a bit better for her, and her son… well, my Harry always had a purity to him, even when he was trying to misbehave, which I understand did not come from his father.  I understand Lily and I were a lot alike in school, though.”

Sirius looked up at her, trying to reconcile that with the last ten or so hours, and Remus simply nodded as she sat in the chair beside his.  “I may have been more like her,” the werewolf said, “But I fell in with the wrong crowd.”

Sirius snorted, reaching his foot over to give Remus a half-hearted kick to the knee.  “You were near enough, prefect , and besides, you loved it.”

Both men smiled only a moment before both their faces fell.  Hermione was left glancing between them, knowing there wasn’t anything that would really help them through the trauma they’d gone through - nothing short-term, anyway.  It would be with them forever.  

Like they’d be with her forever, one falling through the veil with a frozen grin, the other the mangled body of a new father lying blank-eyed after the battle.  What she hadn’t seen firsthand, she’d shared through Harry’s memories while they worked together to heal.  The thought of the ravages of her own war made her feel a bit sullen, too.

Before she could sink too far into that familiar pit, she shook herself.  “Right. I’m sure there are things to do.  We…” she sighed, “we should check in on Harry, and… and the Longbottoms, and the Order, and… probably also funeral arrangements.”

Both men slumped further.  Remus, however, took a few beats and then straightened, saying, “Yeah, alright.  Up, Sirius, we’re off to see the Headmaster.  And you should call in to work, too.”

Sirius shook his head.  “I may have told Scrimgeour not to expect to see me again soon if anything happened to you, Peter, Lily, or James.  He’s a bit of an arse but he understood, I think, even if he did think we all could more to avert any catastrophe, arrogant old berk. I’m certain the DMLE has been at the house.  Hopefully not some idiot , though, what with me, Alice, and Frank tied up here.”

Hermione furrowed her brow.  “Sirius, are you an Auror?”   

He barked out a laugh, shooting her a wink.  “Something you didn’t know?  Glad I can catch you off guard after all.”

She frowned a little.  “I suppose they didn’t feel like playing up the connection, given what happened where I’m from.”

Remus looked at her strangely.  “Really not fussed about throwing your world out the window, are you?”

She shrugged.  “Not sure I’m even here.  This may be some sort of afterlife or a dying dream, which seems more likely, frankly, than random time travel.”

“Why do you say that?” he said, leaning forward, elbows on his knees.

“The last thing I remember before I woke up in that wreckage was standing in the headmaster’s office,” Hermione said, “raging at a portrait about how too many sacrifices had been made.  Then I somehow cut myself, and as the sword’s lethal, well…”

As she thought about it, she dug in her pocket for her bag and fished out the Sword of Gryffindor.  Both men’s eyebrows went up.  “Well. I was fairly certain,” Sirius said, “but I guess that settles what house you were in.”  He blinked.  “Didn’t it… was that the original scabbard , then?”

She shook her head, ignoring the last question and examining the sword’s hilt, trying to figure out how she could have pricked herself on it.  “I don’t know where I’d be sorted anymore, honestly.  I was a close call to begin with, then it was a long war, and funnily enough it wasn’t all birdsong and roses after, either.”

Remus was looking at her, frowning.  “I’ve never heard anything about the sword being lethal.”

She looked up.  “It’s Goblin-made.  Imbues itself with anything it encounters that will strengthen it.  Harry used it to kill a basilisk.”

Remus paled.  “In the war there’ll be basilisks?”

Hermione hemmed a bit, shaking her flat, level hand.  “Em, sort of.  It’s in the Chamber of Secrets.  Voldemort loosed it our second year.”

Both men stared.  Hermione continued to examine the sword, oblivious.

Remus was the one who eventually spoke.  “I suspect you’re right about checking in with others.  There are… many, many questions, and while perhaps a trip to the library might be in order later, I think it’s best we spare you having to repeat the answers only you know.”

Chapter Text

Eventually, Sirius, Hermione, and Remus knocked and were admitted to Dumbledore’s office.  Pomona Sprout and Rolanda Hooch were tucked in a far corner of the lowest level of the impressive room, playing with Harry and Neville.  The two boys were toddling around slowly together, holding hands and pulling each other over when either stumbled in their still-early attempts to walk.  Of the two, only Neville cried when he fell, but he did so quietly.  Hermione fought the urge to go right over and sweep them both into her arms and sob all over them.

As it was, Sprout was reading to them from an illustrated edition of Ronja the Robber’s Daughter and Hooch was mischievously trying to distract them with a toy broom not unlike Harry’s.  The two women flashed occasional long-suffering but loving glances at each other over their competing efforts. Sprout flushed with happiness as Harry pointed to an illustration and correctly identified a tall green “twee” and Hooch chortled when Neville plunked down on his bottom, feet twisting in indecision between broom and book. Most of the time, Hooch was gazing with a sort of fierce, quiet pride at Sprout.

Hermione barely stopped herself from literally slapping her own forehead, or possibly pumping her fist. She did squeak very slightly, to her unending mortification, before covering her mouth with her hand. 

“Ah, Ms. Granger!” she heard from over her shoulder just before Dumbledore stepped up behind her and patted her back fondly.  “Glad to see this world yet holds some happy surprises for you.  Won’t you come sit down?  I’ve a small meeting room adjoining, and there are others who must be privy the coming conversation.”

Hermione blinked rapidly and followed him, her head swiveling back to take in the scene with the children until Sirius took her by the shoulders and steered her away from an imminent collision with a doorway. 

Startled out of her revery, she looked around a new room.

There was a large, round table made of some warm colored stone with copper inclusions splattered across its surface.  Around it were several simple wood chairs, similar to those in most of the classrooms.  A carafe of coffee and a large teapot were being handed around, along with a platter of bacon sandwiches and apples.

Frank and Alice were already seated, along with McGonagall, Dedalus Diggle, Alastor Moody, and Arabella Figg.  And, of course, Snape.

Hermione could feel the tension that came into the room as Snape, Sirius, and Remus saw each other. The two Marauders, reflexively it seemed, moved between him and Hermione as they approached the table. She saw Snape, who looked very tired, start to reach into his lap, as if to draw a wand.  

So she did the only thing she could think of to confuse them into better behavior; she went right up to sit down next to Snape, on the far side from Sirius and Remus, and gave him a friendly hug right around his stiff, shocked shoulders.  

Then she looked at him brightly as if there were no one else in the room, and asked, “Are you doing alright?  

Haltingly, he broke his gaze away from his old rivals to turn to her, frowning.  “No.”

She smiled, rubbing his near shoulder soothingly, as she might have soothed an upset Ron rather than a venomous Severus.  To her amazement, he did seem to untense marginally after a moment.  “No,” she said, “I don’t expect any of us is.”

Diggle took this moment to speak up, his voice squeaky and joyful.  “I am!  Better than in ages!  He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named was vanquished, vanquished by Harry Potter!  It’s incredible news!  Unbelievable!  We’re saved! ”  

All eyes swivelled to Diggle, but only Figg and, slightly, Moody looked pleased at the same news.  It was Minerva who snapped.  “Yes, and lost his parents, our beloved friends and stalwart allies, in the process, Daedalus.  Not everyone is out rejoicing and setting off unauthorized fireworks today - and several of the foremost mourners happen to be in this room , which you ought keep in mind.”

Hermione smiled grimly  and sat back, letting go of Snape’s shoulder with a final companionable squeeze.  “Yes.  And it was Lily, not Harry, you should be thanking right now.”

Everyone turned to her in curiosity.  She shrugged.  “Her self-sacrifice for the child she loved is what made the difference.  It will do everyone a great deal of good - but no one more than Harry himself - if that true account is what becomes the common understanding of the wizarding world.”

Snape turned to her, looking uncertain.  “While you may indeed be correct, Ms. Granger, the prophecy explicitly-”

“-Is known to two or three individuals now living in its entirety,” Hermione interrupted, “despite widespread speculation and conjecture, and muddling things could protect two children and two still-living parents from retaliation by a very powerful and unscrupled faction.”

Severus looked at her for a long moment and then ducked his head in acknowledgement.  “Perhaps you are correct.”

A moment of quiet thought passed before Sirius asked, “Why is he here?” at the same time Moody asked, “Why is she here?”

Hermione looked to Dumbledore, knowing his word was likely to be the only currency that would spend here.

He apparently knew this, too.  “Professor Snape,” he started, ignoring Sirius’s hiss of disapproval at the title, “Is here as a member of the Order who defected to our side at great personal risk in an attempt to save both those children and their families before Voldemort fell.  And,” he continued even as Sirius’s mouth opened to respond, “Ms. Granger is here as a veteran of a second war, which we may be able to prevent if we act wisely on the intelligence she brings us.”

Moody spluttered.  “That’s preposterous!  This reeks of enemy fabrication!  Dumbledore, how have you verified this?”

Dumbledore shrugged.  “She foisted rather a disturbing quantity of memories on Severus when they met yesterday in order to establish her legitimacy, and between his adamant insistence that she is both valuable and truthful and the things she has demonstrated insight of, it is the simplest explanation. Oh,” he paused before including an afterthought, “and she’s unskilled at Occlumency enough that some of her thoughts fairly jumped off the page at me upon our meeting.” His blue eyes turned behind their halfmoon spectacles. “Something, I suspect, that you will have to work with her on, Severus.”

Snape bowed his head in assent more graciously than Hermione would have expected, and she shrugged.  “Em, I guess that’s sensible, yes.”

Dumbledore gave a decisive nod.  “It’s not only sensible but crucial, Ms. Granger.  The path you have started down is not a cautious one, and while I would not have advised such a course, the thestral has left the forest, as it were.  Protecting your mind from those who would use what you know in order to do evil is of paramount importance.  The extant Order members around this table, one and all, have some degree of competence with Occlumency when they bend their minds to the task, but in this art Severus surpasses even myself - which I do not say lightly.  It behooves us all that you learn from the best.”  

He looked at her closely to impress the point and she tried very hard not to shrink in her seat, almost completely succeeding. “Alright.  We can… well, I suppose we can work out scheduling to start that when we break this meeting up, then.”

“Excellent.” Dumbledore looked through some notes, his tone immediately lightening.  “Well, then, there remain several items to discuss.  Let us start with where and with whom Harry shall live now.”

Sirius was half standing before Remus pulled him back into his seat, covering his eyes with his free hand in a sort of practiced vicarious embarrassment.  “Sir, that duty is mine, not yours, to dispense with.  He is my godson.”

Dumbledore looked piercingly at Sirius for a moment before he spoke. “Yes, and as we now know that you were not, in fact, the secret keeper for Lily and James at the time of their betrayal, I cede that point, but must insist that discussion remains vital, for there is no ideal solution here.” Sirius twitched and narrowed his eyes but indicated his willingness to listen through silent attention when Dumbledore paused.  After a beat, the headmaster continued. “Did you know, Sirius, that the protection that Lily died to give her son will endure only if a member of their blood family resides with him?  And that, in fact, Lily’s only other living family are her Muggle sister and his family?”

To Hermione’s momentary surprise, it was Severus who jumped to his feet first, Sirius letting himself sit back down in surprise at the sight.  “Preposterous, headmaster!  To entrust the rearing of a magically talented child to Petunia Evans would be consigning him to a life of petty persecution for having gifts she lacks, during which he might be warped to who knows what bitterness.  His m-… his parents would have wanted him to reside where new love might grow, and regardless of how unsuitable he is to care even for himself-” Sirius guffawed, flinging himself against the back of his chair, “- regardless of any shortcomings, Mr. Black is does clearly care for the child, is of some means, and is a skilled Auror capable of his defense.”  Severus sniffed, sparing a haughty glance for the erstwhile Marauders.  “Not that I would relish teaching any ward of his in the future.”

Sirius was growling and Remus was glowering and despite trying to calm him down the instant Snape finished. Eventually McGonagall reached out to literally deliver a sharp slap to Sirius’s wrist, snapping him out of it as he shook his hand with an expression of shock and affront. “Oh, do you hush. I was weary of this ridiculous animosity before it was six months old, and I cannot begin to tell you how tiring it makes me today.”

Hermione, seeing her opening in the temporarily chastened Sirius, quickly spoke up.  “You’re all right.  The Harry I knew grew up being abused by the Dursleys.  He slept in a tiny cupboard under the stairs of their house, was emotionally battered constantly, treated like an…” she bit out the words “enslaved House Elf, and often even starved unto the point of malnutrition.  But he wouldn’t have survived - Sirius, I’m sorry, I’ve seen you fight and, yes, you too, Remus, you all save maybe Dumbledore - but he will not survive without the spell his mother cast through her sacrifice.”

Everyone blinked at her, even Diggle now looking sobered.  She took a deep breath, drawing courage from the uncertain furrow of Dumbledore’s brow.  “I... have an idea for this - one that I think may ultimately work out for the best of all concerned, but it’s… it’s a little…”  She paled, feeling queasy about her own machinations.  “Well, it’s definitely a further step down an incautious path, and I would need you all to trust me.”

Everyone was quiet, looking at her in various shades of worry and skepticism.  “And… you propose that no one else would know the particulars of this plan?” Dumbledore asked.

She bit her lip.  “I would probably need help, but the … well.  The most accomplished Legilimens and Occlumens in the room would likely be the best suited, and that’s in part because he could keep things quiet.  Yes, even from the rest of you.”

Severus regarded her thoughtfully.  “Ms. Granger… if in fact you plan to put the child in the care of another, how do you know that he will… become a similar person?”

She shook her head. “I … don’t categorically and definitively know it, but I do know that character can come out of kindness as well as hardship, and that good parents who raise good people do exist.  I’d … I’d really like him to have those, and not just for his first year - and, yes , Sirius, also for him to spend at least some time with his doting godfather and as-good-as second godfather, Remus - and me, and even you , Severus, if it interested you.”  She was unable to repress a sniffle, dashing her sleeve at her eyes impatiently.  “And definitely Neville, and perhaps some other children he’ll eventually know in school.”  She shook her head.  “I … I know how to do it.  I would just need a little help.”  She shook her head, her tone gaining conviction as she continued.  “Also, I know Harry, and Harry is Harry no matter what good or bad gets thrown at him, maybe less some typical moody adolescent bits, and I have faith that enough of who he was came from within that he will be himself again.”

The long-silent Moody spoke next, low and fierce and skeptical.  “And would you take the Unbreakable Vow that, to the best of your knowledge and foreknowledge, this plan you’ve concocted is at least as safe for the future and the boy as his original path was?”

Hermione nodded rapidly. “Absolutely. Let’s do it right now. Who am I vowing to, and who’s casting the binding?”

❧ 

Once the oath was made - to Dumbledore, by Moody - and some details were sorted and lunch arrived.  They spoke wearily and ate with more doggedness than appetite before they all, grudgingly, agreed they’d have to move on.

“Well then,” said Dumbledore, his quiet authority pulling the group back to order after a short stretch. “What of other events we must prevent Voldemort and his faction from precipitating?”

The Longbottoms nodded vigorously and Moody lent forward in anticipation, his eye whirring madly in its socket.  “Indeed.  I don’t know that I believe the barmy bastard can be killed at all.”

Hermione swiped her palm down over both her eyes wearily.  “Well, he can , but he isn’t yet.  I’m afraid a well-intentioned idiot once told him how to… ugh.”  She looked around.  “Look, this should be kept to potential combatants and those with exceptionally good Occlumency only. Suffice it to say he had contingency plans in the event of his near defeat.”  She sagged in her seat, the weight of all the horror of life when she was, essentially, not just a child soldier but a child general sank onto her with the heavy recollections.  “It was largely a battle fought by children the first time around, dismantling his protections, and I would very much like not to have it go that way again.  I think, with some quick action, that we can set a course for that.  But it would help to compromise remaining Death Eater leadership quickly, and to strengthen the depleted numbers of the Order immediately rather than letting it go dormant.”

Moody’s mouth quirked as if he couldn’t decide whether to approve or disapprove of her reticence to tell all before he spoke.  “Well then, Missy Mystery, how ought we to manage that?  Other than by watching the DMLE bring the foul conspirators to trial and letting me go off to do my job, short a few green colleagues if necessary?”

Hermione sighed.  “We’ve got a few fronts we need to manage.  Em,”  she pulled a notebook and quill from her bag and started making a list.  “Before it all, I need some potion ingredients, and then some time with you both, Severus and Remus - oh do stop making those faces about it, you nitwits - I will hex you with something not invented yet if you provoke me.”  She shook her head and sighed.  “As to the bigger picture, let’s talk about Peter Pettigrew and the four Death Eaters who attacked… em, or will attack?... you, Frank and Alice. And all of that must be dealt with quickly.”

Chapter Text

It had been an exceptionally long meeting, and when Hermione finally emerged with the rest, trudging toward the Great Hall for a late dinner because none of them could stand to take it in the much smaller room.  At least the beginnings of the several necessary next steps had been resolved more or less to her satisfaction.  

She desperately hoped, picking up a Harry who recognized her and greeted her with glee and bright eyes, that she could just not fuck it all up.

Sirius was beside her, appropriating Harry from her arms almost immediately.  “Hermione, you can’t just take him from me.”  It was less stern and more pleading.  “If anything happened to him…”

Hermione looked up at Sirius, real sympathy warring with impatience after several rehashings of this over the last several hours.  Neither she nor Sirius had any sort of home fit to raise a child in at present.  Both of them were involved in high risk machinations that put unpredictable demands on their time.  And though this wasn’t the point she’d put front and center, both of them were, frankly, psychological disaster areas, and even Remus had some leveling to do around the head.  “Sirius, I believe you could rise to the occasion, but right now, and the factor of blood…”  She shook her head.  “Please believe me that, if I can work this out, you will see a lot of Harry and I will do anything and everything in my power to support you in being a good parental figure to him.  But he needs stability no one in the order is going to have in the next several months, and what Lily did is important .”  She shivered, remembering the sight of white feathers, falling.  “When Harry came of age, there were pairs of us all with one flyer and one passenger Polyjuiced to look like Harry and put on brooms, and when that spell ceased to work we had to run .  Sirius,” she lowered her voice, looking around for others listening, “We suffered heavy casualties.  Moody died in that attack.  It’s incredibly important - incredibly .”

Sirius gnawed at his lip, his Godson looking up at him with concern and reaching up to pat his shoulder with his tiny, feather-light hand.  Sirius looked like he might break, choking over a sob as he looked down to see this.  

“So help me, Hermione… I don’t know if I’ll love you or hate you in the end, but I don’t know that anyone has ever given me such godawful whiplash in my life, and this had better actually be for the best.”

Hermione felt her eyes leaking again, too, and forced herself to take a breath and squash her tone into evenness before she spoke again.  “Sirius, it’s hurting me, too.  So much.  Please know that I would never, ever, ever hurt Harry.  And… I would only hurt you if it were damned important.  I know you’ve suffered enough.  He and I, though… we’ve saved each other’s lives probably once a year since we met, and I recognize my turn.  Please trust me.”

He looked at her searchingly.  “What about when that awful word was cut into your arm?” 

Ah , she thought dismally.  So he’d noticed that. 

“If you watched out for each other so well,” Sirius continued, “ how could that have happened?”  He sniffled, producing a handkerchief from his sleeve and handing it to her before using the sleeve itself to mop at his own woebegone visage.  “I know I was...  broken... but I know you knew me .  How could I have?  How can I be certain that you don’t have some gripe with any one of us for landing you in the thick of all this, or for letting terrible things happen to you, when honestly?  I know a lot of this happened to you ages ago but you’re still too bloody young to be reasonably expected to have to deal with any of this, especially not the care of a child when you didn’t choose it, right now .”

She sighed.  “I’m your age.”

He snarled, “I bloody well know that, Hermione.”

Hermione frowned at him as Harry started to cry, upset by the tension.  Sirius, immediately chastened, started cooing conciliatory nonsense at his godson while Hermione gathered her wherewithal to reply.  “I’ve learned that a crucial part of surviving this all, Sirius, is understanding that most of the time, when you’re casting about for someone to blame, it begins and ends with Voldemort.  I have bones to pick with some people - but for the most part those are the minds I have to change, or save from their own folly.”  She scratched her head and produced a clean hanky of her own to thrust back at him.  “And stop doing that to your sleeve, you’re spoiling my attraction to you.”

He snorted, accepting it and shaking his head as he spelled off the stains.  “Can’t have that.”

She rolled her eyes.  “Look, you carry him down.”

He nodded dolefully, suddenly resembling the big black dog she knew he could turn into.

She shook herself, “Ack, get those puppy eyes away, just go.  And.. Sirius?”

He looked at her over his shoulder, having just turned to leave the office.  “Hermione?”

“I really am sorry,” she said, her voice cracking a bit.  

He looked at her a moment, then at Harry, and slowly nodded as he walked out the door.  

❧ 

Hermione stood there by herself for a couple minutes, contemplating screaming or turning over Dumbledore’s desk, or perhaps even seeing if it was possible to drown oneself in a Pensieve.  

Eventually, though, a warm hand tentatively touched her shoulder.  “Hermione, you’re still here?”  The startlement went out of her the instant she recognized the voice, and to her chagrin, she sagged back against the hand, which easily compensated for the weight.  “You mustn’t fail to eat after all that, especially given all that’s to come.  May I walk with you down to dinner?  Is there anything else I can do to help you?”  She turned then, still unready to meet the concerned green eyes that looked down at her as he pushed the hair from her face and tucked it behind her ear.  “I find chocolate often improves my spirits, and I’m sure the Elves will have something containing it on the menu, or could make you a mug of cocoa at least.”

That was the last straw. She just about collapsed on him, and his arms slowly came up around her as he got over his shock at this development.

And so, for five minutes that stretched into eons, for all she felt them, she wailed and cried and befouled the front of Remus’s shirt before she grudgingly let him lead her down to eat.

Chapter Text

NOVEMBER 2, 1981

Late the next morning, Hermione had a meeting scheduled with Remus and Severus in the Potions Classroom.  She held Harry on her lap while both ate breakfast off one plate, pointing to the banners for each house to and singing their Sorting Hat verses as well as she could remember in silly voices (and probably off key).  When she couldn’t delay it any longer, she handed him over to Sirius (who also took Harry’s little broom and was trying to teach him how to say ‘Hawkshead Formation’ as she walked away).  She was so prematurely annoyed at Sirius for causing Harry flying injuries that she could almost head down to the Dungeon without feeling dreadful at the prospect of being cooped up with two people who had so much bloody-minded animosity between them.

At least she knew they were capable of professional courtesy toward each other.  

Sort of.  Later in life.  

With plenty of passive aggressive digs on Severus’s part. 

Regardless, over the threshold she went.

It was strange, being there; the room was ordered in a way that had elements of both Snape’s preferred exactitude and Slughorn’s gregariousness. A large swath of the stone floor was discolored in a way that suggested that, until recently, there had been a carpet on it. Lavish impressionist wizarding paintings adorned the walls, lending some cheer to the subterranean room - but some showed signs of smoke and burn damage.  There were also snug, upholstered chairs instead of bare stools around the tables, though they looked a bit careworn and were doubtless in a more faded and frayed condition than Snape’s predecessor would have allowed. But Snape, now, hadn’t yet been teaching long.

Long enough, at least, to have the potion components ordered according to the Sapriscine Schema rather than Slughorn’s preferred Mandelbrew Scale (, Thank Merlin! ).  And for him to have gotten rid of Slughorn's grandiose lectern and instead placed his own lab equipment at the front of the room for demonstrations, which, however unfriendly, had much to recommend them over lengthy episodes of holding forth, names dropping like confetti along the way.

The new Potions Master was not without showmanship, however. Severus was playing his virtuosity as a Potioneer less close to the vest in this time, with his arms moving in a continuously fluid dance between the summoning of ingredients, pouring, measuring, chopping, weighing, grinding, and intermittently stirring three cauldrons at once. 

Lupin was already there, too, sitting near the back of the room, reading quietly in one of the student chairs. He was not facing Snape, but not putting his back to him, either. He was sufficiently distracted by his book that his emotions were moving plainly over his face - surprise, disbelief, curiosity.  

She stalled in the doorway; she’d rather just watch either of them than try to work jointly on something with both.

It was not to be.  Snape saw Hermione standing there and nodded to her curtly as another cauldron soared over to a fourth tripod, which was already set out over an unlit flame.  “Ms. Granger.”

Lupin looked up then, marking his place in his book before gathering his satchel and pushing his chair in neatly.  As he walked up, Hermione couldn’t help but think about how long it had taken him to do that - it was, in some ways, a lie.  He’d likely heard her coming since she started down the stairs on the other end of the hall from here, and had certainly both heard and scented her before she stood in the open doorway.  But he had, at some point, practiced not reacting until someone with typically human senses would.

It made her a little bit sad.

Although… maybe it was just a good book.

When he arrived to stand beside her, on the far side from Snape along the slate work counter, she held out a small, folded bit of cloth.

Lupin took the offered item slowly, looking up at her with a question in his eyes.  Snape, meanwhile, continued to mix his potions, his eyes occasionally coolly cycling to take their interaction in.  

Hermione answered the question aloud.  “I know you’ve said Potions was never your strong suit.”

She didn’t miss Snape’s shoulders relaxing slightly into languid arrogance, but he didn’t say anything.  Still, if she’d noticed, Lupin certainly had.  He continued to look between her and the item as he unfolded it, though - it was a small scrap of white cloth that was contoured and sized embarrassingly like a single cup from a bra, but more rectangular, and it had four long, white linen ribbons hanging from its corners. 

She shrugged when he finished taking it in.  “I borrowed materials from Madame Pomfrey - I’m better at knitting, but, well… I worked for in the Department of Mysteries, after a brief stint with the DMLE, after the war, and my partner, Malfoy, and I - 

“Malfoy?” Severus interjected incredulously, his arms still moving but his eyes fixed on her.

She smiled a bit “Didn’t get those memories, I take it.  Yes, Severus, Draco turns out to be redeemable, despite having a grouch for a godfather and Lucius for a father.  And that’s hardly the half of it, really.  But let’s revisit that topic at a later time,” she said, turning back to Remus.  

“This… looks like a surgeon’s mask,” he said slowly, lifting it up to fit over his nose and mouth experimentally. When it was more or less in place, his eyes widened and flew to hers as he took an experimental breath.  

She shrugged, smiling sheepishly. "At the Department of Mysteries, I was engaged in this project to reexamine the premises underlying the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures and reconstitute its resources in such a way as to promote the conservation and study of non-sentient magical animals and steward the greater enfranchisement of sentient magical beings. Including a re-examination of who was classified as which, of course - the centaur thing is truly appalling, for example.”  

Remus nodded, one of his eyebrows quirked.  “A lot must have changed.”

Hermione sighed. “Yes, but not enough.  Still, Voldemort replaced the Fountain of Magical Brethren with a statue of a witch and wizard sitting on a throne of contorted nonwizard bodies, then the outcome of the war's decisive battle hinged on which sides were chosen by nonhuman combatants. After that, even the most cantankerous scions of the Sacred 28 agreed it might be a good idea to be better to our neighbors - if only for purely selfish reasons.” She scrunched her nose.  “Although, I think it’s gone from 28 to somewhere in the high teens, where I came from.”

Both men were blinking at her, aghast.

She shook her head.  “I talk a lot about facts, alright?  Learn to deal with it.”  She sighed testily, then continued.  “ Anyway .  Our first phase was fact-finding.  We wanted to survey a diverse, statistically-significant cross section of the non-mage magical community regularly over time to amass evidence.  Though we had a good idea of what needed doing, because we anticipated resistance - there was no point in trying without new data with which to fight conservative tendencies.  Draco and I mostly spent our time organizing this effort and compiling results into a meaningful format to base recommendations on, but we also each made a point of taking on some of the interviewees ourselves, and to figure out incentive projects to convince reluctant populations that it was worth participating.  One of my incentive projects, for instance, involved distributing the potion I’m about to teach you how to make.”

Snape cocked his head thoughtfully, his hands still working but moving more slowly as he turned off the heat under one of the potions.  “So Belby does finish it, does he?”

Lupin looked over at him.  “ Damocles Belby?”

Hermione looked between them, then nodded.  “Yes.  Soon.  You both know him?”

Lupin shrugged, letting Snape concentrate on his remaining two brews as he explained.  “Belby was a Ravenclaw Prefect, two years ahead of us.  I knew he’d gone on to study potions, but didn’t know about this.”

Snape half-sneered, too busy to fully commit to the expression.  “He’d hardly have volunteered the information to you, Lupin.  Your condition was, after all, such a well-kept secret.”

Remus sighed, sounding a bit exasperated, but Hermione was talking before he could open his mouth. “No.”

Puzzlement from both.  She shook her head.  “Just, no.  No passive aggression, no sly barbs, no disdain, no jokes at each other’s expense, no plausibly-accidentally sharing each other’s dangerous secrets, no bullshit, no .”

Remus and Severus now appeared united in their resentment of Hermione.  Well, fine, let them , she thought.

What she said, though, was, “Look. Remus was scared of defying his more popular friends despite it causing him to fail in his responsibility as a prefect and a generally decent person to protect you, Severus, from his their bullying. And you, Severus, were a prejudiced stalker of one of their housemates who invented Sectumsempra while bored in Potions because you were soooo much too smart for it all.” She ground her teeth before soldiering on.  “One of you managed to alienate his best friends so thoroughly that they thought he was selling them out to Voldemort, and the other actually DID sell his best friend out before he finally woke up to the horror of the cause he’d pledged himself to.  So you’re neither of you as good as you may sometimes look, alright?”

Oh, good, they look like they want me dead, that’s nice, she thought, taking a breath to check in with their expressions. Maybe they’ll collaborate on the murdering. 

Severus actually slammed down a jar of ground scarab beetles so hard it cracked, and Hermione flicked a Reparo at it while watching the fingers of Lupin’s clenched fists go white.

“You were also both,” she continued, “desperately lonely children living with a legacy of childhood abuse neither of you should have had to suffer as well as the literal and figurative scars of parental mistakes neither of you should have had to bear.  Hell,” she snorted, “Sirius fits that, too, for all he nearly destroyed you both his little prank. The two of you, though, were both brilliant and bookish and lonely and too grateful to think all that critically about the crowds that were glad to have you fall in with them.  And I think, if the wind had blown differently on platform nine and three quarters on a single day, it’s altogether possible you might have been very good friends to each other - maybe even smoothed out some of each other’s shortcomings.”

Remus was pale and stiff, and Severus extra-aloof and seething.  She sighed. “Yes, well, work toward my demise for saying it all as long as you do it together as a trust-building exercise.  But also let it sit in your outsize brains and peck at you because, on some level? You both know that every iota of what I’ve just said is true.”  She tied her hair back irritably as she looked between them.  “Idiots!  What did you do, stake out the farthest possible study tables from each other in the library?  How often did one of you have out the book the other wanted and fume about it in silence for ages?”

That caused some restiveness in both - shuffled feet, flickering eyes.  Got you , she thought.

She stalked around the table to stand beside Snape at the cauldron, charming a bit of chalk to wait to take dictation at the board behind her as she went.  

“Both of you took heroic action, redeeming any shortcomings you may have had, again and again, in my time. I can think of no one I respect more than either of you.  And no one I more greatly miss.”  

She dashed the sleeve of her free arm along her eyes as she summoned some ingredients of her own.  Damn you both , she thought.

“If you can see your way toward, I don’t know, seeing someone who has mourned and idolized you as a common enemy in order to start to become friends, or at least trusted colleagues, I think there’s a considerably better chance for each of you to make it out of this omnishambles alive .  So keep looking daggers at me, and curse you both for being quiet, thoughtful types and hanging me out to ramble in a meeting I’ve been anxious about since before we scheduled it.”  

She started to try to measure, but her hands were shaking, so she put her silver measuring spoons down and looked up to Remus instead. All that, and she had yet to tell him what the mask was for. Oh, well done, me , she thought.  

“You,” she sniffled at Remus.  “You need to put that mask on, because if the data I’ve collated so far is correct, you suck at this Potions business because your sense of smell around the components is driving you to distraction.  That thing’s spelled ten ways from Tuesday to counteract that - you’re welcome.”

Then, she looked over at Severus.  “You.  You need to stop offering me your damned hanky when I’m furious with you , that is not okay, and then you need to make sure you can make this potion after I show it to you once.  I believe you can get there, Lupin, but I suspect you may need to remediate years of less-than-ideal learning conditions first.”  She shuddered, working to collect herself.  “Remus, you need to start taking this thing daily starting Wednesday, then each month starting this one for the entire week leading up to the full moon.  You can’t sweeten it even though it’ll taste wretched and maybe make you feel off - you never wanted to talk much about side effects but I think there were headaches.  You’ll stop getting all the self-harm scars and it’ll put a stop to the strain-accelerated aging you’re otherwise likely to start experiencing now you’re done growing.  You can, I believe, take Muggle remedies like paracetamol or ibuprofen for any discomfort.  If you take Wolfsbane Potion properly, you can just curl up in your quarters after you transform instead of heading to the shack - and yes, I’ll help you make the space safe in case of anything going wrong.  But now, we brew. Is that all clear?”

Remus blinked and murmured, “Perfectly,” while Snape drew himself up and said, “As crystal.”

Hermione spent a fraught three hours demonstrating and answering questions, her hair escaping into more and more frizzed tendrils the longer she stood over the steaming pot.

It was a tense but productive afternoon, with no interjections of small-talk - though the air did feel somewhat less ominously charged over time.

But since she’d pissed everyone off anyhow, as she was halfway out the door…

“Also,” she stared at Remus.  “Your biological children, should you ever be so blessed, cannot inherit lycanthropy from you as a male parent.  Full stop.  I do not ever want to hear your melodramatic whinging on that subject, not ever again.”

Then, she turned to the blinking Severus as Remus sat down heavily and perhaps not entirely voluntarily.  “And you never were and will never be entitled to any woman, no matter how friendly she may ever have been to you, and it’s that kind of attitude that makes men like your father.  Men who think such things are abusive even when they don’t hit - so read some bloody Simone de Beauvoir or something because you are a better man.  A good man.  And it would have been nice to have seen you find real romantic love instead of confusing it for a combination of friendship and infatuation.”

NOVEMBER 3, 1981

Before she and Snape were scheduled to meet in her study the next afternoon in order to commence planning for Harry’s living situation, Hermione had spent the entire morning playing with little Harry and Neville, letting Alice and Frank have a lie in and sublimating all her nervous energy into letting the little ones climb all over her, pretending to chase them all around the hall, and generally winding them up spectacularly, certain they’d nap well after lunch.

When Snape finally arrived, they got to work without preamble.  Though she felt her anxiety returning, he was quiet but helpful, and mercifully didn’t scruple at the more morally tenuous bits of her plan.  She thought she could get through them if he didn’t look at her as if she were evil incarnate as she explained, and when instead he offered a soft, “Well-reasoned,” she could have almost cried with relief as the tension inside her cracked.

He hesitated for a moment, then just put his plain white handkerchief over her hand, which had a death grip on her armrest.  He let his long fingers loiter just long enough that she noticed the stillness before he withdrew.  

“Ms. Granger...  I am not typically qualified to offer advice on personal matters.  But… this is a perilous time, and you have inextricably tied yourself into it in a way that requires you to share fraught memories and, in many respects, author the destruction of the world as you knew it. Under such trying circumstances, it is only natural that any predisposition to anxiety you might possess might push you toward states of panic - panic of the sort you appeared to experience yesterday.”

He sighed, his brow furrowing in concern , to her amazement.  “You are indispensable to us here, now - you represent the opportunity for a future that none of us could otherwise imagine.  I know something of what it is to live under the shadow of fear - and I will gladly help you to procure whatever you might need in order to spare you any ounce of apprehension your rather remarkable mind might otherwise accidentally inflict on you.”

He sighed as she blinked at her lap, shocked into silence.  “Meanwhile…” he paused, positioning himself so that his face was visible to her downcast and averted eyes, “Please know that Lupin and I withstood sharing a bottle of mead at the same bar last night, and that we concur that we probably should not… what was it? Ah - ‘collaborate in your demise.’”

He was out the door before she cracked and started laughing, and down the stairs before she started to cry.

Chapter Text

NOVEMBER 7, 1981 - SPINNER’S END, COKEWORTH

Hermione paced in front of Snape as he sat in his own sitting room, away from the school, referring frequently to an enormous corkboard festooned with notes, pushpins, and connecting strings.  They’d been meeting here to discuss plan updates and practice Occlumency, both a bit relieved to have some distance from the school and its many ears. 

On their initial foray here, Hermione had expressed surprise that Snape’s parents were no longer in residence - indeed, she’d been somewhat curious about them and hoped their paths might cross. 

[A list as long as my arm of Order members’ parents to hex, and could I manage to come across one if I tried? No, apparently I could not , she may have thought.]

Evidently, though, his ascension as a Death Eater had come with perks - including the gift of a “more appropriate” residence.  Eileen and Tobias Snape now resided on the small country house he’d been given. He claimed he had little use for a residence outside Hogwarts most of the time - but also mentioned, once, that he thought his mother might find more space agreeable.  

This evening, though, all talk was of the future - specifically, what they would do this very night in order to secure the best possible chance at a happy and well-adjusted life for one Harry James Potter.  

Snape listened quietly as she related the evening’s fully-developed and revised itinerary to him, occasionally closing his eyes or rubbing at his temples as she spoke.  Rarely, he interrupted with questions.  The windows and curtains were closed against the dark of the evening and any possibility of prying ears or eyes, and the air grew close in the cluttered, dusty house. 

Finally she finished, and he sat, eyes closed, apparently lost in thought for a moment.

“What this war did to you, Miss-” he started.

-Hermione ,” she interjected.  “ Please , just Hermione.  I may yet need to change my surname anyhow, and you’re going to be assaulting my mind nightly for who knows how long besides.  I suspect the connection is personal enough.”

He patiently waited for her to finish and then opened his eyes, regarding her frankly.  “I was uncertain, given the nature of your previous associations with me, that I should attempt any such… intimacy.”

She shrugged, a bit of a shiver traversing her shoulders at his diction intersecting with that word.  “We’re more or less of an age now and I’ve gotten over your rather pants teaching philosophy. I’ve comprehensively ranted at you about everything else.  And I have , at least, learned a great deal from you.”

He snorted in a half laugh.  “So it would seem, though I withheld certain intuitive factors I believe you might have benefited from, particularly in light of the... harrowing... path you’ve had to walk.”

She rolled her eyes.  “Look, if you grant me a small, tiny, ridiculous favor that’s going to piss you off later, we’ll call it even.”

He quirked a heavy brow.  “Very well.  But I was saying…”  He shook his head.  “Your war sharpened your mind to the point of cutting yourself.  There are tenable alternatives that might be less personally demanding of you.  Do you remain certain that this is the course you wish to take?  I … have a store of calming draughts to give you and am researching better options, but I wish first and foremost for you to consider the strategic value, if nothing else, of your own peace of mind.”

She stared at him a moment.  “Severus, you know how you’re trying to help me not panic? Do you speak French?”

He merely looked back at her.  

She sighed and then started to recite.  “‘How does it happen that this man, so distressed at the death of his wife and his only son, or who has some great lawsuit which annoys him, is not at this moment sad, and that he seems so free from all painful and disquieting thoughts? We need not wonder; for a ball has been served him, and he must return it to his companion. He is occupied in catching it in its fall from the roof, to win a game. How can he think of his own affairs, pray, when he has this other matter in hand?’”  She shook her head and then started vanishing the various notes and pushpins on the cork board into her bottomless bag.  “‘And if he does not lower himself to this, and wants always to be on the strain, he will be more foolish still, because he would raise himself above humanity; and after all he is only a man, that is to say capable of little and of much, of all and of nothing; he is neither angel nor brute, but man.’* I would think you ,” she sniffed, “of all people, would find that easy to relate to.”

He blinked, his eyes scanning rapidly from left to right as he recalled and considered.  

Impatient, she turned around after finally sending off the corkboard itself and put her hands on her hips.  “I am on the panic deferment plan.   If you sign up fast, they’ll throw in grief for an entire childhood irreparably torn from reality out the window too, free of charge.  Then it can all come crashing down later - once you’ve already done what’s right for the here and now you’ve been dealt.  

He knit his brow skeptically.  “Does the ultimate price not include a hefty amount of interest for you?”

“It doesn’t matter,” she said, biting the words off as she checked that her bag was secure, her wand in good order, her hair tied securely back, then started to slip on her cloak. “Look at yourself .  It would anyway, and this way, I function.”

“I... alright,” he relented.

She shrugged.  “Good.  I’ll need the help of your fluency of the current Muggle and Magical worlds in order to pull it off.  Whatever pain I may suffer, that damage is already mostly done and beyond my control - and I think this is the best of the options. Please know that I’m done for the present with thinking in turns that this all is either self-indulgent or martyred of me. Dwelling on it now will only sabotage our operation, and it isn’t as if I haven’t given it thought. Whenever I haven’t been working on all this, I’ve been playing with Harry, or watching how he is with Alice and Frank, the bonafide parents, versus with Sirius or Remus or myself.  Your nemeses and I do admirably as doting aunt and uncles, but are rife with potential for regret and missteps as adoptive parents when so much else is transpiring, not least because of our already considerable grief loads.  When I second guess myself, perhaps you can let me use your lab to make some dreamless sleep, alright?”

He took a deep breath, looking at her searchingly.  “Alright.”  He shook his head a little, then shrugged.  “Alright, Hermione .”  

It sounded like he was mocking her every time he made himself use her given name - but she’d fine tune it later.

After a brief pause, as an afterthought, he continued: “However, do stay out of my lab - I understand your professor had serious shortcomings, so rather than risk the sanctity of my workspace, I shall make you whatever potions you require.”

HAMPSTEAD, LONDON

After Apparating around Scotland pilfering Muggle newspapers for about an hour, just to ensure the most recent batch really did provide the most advantageous options, they arrived at their first destination - and Hermione very nearly made Severus go in without her.  

But she knew she could do this better, at least in this one case.  She knew, because she’d done it before - and then promised she never, ever would again.

And so it was that she sat there, wand raised, murmuring softly to her parents in their own living room, her toddler self down the hall, fast asleep.  

“William, your surname has always been Garnier, and your father immigrated here from France.  Margaret, you took William’s name when you married, despite your feminist leanings, because you always hated your own maiden name of Legg.” 

Hermione looked down a moment, stilling the impulse to fidget with the kaleidoscope that had always lived on the Granger coffee table, before she continued.  “You’re excited to be moving on from London soon and starting a new practice, not to mention moving to a home that better accommodates your family and gives you better access to camping and hiking.  You’ve engaged a receptionist, already - her name is Arabella Figg, and she’ll be receiving boxes of the equipment you ship from your current premises all this week.  While you will miss it, you plan to visit the city for a weekend each month.  A recent and unexpected bequest from your great uncle James, Margaret, will make expenses manageable through the move and make you comfortably able to afford these visits.  With most of the proceeds, you have also established a nice trust for your children’s education.  You’ve already sent some furniture ahead of you to your new home and will depart the city in one week.  Good friends and family will meet you to help unpack when you arrive, on Saturday afternoon.”

She inhaled, reminding herself to stay calm, remembering the way her parents told stories and trying to replicate it.  “Sadly, all four of your parents are deceased at this point, but William, around the time you married Margaret, your mother told you that her parents had been magical, and had attended a special school for the magically gifted - and that while she did not inherit their gift, it was very real and could sometimes skip generations. Because of this, she told you that you should be kind and careful should anything … unusual … ever happen around your children.  I.. don’t expect you need to be told this, but if any evidence of magical power does arise, it is important not to panic and also not to praise or pay attention to your children unequally, because any who might lack the knack of it might be hurt and it could sow division among them. Also, you know and can reassure any young witches or wizards in your household that they’ll hear from a school of magic around the age of 11 or 12 - but also that, for the good of all, magic is a secret to most, and so you should impress upon them that this is not something to be discussed outside the family.

 “And,” she clenched her teeth a moment before plowing on, “you are blessed with wonderful children - the eldest, Hermione, born September 19, 1979, and, to your great surprise,…”

After she finished, she stared into her parents’ kind, vacant eyes - ten years older than her own yet and beginning to show slight signs of age at the corners - for a long time before closing the incantation and sending them to bed.  

She left the details of the new premises for their dentistry practice in Grantown-on-Spey on the kitchen counter, where her mother’s paperwork always seemed to accumulate.  They were stacked along with a receipt for a moving service and the  deed for their new house in the woods near town and the brochure for a reputable-looking Montessori crèche.  

They had moved house, in her timeline - about a year hence, and not to Scotland, but they’d wanted more space.  She thought her mother could enjoy having so much garden to muck about in, and that it looked like a beautiful place to grow up.  She hoped she was right, and that Severus could indeed alter all the necessary records as efficiently and equitably as possible.

NOVEMBER 8, 1981 - LITTLE WHINGING, SURREY

The next stop, after a quick run by a certain London drill company, was to a small, suburban neighborhood in Surrey.

Hermione and Severus stood outside together in a sort of charged silence for a long while before Hermione stepped to the side, bowing and indicating that Severus should proceed first.  After a moment, he accepted the invitation.

The door blasted open - though to be fair, it fell forward off its hinges as quietly as possible.  

Moments later, after Snape peeked into the cupboard under the stairs with a sneer before storming up them, they stood together over the bed of the snoring forms of Petunia and Vernon Dursley.  Hermione had cast a muffling charm on the nursery, whence came a gentler snore, along the way.  

Hermione and Severus looked at each other grimly across the bed.  And then, without waking them, Snape cast the charm.  

“Your names are … Vincent and Rue Dudley.  This very evening, after a break-in disrupted the peace of your lives here in the London Suburbs, you had a conversation about what you wanted from the future.”

Hermione leaned back against the wall and folded her arms, intrigued.  They’d discussed this in general but she’d left him to work out the details. 

“You were both only children, and particularly in light of the … dangers faced by children in this modern world, you have decided that, tomorrow, Vincent will schedule an elective vasectomy, to occur as soon as possible.  You were considering having a child, but on the whole, you think this is best for your future happiness, especially in light of your close relationship with your godson, whose parents, your good friends William and Margaret Garnier, promise you may spend future holidays together your heart’s content.  You will ask for and adhere to any advice they give you regarding his treatment-”

“-including what sorts of presents it is appropriate to buy him and what sort of food he ought to eat to be healthy,” Hermione interjected.

“...as well as the treatment of any siblings who may accompany him,” Snape continued, “and think quite lovingly of them all.

“Even to accommodate your intermittent care of said godson and your own anxieties, you have also decided that you both need a… change of scene.”  Snape squinted a moment, seeming to search his memory.  “Vincent, you will convince your superiors at work that the new posting to expand your drill business in Australia is one to which you are well-suited.  They will agree with you, and offer to reimburse you for moving expenses, such that within the week, you will depart for a new home in Alice Springs. Rue, you will spend this week in touch with realtors and movers in order to get everything ready to go. You’ll be amazed at how quickly your visas and the sale of your home come together, and Rue, you believe the dry heat will do wonders for the complexion.” 

He’d added that last bit with an upward twitch of his lips.  “Rue, you will fondly remember your childhood friend, whom you always shyly fancied, named Sebastien Snap, and are glad that his and his charming wife’s … tourism business... sometimes take them to the area of your new home.  You will look forward to taking them out to the finest restaurants in the city whenever they visit, and tell them quite candidly of anything and everything interesting or unusual that has happened recently in your lives.  Ah,” he paused, smirking, “His lovely wife, Mrs. Snap, is named Hermione, by the way.”

Hermione wrinkled her nose, to which Severus shrugged expansively, as if to say this is what she got for dragging him into all this.  She had to admit it was a clever pretext.  

Still, it was strange in its… specifics.

“Yes, yes, capital, of course,” Vern… Vincent snored as they left the bedroom, stepping across the hall. 

The pink little child in the cot was positively festooned with blue ruffles.  Hermione sighed and picked him up, delivering him into Snape’s surprised arms, which only lifted to the burden instinctively as it collided with his stomach. Dudley, mercifully, continued to snore peacefully.

He looked at her, aghast and ungainly with a babe in arms.  She shrugged expansively this time - this is what he got for dragging her to Alice Springs as his wife . Meanwhile, quietly, she opened up her bag and, bracing for the deluge, murmured the spell: “ Accio baby things.”  

Fortunately, she’d been braced for the cot, but it was still such a riotous inundation that she was certain she’d need to triage this stuff before delivering the things along with the baby.

Who, as various ruffled blue items and tiny boater hats zipped into her bag, waved his little fists around like a born pugilist.  Oh dear.   

She really, really hoped this was truly the right thing.  That Dudley’s reign of sibling terror wouldn’t start the moment he was integrated into his new family with his new… fraternal twin brother. 

Thinking of which…

“Hmm.”  Hermione said, gazing intently at Dudley, then to Severus, who looked bewildered at the intensity of her regard.  

“Hmm?” he replied, one brow raising. 

Oh curse you for being so good at that , she fumed, wishing she had better voluntary bilateral eyebrow control.  “Has anyone ever told you you resemble a younger version of the Muggle actor, Alan Rickman?” she blurted, uncertain of how she had gotten so derailed.

He blinked at her slowly, canting his head.  “Who?”

She shook her head.  “Oh… keep an eye out for the BBC’s serial of The Barchester Chronicles in November.” 

His head tilted further.  “I take it, then, that his star has not yet risen?”

She shook her head.  “Not quite,” she whispered, “though he’s had some success on stage by now.” She scrunched her nose in consternation - why hadn’t it ever occurred to her before?  Maybe because Snape never treated me with even the most minimal of courtesy before, she thought.  But what she said was, “Really, even more than you look like him, you sound like him.”

He looked at her carefully. “Fancied this actor, did you?”

She went scarlet.  “What?  No!  Why would you even ask that?”

She’d said it all too fast.

He looked … cautious, shaking his head.  “You were about to say?”  He nodded toward Dudley.  “About… him?”

She shook her hand as a high chair rapped her soundly on the knuckles, suppressing a curse.  “Oh.  Well, he’s heading into a hedgerow of Hs, and my parents won’t believe they ever named anyone … Dudley.”

Severus nodded thoughtfully.  “Yes, they did seem to have a modicum of taste.”

“Still, I don’t want to upend everything on him.”  She fretted as various bonnets pelted by. “Dewey or Dexter might suit.  I know his mother calls him… calls him Diddy and Diddy Dumpling and … and Diddykins.”

Snape looked like he might be ill.  “And in the hedgerow of Hs, what options attract you?”

She shook her head.  “It wouldn’t be a very attractive one he’d recognize, but surely we could go for… neutral, similarish in tone…”

Severus shrugged.  “Henry?”

Hermione shook her head.  “Too stately and dignified and redolent of chopping heads off wives.”

The potions professor actually guffawed.  “Hamish?  Harley? Harald?  Harris?  Hmm.  Hades is likely a bridge too far… perhaps Henley?”

She narrowed her eyes.  “That was strangely easy for you. Why?”

He shrugged.  “I have contemplated having children, and have already taught many with ludicrous names.  I have a mental list of the truly banal and distasteful ones.”

She stared at him.

Until he squirmed a bit.  “What?” he finally asked, testily.

“Severus... I think my little favor just got bigger if that’s your idea of a diversion.  But Henley is fine.”  

A last lacy-yet-gender-coded camouflage bootie zoomed late into the bag, and Hermione snapped it closed and tucked it away.  “This place makes my skin crawl.  Let’s get the hell out of here before I decide this is too terrible a thing to do to these people - or not terrible enough.”

Nodding with apparent sympathy, Snape followed her toward the foyer, where Apparition would be less likely overheard.

HOGWARTS SCHOOL OF WITCHCRAFT AND WIZARDRY

Alice and Frank blinked blankly up at Hermione in shock after, early the next morning, she found them in the common sitting room with Harry and Neville chewing blocks on a blanket and plunked another baby around the same age down with them.

She waited patiently for them to find control of their voices again. 

Finally, Frank spoke. “Another one?”

Hermione shrugged.  “I once overheard your mother yelling at Neville that the two of you had wanted ten children, and that doubtless at least one of them all might have been useful.”

The two looked horrified, and she wondered for a moment if she wasn’t getting too blasé in her callousness.  “Em, that is-”

Alice cut her off. “We’d like five .  It’s… it’s Augusta who wants a full ten to … to duel for some champion-of-the-family title. “

Frank scratched the back of his neck sheepishly.  “Em, that’s right.”

Hermione was just relieved that Alice seemed annoyed with her mother-in-law, and perhaps her husband for not standing up to her better, rather than at Hermione.  She personally thought anything past 2 was getting a little extreme, and was in no hurry, despite the norms of wizarding Britain.

Alice shook her head, sighing as she took in the frilly clothes on the new little boy, who’d seized a block from each Harry and Neville and was making them soar triumphantly around his head with a little giggle.  The other two had simply picked up new blocks to bite, unbothered. “What’s his name then?”

“Henley,” Hermione stated decisively. 

“And he’s here because…?” Frank asked.

“He’s your distant cousin, descended of French Squib cousins, and Harry’s new fraternal twin.” Hermione recited the fiction, pleased to remember it with clarity, before she remembered they should likely know some of the truth.  “Er - and also Harry’s actual blood relative.  Don’t worry, this is only for a week.”

Frank and Alice both blinked at Hermione for a moment before Frank shrugged and picked up the newcomer, looking sympathetically at his outfit.  “C’mon, tyke,” he said, standing.  “We’ll get you something else to wear and a fresh nappy, maybe even a bath! How’s that then?”

As Frank walked away, chatting with Dudley about the names of objects they walked past, Alice beamed up at Hermione with a radiant smile, as if to say: That’s my Frank, is he not all that is right and true and glorious?

Hermione smiled shyly back and nodded, feeling a little better (even as she wondered with a twinge if she would ever feel that way about anyone) as she went to find some desperately-needed sleep.

Chapter Text

“Unnngh,” Hermione protested into her pillow when her wand started chiming and bouncing about the room around noon.  

She hadn’t gotten to sleep until 8 AM.  

She flailed at it as it went sailing past, seeming to delight in its pogo stick impression.  She missed and toppled out of bed, looking up at the ceiling in a daze as her head started to ring with announcements of the majestic new goose egg it was getting.

She knew she had to have overslept by at least ten minutes before the wand went from vibration to full-on locomotion, but the fact remained that it was far too early.

Nonetheless, she flailed and swore her way out of bed.

A quick scrub and a word to Frank and Alice later (the children were embroiled in a very intense discussion  consisting mostly of coos), she wandered down to the Great Hall, once again feeling queasy as she approached the faculty table.  

Dumbledore hadn’t been idle while she’d been plotting and finally executing her scheme with Severus.  Sirius was now ensconced as the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, having replaced a pathetically grateful rota of Auror substitutes who were fine being a little understaffed back at the DMLE as long as they didn’t need to flail at a task they were mostly exceptionally ill-adapted to.  Enough adaptation to reacting quickly and violently to loud noises and to staying out of sight in crowds did not a wonderful teacher make.  

Sirius, however, with his charisma, skill, and way of making sneaky treachery sound brilliant, was exactly the sort of person who could make the leap, and become the school’s most popular professor overnight to boot. His direct supervisor at the Ministry, Rufus Scrimgeour, who was on the verge of having to teach a week of classes himself if no other solution presented itself, had agreed readily that this was for the good.  

Hermione, meanwhile, tried not to hear the 6 th and 7 th … and 5 th and 4 th … and sometimes 3 rd … year girls mooning over their dashing new professor in the halls.  

She herself, meanwhile, had been installed as a ‘Visiting Scholar’ under her own name - something that, apparently, did occasionally happen.  Because she drew no compensation beyond room and board for her “work,” the Governors didn’t even need to approve the role - she (and Remus) were there for as long as necessary at the headmaster’s discretion.  

Hermione could only assume this policy went wrong or was changed at some point, because otherwise it would have been incredibly useful during the second war.  

They did, though, need to occasionally hold workshops or lectures for current students, or substitute teach - which mercifully hadn’t come up yet, unlike the eating-at-the-staff-table thing.  

Eating at the staff table: the thing which, after holing herself up in her study with the cork board for several consecutive days, she now had to do unless she wanted to forage for food off campus.  Dumbledore had insisted there were still some areas where he might know something she had no greater mastery of, and that interacting with others might prove good for her.

So she slumped, bleary-eyed, into a seat between Minerva and Severus, waving dismally at other familiar faces as she bumbled past.

She got about halfway through loading up her plate - she was famished, having missed lunch and dinner yesterday - before she turned to glare at the composed and awake-seeming Potions Professor.

“Severus.  Why aren’t you as absolutely knackered right now as I am?” Her eyes narrowed as she looked at him.  “I know you stayed up even later than I did, with Apparating around to change records and such.”

Snape finished chewing his bite of shepherd’s pie with no evident hurry to respond before he finally spoke.  “I am the Potions Master.”  He sipped from a mug that radiated the aroma of strong coffee.  “Also, like most dungeon-dwelling, vitamin-D-deficient scholars, I enjoy caffeine.”

She spotted the carafe next to him and reached rudely across him to seize it, figuring he had some personal space invasion coming.  “Learn to share if you want to make friends, you self-important fruitbat.”

He put a little stoppered vial in front of her without looking at her, continuing to eat.  “Manifestly I am an omnivore, Granger.  Do try and keep up. Phyllostomus hastatus , perhaps.”

Hermione inhaled some coffee with a snort as she matched the Latin to the common name, then spent a minute coughing into her linen napkin before she could speak.  Snape patted her back as if he found it distasteful - but he did pat her back.

Finally, after downing the potion he’d given and immediately starting to feel less wrecked by fatigue, she replied. “That’s rather harsh.  I’ve always thought it more aquiline than spear-like.”

Snape, who was now applying himself to a bowl of melon, huffed - but did so with a slight smirk.  “The lady is too kind.”

Minerva, who had been fairly distant for these eventful few days and looked rather drawn, nonetheless seemed curious about the conversation beside her. Though over dark circles, her eyes were characteristically bright and incisive as she surveyed the younger pair.  “Severus, I don’t think I’ve ever heard you banter before.”

He sneered.  “This, banter?”  With a dismissive sniff, he reapplied himself to his food, which left Minerva warily regarding Hermione, and Hermione smiling back without trying to look desperate to reestablish friendship.  

“Em,” Hermione tried, “Would you like some coffee, Headm- em -Pro-er-”  She paused to take a breath, then smiled anew, offering the carafe.  “ Minerva ?”

Minerva replied by brusquely sipping her tea with a sidelong glance at Hermione.  Hermione put the carafe back down.  “Ah.  Yes, no, I do know that you prefer tea.  It’s only you … don’t seem yourself.” Hermione dithered a moment before adding, “If there’s anything I can do to be of help, I’d like to.”

Minerva only looked more suspicious at this.  “Mmm.  How very kind of you.”

Hermione wondered if there was something on her face.  Or stuck in her teeth.  Or generally something obviously lacking about her person or character altogether.  And so she looked in the opposite direction, feeling hurt.  

... only to be met with a cheeky wink from Sirius, which jolted her into sitting upright and eating with impeccable attention to her table manners, proceeding as efficiently and alertly as a well-caffeinated scholar who was decidedly not distracted by erotic antics ought.

A few minutes later, after Severus excused himself, Minerva looked back at Hermione again, looking … contemplative. “Actually, Hermione, you may be able to assist me with a few matters I’ve been meaning to get to.”

Hermione blinked, smiling hopefully (and, she hoped, not quite pathetically).  “Oh, of course! Anything at all!  What can I do?”

Minerva looked sour for another moment before she continued.  “I understand, from Remus, that you seem to carry your life with you wherever you go.  Might you, perchance, have the detailed results of your NEWTs with you?”

Hermione nodded quickly - of course she did!  Oh, good, something easy, she thought, summoning them discreetly from the bag in her pocket so as not to show off the legally questionable undetectable extension charm.  She handed the sheaf of papers to McGonagall the second they were in hand.

The older woman thumbed through them in silence for several minutes, her eyebrows arching up or furrowing down occasionally in mute response.  Hermione tried to limit her surreptitious glances and focus on her lunch, though.

Until finally the papers were handed back to her.  Hermione accepted them and looked expectantly at her dear friend, the stranger.  

Who said nothing.

After a few minutes of shuffling the results from hand to hand, Hermione had run out of ways to squirm and broke.  “Em, is there anything else, Pr.. Minerva?”

The Transfiguration Professor sniffed and handed the reports back.  “Seven O’s from Seven NEWTs, I see.”

Hermione nodded slowly, starting to tuck the papers back into her bag. “Em, I’d wanted to take more, but -”

Minerva cut her off.  “Rather over the top, isn’t it?  Particularly with the effusive hand-written commentary exceeding what I have ever written for any of my students, in my hand, on your Transfiguration results, I noticed.”

Hermione blinked, pulling out the result in question and scanning it quickly before turning her hurt eyes back to her erstwhile mentor.  “But, Professor!  You… you just wrote ‘Well done’!”

Minerva, steely-eyed, sipped her tea.  “Precisely.”

Hermione’s eyes widened and, after a moment, she dropped the papers back into her bag.  “Em… is there… is there anything else?”

Minerva seemed to weigh her response a moment before speaking.  “Yes, in fact.  Two things.”

Hermione leaned forward, eager to hear.  “Yes?”

Minerva gestured to Lupin and Sirius, who were laughing over some conversation, with her cup.  “Treat my alumni with care, Ms. Granger.  They’re impressionable boys.”

Hermione paled.  Shit, had Minerva heard about…? Merlin, had she just… heard? But her quarters were on the first floor!

“Oh, em, I would never be anything but... em… but gentle with Sirius and Lupin, Headmistress.  They’ve been through so much, and-”

“STOP with the spoilers - you may have a brazen contempt for the arc of time, but I haven’t, and I don’t want to know.”  Minerva shook her head, seizing a small scone and dunking it in her cup with prejudice.  “ Or to be a headmistress anytime in the next four decades, for that matter.”

Hermione sputtered, trying to apologize, but Minerva continued before she could recall her powers of articulation.  “ And what I meant is don’t be gentle with them.  Be fair, which more often means speaking hard truths and setting firm boundaries.  I may have already coddled at least one of them beyond all redemption and another beyond his sense and ultimately his life.”

Hermione fell against the back of her chair in shock, eventually mustering an “Em… of course.  I’ll… I’ll do that. Although, Professor, surely you know it wasn’t your fau-”

“-And,” Minerva interrupted, “please join me in my quarters tomorrow evening for a private dinner.  I believe you know the way?  Worry not - the Elves understand you are to be fed during such meetings even if they do not occur in the Great Hall.  I have a personal matter and an Order matter I need to discuss with you, and latter in particular is pressing.” 

Hermione blinked.  “Anything I should prepare for, Professor?”

Minerva shrugged.  “Let’s, as they say, wing it.  Until then.”

Minerva stood and swept out of the room in a whirl of tartan, leaving Hermione bewildered and on edge.  

Suddenly, napping seemed like both a judicious allocation of resources and an absolute impossibility for the afternoon.

Hermione nimbly dodged Sirius’s attempts to catch up with her, likely with some nefarious goal, as she darted through the students and back up to her quarters to regroup. 

Chapter Text

MUSWELL HILL, LONDON

“This was a lovely idea, Hermione,” said Frank, who was bouncing Du-... who was bouncing Henley on his hip.  To Hermione’s great fascination, the two had quickly taken a shine to one another.  “You know, the… well… the pictures are quite different, but there’s such a wonderfully huge variety of children’s literature here, and I never would have thought to investigate it.  We mostly just have old engravings for Babbity Rabbity and whatnot.”

Hermione smiled up from a copy of The Story of Ferdinand she was reading to a rapt (if slightly grabby) Harry, the afternoon sunlight and joyful chaos of her own childhood bookshop warming her after a trying morning and a trying night.  “Well, if you look up The Brothers Grimm, say, you can find some stories not entirely unlike those here - they actually might be fascinating to you.  I think they are from before… certain statutes made every line quite so clearly demarcated, if you follow.”

Frank thought a moment and then nodded.  “So… these are magical tales, are they?”

Hermione chuckled, carefully pulling Harry’s fingers from a page that was threatening to rip.  “Many, maybe even most of the stories here likely are, but those are… old folklore and fairy tales.” She saw the puzzlement on Neville’s father’s young face right away and shook her head, clarifying.  “Em - tales like stories.  Fairy stories.  Or tales.  That’s just what the old stories, like those of the… bard… are called.”

At the end of the aisle they were gathered in, Alice, a mad gleam in her eye and a bit of a cackle on her lips, skipped by, Neville toddling after her and a towering load of books in her arms.  Hermione burst out laughing, drawing fascinated looks and echoing laughs from first Harry, then Neville, and finally also Frank.  

“I have a feeling Alice and I will be good friends, Frank,” Hermione finally said, catching her breath.  “We have similar thoughts where books are concerned, I think.  I have some muggle novels she might like for adults, too.”

Frank’s eyes lit up, and he glanced to D..Henley, his enthusiasm immediately catching in a little giggle from the tiny child, too.  “She’ll be delighted!  Won’t she, Henley?” The kid didn’t look half so ridiculous now he was in borrowed clothes from Harry and Neville, and Hermione was generally encouraged at how things were going so far - though he had been a little tearful and reached toward the receding back of Professor Trelawney, who was similar in stature to his mother, earlier.  

Hermione couldn’t let herself dwell on that - not now, not yet, maybe not ever.  If she were to be damned for what she had done, well, it was done now anyhow.

By the time she’d stamped out that little thought, though, Frank too looked a bit downcast.  “My mother, you know, she… well.  Alice has a Muggle grandmother, you know.  Not by blood - her grandfather was widowed and remarried.  But she’s absolutely besotted with her, and used to ask for Muggle stories all the time.  She had quite a few artifacts and books, even, but my mother wouldn’t have them on the estate.  It was part of why… well.”  He shook his head, bouncing Neville with a weary smile.  “Plans don’t always work out, I suppose.”

Hermione was curious, and Harry seemed to be seeing to himself - he’d discovered the joys of board books, and was whacking one against the floor without damaging it, an almost serene look on his cherubic little face.  “What had you planned, then?  You can’t just bait my curiosity like that, this one would tell you if he were… well… ” she sighed, nodding at Harry, who she started to separate from the book when he tried biting it.  

Frank shrugged, crouching down below where she sat on the floor and letting Henley toddle over to Harry.  “See, when Alice and mum started to… well… grate on each other, I started looking through the family deed vault - mages aren’t as plentiful as they once were, and so a lot of old estates seem to have piled up unoccupied into the keeping of several old families thanks to old marriages, lack of other suitable heirs, that kind of thing.  And there’s a place - not as big as home, but quite comfortable, with acres of mountain forest and streams and excellent greenhouses, and a lovely library  - just outside of Hogsmeade.  It even has some cottages on the grounds that could, what with the wards and all, be good, safe peacetime residences for other magical families, or at least neat placed for some curious children to have the run of.  It was somehow shunted our way from the Prewetts when someone died maybe 20 years ago.”  He shook his head.  “I’d been after fixing it up - almost done with it, too - thinking we’d, well, move out.”  He shivered and looked around, as if scared the formidable Augusta Longbottom might be within listening distance.  

Hermione blinked, processing this.  “Wow, Frank.  That sounds absolutely amazing.  And… em, sorry, I know her to have raised two ultimately incredible wizards, but maybe also a great environment to raise Neville in.  And… never invite Uncle Algie to.  Ever.  Especially if there are towers.”  

He gave her a curious look and then shook it off.  “Yeah, well, I thought so, yeah? Mum can’t stop us.  Due to old entanglements and primogeniture, I… er… well, allegedly I’m even the head of the house of Longbottom, so it’s well within my rights to do it and let mum stay at the family seat, too, so.  I was going to take Alice there for a surprise on our anniversary, later this month.  You know, show her around.”  He sagged a little.  “I would have, too.”

Hermione had gone very still and was watching him intently even as she clearly put other pieces of information together - and lost track of the fact that Harry had now sandwiched Millions of Cats and the Hague East of the Sun, West of the Moon , and was biting them both.  

Frank leaned across her to gently tug the books away - leaving Harry to shrug magnanimously and look for more, beckoning Henley to join him.  “Hermione,” Frank said, wiping baby saliva from slipcovers.  “Are you quite alright?”

Hermione shook herself.  “Em, yes.  Fine!  Everything’s… well.  Frank, I … could you write out exactly how you were planning to get there, and when, for me?  I think I know how we can catch the Death Eaters who are still at large with a will to continue in their leader’s footsteps.  

Suddenly, Alice appeared at the other end of the aisle, beaming.  “I’ve opened a tab!  Let me have whatever you like - I’ve got a proper cheques and Hermione, you need to stop plotting whatever it is you’re plotting and show me what to buy with them!” 

Hermione and Frank grinned sheepishly at each other before she pulled herself up, grabbing the various books they’d been looking at and an illustrated copy of The Hobbit besides and leaving Frank with the little ones.

Chapter Text

NOVEMBER 9, 1981

When Hermione woke up the next morning, significantly better-rested than she had been the day before, it was to the sound of a quiet little huff of breath from a warmth against  her side.  

Ah.  Now she remembered.  

Yesterday, Alice had insisted on treating Hermione (whose cheque card wouldn’t do her much good here) to her own tall stack of favorite children’s literature.  The party of 6 had then enjoyed music and a dinner of delicious fish and chips at a pub Hermione remembered from her childhood in Muggle London.  Harry met chips as if destiny had brought them together, first turning one this way and that in his little hands in awe and then laughing in such trilling delight after his first bite that Hermione felt something she hadn’t known was frozen melt inside her.  

It was going to be very hard to give him to her parents at the week’s end.  

Hell, even Dudl…. Henley was growing on her.  He had seemed so rapt and amazed whenever Frank talked to him about what something was called or how something worked, always in the same kind voice he used to address other adults. Hermione doubted that was a tone parents who’d called him “ittle Diddykins” unto adolescence had used to address him all that much in his life to date, and wondered if that was the appeal.  

Anyway.  After they’d finally gotten home, she’d made off with Harry for some reading time, during which he’d fallen asleep.  And here he still was.  She snuggled up around Harry, whose eyes had drifted shut in the middle of a (perhaps ambitious) chapter of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory .  He was the very tiniest little spoon - she must be a ladle, she thought, in this equation.  

After some indeterminate amount of time spent musing without answer (and, uncharacteristically, without panic ) about her changing role in the life of this ridiculous, wonderful, finally shorter-than-her-again person, she roused a bit at the sound of a very soft knock at the door.  

She tried to push her hair into something like a presentable shape half-heartedly and weaved sleepily over to answer it, anticipating Alice, who was atrociously sanguine about mornings.

The door opened, however, to reveal someone else.  

She rolled her eyes and left the door ajar, trudging back in and tucking herself back to Harry again with a huff. 

“Good morning to you, too,” he said in a stage whisper, making a show of tiptoeing through the study and into the bedroom behind her with an enormous tray heaped with breakfast things floating behind him.  

Hermione glowered through her chaotic morning curls at Sirius, determined not to encourage him.  He was wide awake and irritatingly dashing in what she thought should be called “academic chic,” something Lockhart had never really properly grasped with all his pastels, however he had tried.  In a sweep of gray and black tweed, a rather resplendent Sirius Black, however, struck a very, very good chord, and it annoyed her just how much she approved as he carefully sat on the foot of the bed and let the tray hover down to land where Harry’s feet weren’t.  

There were both coffee and tea, pain au chocolat, crispy lean American-style bacon, bowls of berries, scrambled eggs… the git must have been taking actual notes on what things made her happiest about breakfast, and she didn’t know why she was so damned mad about it.

“Frank and Alice were up and about with the other two,” Sirius whispered, less theatrically now he could see the tiny apple of his eye sleeping, “and mentioned you had been reading later than His Nibs’ bedtime in here and likely fallen asleep together, so I thought you might appreciate breakfast in bed.”  He hummed softly as he started heaping things on a plate for her.  Looking up a moment to take in her grumpy visage, he chose to pour the coffee rather than the tea and stirred in precisely the correct quantities of sugar and cream. “As I’m usually fairly sociable and in the hall for most meals, I’m allowed a bit of takeaway from time to time.  Also, well, I’ve been cultivating friendships among the elves here for years, though I can’t say I anticipated needing them quite this long.”

He offered her a plate. It was steaming and it smelled incredible.  She felt her lower lip protruding mutinously and attempted to pull her face into a more reasonable arrangement as she levered herself upright, hoping her hair might scare him away.  

An eyebrow quirked, but he only smiled a bit more and conjured a sort of tray with feet that bridged her lap, plunking her food and caffeine down on it and looking rather pleased with himself - and at peace with the universe to boot , Hermione thought, to add insult to injury .  

She had gulped up half the coffee and wolfed down half the eggs before she remembered speaking was an expected nicety.  “No classes this morning, then?”

He grinned, taking this almost-civil foray into making conversation as an invitation to lay out on his side across the foot of the bed, propping his head up on an elbow.  “I’ve the entire day free, actually.  Managed to wangle the scheduling that way.  

She chewed with a look of suspicion she didn’t bother veiling on her face. “You teach every single dark arts class, two per level for 7 years’ worth of enrolled students, each class of which meets multiple times a week, and you wangled having Monday off every week?”

He shook his head.  “Well, I’ve this morning off - I know my foibles - but I have older students’ classes in the afternoon.  I’ve given them all a bit of a practical assignment today instead, though.”

His eyes twinkled with self-satisfied mirth.  She ate her pain au chocolat, refusing to give him the satisfaction of asking what potentially disastrous task he’d set the poor kids.  She supposed it couldn’t be worse than any number of things she’d survived at their ages, at least.

After about a minute of the soft sounds of her devouring, he looked up at the bed canopy thoughtfully, clearly hoping to beguile her into further inquiry.  “It isn’t too dangerous, mind, but you can’t learn much about self-defense without a soupçon of tension and a need for stealth, wouldn’t you agree?”

Her eyes narrowed and she made a point of crunching the bacon noisily, and not letting her eyes roll back at the sheer perfection to which it had been cooked.  

He winced, looking back at her.  “Though I aim to please, I cannot begin to comprehend how one could prefer that to proper rashers.”

She swallowed and primly dabbed at the corners of her mouth with her linen napkin.  “Really?  I’m so sorry to hear that you’ve such a limited imagination.”

Fracturing his veneer of gentility, he let his eyes slowly rake over her, from the bare foot and slender ankle haphazardly protruding from the covers to the flash of thigh between hem of shirt and edge of quilt, then up to the three undone buttons baring the tops of her breasts.  His gaze stuck there a long moment before proceeding  up the column of her neck and slowly over her face, beginning at the lips and ending at the eyes.  “I wouldn’t say that my imagination is limited so much as that it focuses on more pleasant things to contemplate,” he said, finally.

After a moment’s hesitation, he slipped a small but thick book, bound in red leather, out from an interior pocket of his robes.  “As you know, I also enjoy research.  I find the combination of imagination and education quite inspiring.  And I remembered your interest in this, so I thought perhaps you’d like to borrow it.”

Unable to stop herself from taking any book offered, she reached for it.  There was no title, just ornate tooling on the cover, but she recognized it.  The edges of its onionskin pages were gilt and the small, cramped type was interrupted frequently by informative moving diagrams.  It was, of course, the book Sirius had introduced her to when they’d spent the night together on first arriving here, a little more than a week ago.  

She smoothed her thumb over the embossed leather doubtfully, finally looking up at him with more frankness than attempt to create distance between them.  “Sirius… I can’t help but notice that you’ve been trying to get me alone quite a bit lately.”

He nodded decisively.  “Yes.”

“Do you remember that I made a point of saying not to read into my…” she flushed, tripping over various graphic turners of phrase as they came to mind and were immediately rejected.  

“... into your absolutely rescuing me from misery and bad impulses on the worst night of my life, after which you let me be with you, again and again, even after you’d worn the edge off, until I’d spent several precious hours completely distracted from all the weight that hadn’t completely lifted from my shoulders in years ?”

She realized her mouth was hanging open so hastily lifted her coffee up to it, taking a gulp as she tried to figure out a response to that.

She needn’t have, because he continued.  “I want to know you, Hermione.  I know I’m not entitled to anything from you, but we will… no matter what machinations I don’t yet know you've taken regarding Harry… we will be in each other’s lives, and I have to say, everything from sharing a wall with you, hearing you spin in your desk chair aimlessly, and sigh, and turn pages, to seeing the way you hold your own with Dumbledore and Alastor... it moves me. Beyond what I’m accustomed to from, well, anyone I’ve met in ages.”

She coughed a little; some coffee had gone down the wrong pipe.  He was standing behind her in a flash, patting her back gently before he knelt at her bedside, picking up her hand in both of his.  

“I am not infatuated with an enigma. I learned better than to do that early. I am very, very intrigued by and interested in a woman I was initially disinclined to like because of association with awful circumstances, who on further acquaintance only manages to intrigue and bewitch me more and more. And I don't think you're indifferent to me.”

They both quieted a moment as Harry rolled over, stretching expansively for a long moment in his sleep. Sirius was still smiling tenderly at his godson when her eyes turned back to him, but he returned his attention to her shortly.

She'd had just long enough to bite her lip and seriously doubt her resolve. 

His eyes were as bold as ever when they came back to hers. “I'm putting myself at your disposal, Hermione. You've lost, in so many ways, more than anyone. You're barreling into trying to make things better despite nearly your every move guaranteeing the next iteration of yourself won't have the same life - including the bits that of childhood that were so strong a foundation they gave you the strength to endure quite a lot. You're protecting someone I love - and me too, for that matter - damn the personal consequences. And you're half sure you're just hallucinating it all - which you're not. But you're not losing everything.”

He stood, then sat on the edge of the bed, facing her and cupping her cheek in his hand. ‘You’ve gained a world, too.  Don’t so dedicate yourself to martyrdom that you fail to see it.  For my part, well,” he chuckled, smoothing his thumb over her cheekbone, “however I can distract you, I'm here. When you get lonely or need to rant at someone, I'm here. If you need someone to watch your back, I want to be that person. Give me a chance. Give all of us a chance, and give yourself one, too.”

Her breath hitched. He leaned in, so slowly, giving her every chance to pull away - but she didn't. He reached her to press a slow, chaste kiss to her lips, the tips of his fingers tracing down her neck with maddening lightness. Then, finally, he withdrew, his eyes scorching hers as he put a few inches between them. 

Her stomach twisted and she fought the urge to lunge at him - and the urge to kick his ass out of the room. And then, with a sleepy, contented sigh, Harry lurched into them, having quietly stood up at some point while they were distracted, and threw himself into the middle of their tenuous embrace with complete trust he would be caught. 

"Huggies!  Kississ!" he proclaimed as their arms came up around him, and they hugged him between them as he left a slightly wet smooch first on Hermione's nose, then on Sirius's cheek.

He then turned to Hermione gravely, pointing at his nappy. "Change?"

Sirius chuckled and swept up his godson, who laughed in delight as Sirius fluidly stood to twirl him around. "I'll help you with that, Harry. Let's let your… your Hermione have a bath and get ready for the day. I saw your nappy sack and brought some breakfast, too. Then maybe we could try to get your Hermione to go have a walk with us - I know just the place, somewhere unplottable and inconspicuous - what do you say?"

"Ya!" Harry bounced up and down on his feet on Sirius's lap, delighted. "Outside! Outside outside!"

Hermione pursed her lips slightly. That probably wasn't too risky. If they left Hogwarts discreetly. 

Sighing as Sirius winked and swept Harry off to the study for a change, she swung her legs out of bed. She paused to take a slow, deep breath before she stood and went to fill the tub. She hadn't expected insight and sincerity to be what the man wanted to corner her for, and she was thrown. 

The truth, she thought as she stepped into the steaming water some minutes later, after brushing her teeth and listening to distant chatter about "screggies," was that his approach had either been strategically brilliant or, even more troubling, sincere, heartfelt, and illustrative of exactly the sort of insight and character she’d determined would be prerequisite to any future serious entanglements upon her separation from Ron.

She sank into bubbles to her chin, letting her hand slip from her knee down her thigh, then further. She suspected she’d be in a very different position had Harry not been there.  That Sirius had chosen not to press his case when she was alone, she realized, had just made him seem more sincere… and more fanciable.  So, her lips parting with a low, quiet whine, she tried to stop thinking to alleviate the ache with her fingers so she could face them both again with a clearer head.

NORTHERN CORNWALL, GREAT BRITAIN

Herrmione stepped through into the Floo of the Head’s Office’s large fireplace with Sirius, who had tucked her to his chest with one arm and Harry to his shoulder with the other.  

They emerged into a large, brightly sunlit room with a high coffered ceiling and innumerable windows and skylights.  The shapes of various pieces of furniture were obscured under white canvas drapes, and there was a thin layer of dust over the honey-colored oak plank floor.  The walls were a pale yellow accented with cast plaster medallions and moulding, and a large french double-doors led on two sides to the outdoors - on one side, a balcony overlooking woods, and on the other, a small lawn surrounded by a cottage garden.  On the other two sides of the room, white archways led into other dust-draped rooms, one of which appeared to be a foyer, the other a kitchen.  

Hermione stepped into the room and looked around with both curiosity and caution, casting a reflexive Homenum Revelio that showed no other people present, along with several dust-banishments and some curse detectors.  They appeared to be safe and alone.  

But then there were two loud cracks, and she jumped to put her back to a wall and to turn toward the new threat in an instant, wand raised.

Only… it was two house elves.

“Young Master Sirius!  Oh, Young Master Sirius, thank goodness, thank goodness it was you, oh, you cannot know how glad we are to welcome you home, sir…” said the elder, though both she and… perhaps her daughter?... threw themselves at Sirius’s knees in a staggeringly ferocious embrace.  He caught his footing and smiled sheepishly at Hermione, who, after a moment, fumbled her wand back up her sleeve and stepped forward to take Harry from him, darting an inquiring glance down at the elves and back to Sirius.

Sirius was focusing his warm smile on the elves, though, and had dropped to one knee to kiss the hand of each gallantly in turn before sweeping the elder properly into his arms.  “I would hardly see this place go to strangers, Madam Hilly, Miss Peapot.  After… well… after everything we’ve lost, at the very least I had to take care of the house so that you could get to know Harry.”  He smiled, releasing the sniffling older elf and giving her time to pull out a large, polkadot handkerchief to mop up her eyes.  “May I introduce you to my friend, Miss Hermione Granger?”

Hermione smiled sheepishly, awkwardly dropping to her knees with Harry in her arms and extending a hand.  “Hello!  So lovely to meet you, Hilly, Peapot.  I’m Hermione, and this is Harry.”  

The two elves went through the motions of shaking Hermione’s hand, and murmuring hellos, but their eyes were only for Harry.  “This… this is young master James’ little one, then,” said Hilly.  Peapot gingerly reached out to hold Harry’s hand, her eyes bright and full of something resembling awe.  

Hermione nodded her head, smiling a little.  “You didn’t get to meet him?”

Hilly shook her head, still gazing serenely at Harry, who was now babbling at Peapot.  “Hilly and Peapot got the Dragon Pox when the old Master and Mistress did, and with elves, Miss, it is lasting longer - not so dangerous, but very contagious.  It was only a few months ago that we is recovering enough to see others, and Young Master James insisted we have the house to ourselves, as he and Mistress Lilly had already moved into their cottage and had to hide the itsy bitsy, teeny tiny, little Master Harry with his little tiny toes.”  The elf, Hermione was bemused to see, appeared to be melting into Petunia Dursley-esque language and an absolute puddle of devotion.

Hermione blinked, standing again with Sirius following suit.  “Hermione,” Sirius explained, making sure to turn himself such that the elves would continue to feel included in the conversation, “Welcome to Potterswood House.  This is where James, and to an extent, I grew up.  I can’t say what might have happened to it had I wound up in Azkaban, but when the estate put it on the market a few months ago - it had just been too painful for him to be here after Itchy and Cusses died -”

“-Itchy and Cusses?! ” Hermione broke in, taken aback.

Sirius nodded, taking Harry and beginning to walk toward the balcony doors.  “Em, better known as Fleamont and Euphemia Potter.  But anyway.  Well, when the estate was put up for sale, I made enquiries, but didn’t want to sadden James by taking it.  I have only happy memories here - even including the late inhabitants’ decline.  I was actually surprised when it stayed on the market after James’ will was read a few days ago, but I had no conflict in taking it.  And I thought, well, that Harry should know it.  The cottage is a legacy I don’t know could or should be repaired, but this was his family’s home for generations, after Peverell Park hid in a snit over the Potters’ preference for this smaller home.”

Hermione mouthed the last several words he’d said in shock, shaking her head as she tried to process it, her feet automatically following him.  “That… well.  Harry hadn’t the slightest idea of any of this existing.”

Sirius nodded.  “It was set so that the proceeds - well, is still set so that the proceeds - will go to him at the age of thirty.  I think his parents wanted him taken care of but not so well it might hinder his drive to make his own way in the world.  You should have seen Lily go absolutely apoplectic when she realized her fiance hadn’t given any real thought to pursuing further education or a career following Hogwarts,” he said, shaking his head and chuckling.  “But now it’s mine, and Harry will have his cake and eat it too.”

Hermione gaped, following him through the door onto the balcony.  “I… Merlin’s beard , Sirius!”

The balcony overlooked a large wooded cliffside just past the foot of the house, some two storeys down.  A wide, rock-strewn stream that wound around the foundation on both sides, leaving a little room for lovely little gardens beside the house proper, plummeted over the cliff’s edge to form breathtaking twin waterfalls into a large pool below, perhaps 60 feet down.  The pool was clear and deep, and there were a couple of stone stairs hewn into the vertiginous wall downward by which it and the garden and little guest house beside it could be reached.  The pool, meanwhile, eventually drained into a large stream or small river, which in the distance went through woods, to fields of flowers, and ultimately emptied into the sea, or perhaps even the ocean. 

Sirius was looking at her lit-up expression appreciatively when she looked back at him, and she blushed when he showed no shame to have been caught at it.  “The lands go all the way to the Irish sea, as far as we can see here.  We’re somewhere in northern Cornwall, I think, or so close as to be engulfed, at least, in the culture.  It’s a good place for a young man to get into mischief.”

Hermione’s eyes lit on a diving board between the two waterfalls, very high above the pool below, and then shifted back to Sirius.  “I’ll bet.”

He grinned behind an entranced Harry, who was reaching for some overhanging tree limbs.  “ That was James’ idea.” He shook his head as she looked at him skeptically.  “Not that I tried to talk him out of it - it’s bloody brilliant, wait until you try -”

“AHEM!  Young master is not saying such words in front of even younger master, thanks!” Hilly snapped, hands on her hips.  Peapot was busily vanishing the clothes from lovely but comfortable and well-used looking furniture, including a cherry grand piano and several couches and armchairs.  

Sirius paled.  “Em, Hilly, I thought that perhaps we might relax that rule, now that-”

Hilly shook her head. “You and Mistress Hermione can be saying what you likes, but not when young Master Harry is here.  Mistress Hermione is… is…”  She squinted between Hermione and Harry, then Hermione and Sirius, seeming perplexed.  “Is… family, too?” she ended, giving up on pinning it down further.

Hermione’s mouth opened, then closed again.  She felt exceptionally awkward as she realized how much she’d been lulled into feeling at home - and as if she were, indeed, family.  It was, however, a great deal more complicated than that.

Sirius, however, did not hesitate to nod.  “Yes, she is.  I imagine she’d like the grand tour, which I’d like to give her if it’s alright with you.  And perhaps, well, if you’d like, young master Harry wouldn’t mind a tour of the nursery and a bath.  His nibs is smelling rather less like a daisy than when we set out.”  Sirius offered put Harry on his feet beside the taller Hilly with a wrinkle of his nose.  

Hilly looked like she’d … been asked to clean Buckingham Palace, likely, though Hermione hoped someday to meet another elf who would be elated to receive clothes.  Her work in the Department of Mysteries had forced her to be a little more … gradual in her approach to general elf liberation.  Thrusting freedom upon elves too quickly, it turned out, often caused them to waste away and even, sometimes, die.  

And so when the elf took Harry’s hand and led him off, Sirius offered his.  “Do you like large, well-stocked libraries with meticulously indexed catalogues, perchance?”

Admitting defeat to herself, she knit her fingers with his.  “You… are either extremely devious or very determined to win me over, aren’t you?”

He swung their joined hands between them as he pulled her off through the foyer arch, his smirk rather smug.  “Oh, Hermione - why on earth do you think I’d settle for just one when I could be both?”

Chapter Text

Despite nearly losing herself - and very nearly her resolve to keep her knickers about her - in the Potterswood Library, Hermione returned to Hogwarts in time to tidy herself, let the Longbottoms know that Harry would be with Sirius overnight, and knock crisply on Minerva’s study door at 6 precisely.

McGonagall opened it with a haughty sniff, as if irritated she hadn’t been either early or late, and let the door swing open with an air of begrudging good manners.  

Hermione swallowed and followed, shutting the door quietly behind herself and then following her erstwhile friend to the second of two wingback chairs that faced the fire.  There were a number of what looked like personal documents in stacks, bound ledgers, and rolls on the table betwixt the chairs - including one roll that was open just enough to show a vaguely familiar corner.  

It was a map of some sort.

Hermione smiled tentatively, gesturing to collection.  “Seeing to a family estate?”

McGonagall shifted in her seat to face Hermione better, scrutinizing her.  “No.  Well.  Yes, I suppose.  But that is of little import.”  After a moment, she shook her head, vanishing the papers away.  “I asked you here because the headmaster and I learned earlier today that Peter Pettigrew has been located living in Muggle London.  Alastor was able to put a watch on him without letting it be widely known that he was involved in the Potters’ betrayal - at least temporarily.  He tripped the spell that watches for instances of underage magic, of all things,” she said, shaking her head.  “No known wizards regularly do business in the area.  It appears that he has installed himself in a residence.”

Hermione blinked.  “Where?”

Minerva nodded, having expected this.  “In a townhouse on Old Queens Road, Westminster.”  

Hermione gaped.  “But… that’s right near the palace!”  She reeled, sitting back and massaging at her temples, her eyes flickering closed as she thought.  “There was a police officer and a queen’s guard among the dead when Sirius confronted him… and a guitarist.  Maybe a busker?  And we didn’t even know he was an Auror, he might’ve used the same resources to find Pettigrew.  Pettigrew might’ve known any confrontation would give him a chance to fake his own death, or that anyone cautious would’ve avoided confronting him there… no one could’ve known he’d prove so capable of holing up in one place for so long, though that was with a magical family, where he knew what was going on… but… hmm…”

Minerva cleared her throat and when Hermione jerked straight in her seat, eyes opening, she saw that the Transfiguration professor looked rather put out.  “I’m sorry, but perhaps you might continue this in the form of a conversation, given that I am, in fact, here?”

Hermione shook her head, mortified.  “Sorry, so sorry, it’s just… it’s a lot to try to sort through.  Em.”  She searched her mind a moment.  “So Wormtail-”

“Wormtail?” McGonagall repeated, confused.

Hermione shrugged.  “It’s his nickname from school, but Voldemort calls him that too.”

Minerva shook her head and summoned two cups and a pot of tea, gesturing for Hermione to go on as she poured.  

“Em, has Dumbledore told you that James, Sirius, and Peter were unregistered Animagi?” Hermione ventured.

The stream of tea from the pot trailed onto the saucer for an instant before returning to the cup under Minerva’s hand.  “He did not.   What animals?”

“Em, James was a stag, Sirius is a big black dog that sends Trelawney into paroxysms of horror, and Peter is a rat,” Hermione said.  “They did it so they could be with Remus when he transformed without fear of infection.”

Minerva sighed, sitting back in her chair and sipping her tea as she gazed toward the fire.  “I always said those boys would’ve been brilliant were they not so determined to be absolute idiots.”

Hermione nodded wearily before continuing.  “Anyway, in my time, probably around where he is now, Peter somehow knew Sirius was coming and arranged an outside confrontation in a crowded place - maybe even in front of the Buckingham Palace or thereabouts - such that he made it look, to Muggle witnesses, as if Sirius killed him and yelling about his innocence.  Then he cut off his finger and caused a huge explosion that killed several onlookers and injured Sirius, who was just laughing madly when the Aurors arrived at the scene.  There were 12 Muggles dead, as I recall.  Everyone thought - for years! - that Peter was so obliterated that that finger was all that was left of him, but in fact he made the explosion uncover sewer pipes, which were his probable escape route after he transformed into a rat.”

Minerva was shaking her head, looking repulsed.  “I knew he liked to hang on to the coattails of the more powerful and charismatic, but this… I would never have guessed Peter capable of it.”

Hermione shivered.  “By the time I … well, properly met him, he was fairly repulsive.  But he may have been … I don’t know, seduced.  Tortured. Imperiused, threatened, who knows what else, at the start?  I think, though, that he’s almost certainly become a murderer - and not just by proxy - by now.  Corruption keeps Death Eaters close to their master, and I suspect that - at least for most - there was some sort of ritual violence linked to earning the Dark Mark.”  Suddenly remembering something, she swore under her breath, causing Minerva to furrow her brow in censure. “Em, sorry.  I just realized he must’ve been at Godric’s Hollow, too.  Either shortly after or right before Severus and I got to Harry’s nursery, somehow.  It must have been before, though the timing - eh, but I can’t imagine, even in the wreckage, that I’d have missed Voldemort’s wand, which Pettigrew ended up with. Unless there was some manner of protection on it...”

Minerva shook her head.  “As I have it from Alastor, the wand was under some enchantment that made it difficult to detect by anyone other than his owner when he was not wielding it.  The Aurors discovered it in their investigation of the scene, and took it into evidence at the Ministry.”

Hermione goggled.  “Maybe that’s how he ended up with the Weasleys!”

McGonagall blinked.  “What, Arthur and Molly?  Their eldest, William, will be attending next year, I believe.”

Hermione nodded rapidly.  “Arthur found a seemingly tame rat unattended at the Ministry, and brought it home for a pet for Percy, their third son.  He’d be… five or so, now?”

McGonagall’s mouth settled into a grim line.  “That sounds correct, yes.”

Hermione shook her head.  “Hell.  Well, we might need to find a safer place to put it than evidence, then, or increase security there somehow.”

McGonagall, slowly, shook her own.  “I… suspect that, one way or another, given the speeds at which bureaucracies change and the power of determined individuals with no regard for the law or the safety or others, we might need to take some unorthodox initiative there.  There are almost certainly still Aurors on You-Know-Who’s side who know where the wand currently resides, yet to be uncovered within DMLE’s organization.  There are no less than three we have under suspicion right now - oh, and the ‘we’ I refer to here is the Order.”

Hermione’s eyes scanned left to right as she thought rapidly, almost as though she were reading.  “We need to get Molly and Arthur in the Order… but maybe also to head Peter off before he can become part of their home.  How to do it, though?  How would Peter have known Sirius were coming, and would it also alert him to other witches or wizards approaching?”

Minerva looked thoughtful for a moment.  “It could have been specific to Sirius, in light of the small circle of people who knew.  The easiest thorough thing to do - and as I’ve said, brilliant if not an idiot, even Peter - might be to do something specific to Sirius and to alert one of other witches and wizards separately, particularly since there is no general spell for witches and wizards transformed into animals but a spell specific to Sirius would have found him in any form.  Hmm.”

Hermione looked slowly at Minerva, whose eyes were scanning while she thought in precisely the way her former pupil’s had mere moments ago.  “Cats, I understand, are efficient rat catchers.”

Minerva merely nodded grimly, continuing to think behind the steam of her tea.  

Hermione sighed.  “But I don’t think you should go alone, and I think Sirius… is too easily provoked, as much as he’s been able to calm down before striking out this time.”  She pursed her lips.  “Are there other suitable Animagi in the order?”

Minerva shrugged, straightening and swiveling her gaze to Hermione again.  “Not anymore.  But I am not the Transfiguration professor for nothing.  If I may?”  McGonagall held out her hand toward the younger woman’s tea.  Hermione, slowly, relinquished it, saucer and all, eyes wary.  

Minerva’s wand moved with such decisive speed that Hermione couldn’t have defended herself.  When the Gryffindor Head sat back in her chair, nodding in satisfaction and seeming, somehow, to loom over Hermione, she opened her mouth to protest… only it came out as a baleful “Mrrrrooooow!”

McGonagall looked a bit smug as Hermione looked down in shock, taking in two bushy brown legs with black tabby stripes and long tufts between paw-toes.  With an experimental tensing, she managed to unsheathe her claws, a low growl rumbling in her through unbidden.

“Oh, do stop fretting,” McGonagall said unconcernedly, shooting a soft “ Finite” Hermione’s way.  

The again-human witch sputtered in indignation.  “Hea...Professor McGonagall! ”  The elder woman chortled into her tea, eyes twinkling.  “I… I have exceptionally bad memories regarding finding myself unexpectedly feline, I’ll have you know! Would a little warning have killed you?  That was… so unnecessary!”  

McGonagall shrugged, still shaking with mirth.  “As were any number of other rash things you’ve done.”

Hermione drew herself up with haughtiness Minerva thought she herself might’ve been a template for, though it took her aback.  “I,” Hermione said, “am quite sorry that I’ve created mess where you wanted order, but your Order was failing miserably, and frankly it was sheer dumb luck Voldemort got vanquished long enough for there to be a detente before the second war.  Meanwhile, I ask that, in light of a dear friendship we once had, and in light of my actions being in keeping with the Gryffindor virtues you encouraged in me, you cease to treat me as if I’m halfway your adversary, here.”

Minerva shrugged.  “I’ll take that under advisement,” she smirked.

Hermione crossed her arms, sulking.  “Fine.  I was going to come up with an excuse for you to use Piertotum Locomotor on the castle’s statuary despite the fact I hope there won’t be a Battle of Hogwarts again-”

“-WHAT?!”

“-but it seems we shan’t be friends, so perhaps such a gesture is unnecessarily elaborate,” Hermione finished, examining her fingernails.  

Minerva fumed.  “Fine, I’ll try to give you the benefit of the doubt.”

Hermione glowered, tossing her hair and recrossing her arms.  “Then we’d better come up with a plan, and fast.”

WESTMINSTER, LONDON

So it was that, shortly before midnight, two cats - both tabbies of similar coloration, one longhaired and the other short - sat on the step of the service door to a posh London downhouse.  

McGonagall, somehow, had managed to include everything Hermione had on her - including her already-compressed bag, which was not supposed to be possible - in her transformation, along with a silent charm Hermione herself could use to become human again in the event of some disaster befalling the real Animagus.  

Hermione was irked to find herself reflexively licking her paw to wash her whiskers as they sat for a moment, Minerva’s feline face screwed up in concentration, until she heard…

Damn , as a cat she’d managed a spell to ring the bell?  

Hermione shook her head, nearly sneezing at the tickle of her own ruff, reflecting not for the first time that Hogwarts’ faculty didn’t teach nearly all they knew.  And then they waited.

A few moments later, a rumpled butler, his starched cuff stained and tie askew, opened the door, looking left and right from his own eye level as the two felines ghosted in past his feet.  One shoe was untied, and they were on the wrong feet, Hermione noticed.

The butler huffed in irritation, muttering something about little wankers as he wandered back down the hall they’d emerged into, as the two cats watched from just inside the kitchen doorway.

There were two women in here, looking careworn and tired and frayed, just like the butler, who were feverishly making pastries and puddings.  Hermione recognized a bakewell tart and a victoria sponge in progress, and also took in the various little burns along the knuckles of both bakers.

The two cats looked at each other grimly.  It looked very much as if at least all the members of the household they’d yet met were under the Imperius Curse.  

Several tastefully decorated parlors and dens and studies later, up a flight of stairs, they spotted a woman tossing and turning in bed through a door left ajar.  She was blonde and possessed the sort of posh loveliness conjured by princess stories when read to children of the upper classes. And she was clearly having a nightmare.  

The room, though, was … impersonal.  Hermione nosed the door open a bit wider to look around.  No luggage, but no clothes in the closet, just some dirty articles on the floor.  Hermione fought back a sick sense of foreboding as she padded back out the door, rejoining McGonagall and then heading for the next flight of stairs.

This floor smelled wrong.  Like… sweat, and dirty bodies, and… oh no.  

This time, they didn’t look at each other, just starting to trot silently toward the large double doors, open at the end of the hall.  

Within, a man could be heard whimpering and muttering, though two people breathed within.  

Peter was here, in the large, disordered bed, its curtains open.  He was so young and had spent so much less time as a rat that, but for the watery eyes and the occasionally twitching nose, she might have found him unrecognizable.  He could, in a certain light, even have attained a sort of attractiveness, had he carried himself confidently.

The second man was handsome, in his early forties perhaps.  Hermione recognized him, she thought, as the younger version of a still-active politician - an MP? - from her own time.  But, as he moved especially, he also… he bore a rather eerie resemblance to Sirius , though he was sufficiently shorter in stature that Petigrew appeared significantly taller than he rather than the other way around..

She couldn’t tell if the similarity extended to the man’s eyes because they were screwed shut right now, streaming tears, as his mouth compressed to a thin line, his jaw twitching.

The two were under the bed’s austere-but-expensive-looking beige quilt, and Pettigrew was lying curled behind the other man.   The movement was muddled, slow, but… when Peter leaned his head down to lick along the politician’s neck, Hermione’s stomach lurched in horror.

One of Pettigrew’s hands emerged from under the covers to grip the man’s hair, bending his head back so that he could look at it and, she saw, crying himself as he mumbled.  “Had to, Padfoot, had to.  You’d never given me a second look, had you?  And Marlene… Marlene was just a distraction.”  

The man’s eyes flickered open for a moment, looking up at Peter, who promptly snarled and let go his hair to slap him, screeching out an unhinged-sounding Keep them shut keep them shut keep them shut, damn you!”  

The eyes had been Imperius-glazed - and brown-black, unlike Sirius Black’s gray.

As Hermione and Minerva slipped through adjoining closets along the side of the room, peering out their doors in dread as they approached a closer point from which to proceed, Hermione shuddered, her fur standing on end, her back arching involuntarily.  Wormtail was relaxing again, shuddering rhythmically as he let his arm fall back back against the bed’s ornate headboard.  

Apparently, he got comfortable enough to continue talking.  

“Marlene… a distraction… He would have killed them anyway, Sirius, don’t you see it’s not my fault?  She was just a plaything anyhow, I know who you were really after… made it so, so easy, didn’t it…”  He sniffled, starting to sob - but only clinging to his captive harder for it.

Hermione felt increasingly sick.  She glanced to Minerva, who also looked… on the verge of producing a hairball.  Surely they were close enough?  But Minerva, slinking low to the floor, darted out, heading under the bed and toward its head.

As Hermione gathered her nerve and followed, she noticed that a wand lay on a pillow just to Pettigrew’s side - Minerva was likely right to seek every advantage, wait as long as it took to gain strategic ground, but Hermione’s gut twisted, Grayback’s voice echoing in her mind - “Pretty little friend… who are you, girly?”

No one had saved this Muggle from Death Eater predation in time.

Two wedding bands lay in the dust beneath the bed.  Hermione took care not to disturb them or make any other noise as she passed.

Finally, as they got to the end of the headboard, Minerva stood still, cringing as a long moan sounded above them, interspersed with Wormtail’s sobs.

A moment later, the body of the Muggle fell to one side of the bed, startling them both, his glazed eyes slightly open and blinking after he landed, his mouth screwed shut and his body curling into a fetal position on the floor as the sobs above turned to wails.  

She couldn’t stand it anymore.  She cast the wordless spell necessary to restore her human form, with Minerva transforming immediately after her but not in time to beat her to drawing her wand and growling “Petrificus Totalus!”   over the head of the bed, freezing the naked, crying turncoat in his nest of torn sheets and violating magic.

Even as she did, though, she caught Minerva, still moving, out of the corner of her eye, starting to mouth the words “Confri-”

“-NO!” Hermione gasped, yanking the professor’s wand up to send an explosion up through the bed canopy and straight through the ornately coffered ceiling.  Minerva squirmed stubbornly, her face contorted in rage, but she didn’t fight hard enough to prevent Hermione from yanking her wand away in horror.  

Hermione stood, blinking at her idol, whose ashen face was fixed.  McGonnagall’s shoulders shook, her breath ragged, and Hermione stood watching her carefully for several long seconds before lifting her own wand again, leaving Minerva to stand there as she cast a flurry of Reparo charms and then started some medical diagnostics and healing charms on the Muggle man.  Pettigrew, mostly frozen, managed to follow her with twitching eyes as she worked.  She threw a blanket over him in disgust, leaving only his hands and forearms visible - including one that was clearly freshly Marked - and pocketed his wand.  

After several minutes of treating minor contusions and scrapes with potions from her bag, Hermione looked up again, sighing.  She didn’t dare contaminate the scene further. She knew from her own training that, without the Auror-affiliated Healer team on hand, the man might do himself harm if she broke the Imperius Curse that still entrapped him.  

From the state of the room, she would guess Wormtail got here not long after the Potters’ deaths.  She didn’t think she would be trying to make a friend of this enemy, she thought, stomach still roiling.

And then she looked again at Minerva, perhaps most shaken by the streak of wild violence she’d witnessed in this stolid hero’s actions tonight.  Reluctantly, Hermione stepped back in front of her.  Now, at least, she looked remorseful, her eyes downcast and wet.

“Minerva,” Hermione said slowly, softly.  “If I give you your wand back, do I have your word that you’ll use it to send a Patronus to Moody to bring the Aurors, rather than to make another attempt on Peter’s life?”

McGonagall sniffed, looking up.  “You do.”

Hermione gave her the wand, and a deep breath later, she sent the Patronus.  

HOGWARTS SCHOOL OF WITCHCRAFT AND WIZARDRY

Hermione sat across Dumbledore’s desk from him, watching the milk swirl as she began to stir her tea.  It was perhaps 3 AM, now.

She had Side-Along Apparated Minerva back to the school gate around 2, and guided the unresisting professor back to her rooms and suggesting she ought perhaps to go to bed before she sent a Patronus of her own to Dumbledore.  

She had not given Minerva back her wand - but she did relinquish it to Sprout when she knocked on the study door, admitting her to sit watch there as Minerva slept while Hermione went to talk to the Headmaster.

Dumbledore was looking at her with concern and care when she finally looked up.  

She sighed.  “I never would have imagined she had that in her.”

Dumbledore nodded, putting down his own tea.  “Indeed, under virtually any other circumstances, I believe you would find she did not.”

Hermione shook her head, just… overwhelmed, and exhausted.  “It was awful.  It was one of the worst things I’ve had to see, and I’ve seen horrible things.  He had the entire house under his whim.  The man’s wife was sleeping downstairs.  I have no idea how the DMLE and the Healers will ever put them to rights.  Those people… how do you whisk away such nightmarish trauma, even if you do erase the memories of what caused it?”

Dumbledore shook his head, holding out his empty hands.  “I understand that they can help, but of Mind Healing I admit I know far too little to tell you enough to satisfy you.  You might ask Remus.  He attended Oxford, after Hogwarts, you know - we thought that a Muggle credential might help him despite … anticipated difficulties with employment in even the Muggle world, in light of his condition.  He read Psychology, as I understand it.  While it isn’t the Mind Healing mastery he would have liked, and while I worry despair may now impede his efforts to go back next year for doctoral studies, I believe it did give him some peace and a greater understanding of his own demons.”

Hermione shook her head, sipping her tea, before she spoke.  “I had no idea.”

Dumbledore nodded sadly.  “The history of marginalized people is often told badly, and too often not told at all.  No matter how heroic they might be. No matter how heroic each individual must be to survive the oppressed states they endure due to the quite accidental circumstances of their birth.”

Hermione sighed.  Dear Godric, she hadn’t cried as much as she had lately since Ron left her and Harry in the tent.  She was sick to death of crying.  She refused.  

“Do you have any idea why Minerva reacted the way she did, tonight, sir?”

“Please call me Albus, Hermione.”

She sighed in exasperation.  “Right, and I’ll call Merlin by whatever his first name was, shall I?”

Dumbledore blinked a moment and then blushed, chuckling softly.  “My goodness, well, what a comparison!”

Hermione narrowed her eyes over her teacup.  “Not a uniformly flattering one, sir.”

He nodded readily.  “Nor would I deserve such.  I believe, though, that he went by just the one name - like a few of the contemporary Muggle musical artists I enjoy, actually.  But,” he continued lightly, “You asked about our friend.”

Hermione nodded grimly and put her cup down, devoting herself fully to listening.

“I had hoped…  well, she has a suitor, our Minerva, and I had thought that he was getting somewhere with her… but… well, I hope this does not damage his cause, because I think some love would do her good, and that she is not without reciprocating affection.”  Dumbledore gnawed his lip a moment - something she’d never seen him unguarded enough to do before, Hermione realized.  “You see, Hermione, Minerva has lost a great deal this war, especially in the very recent past.  Her youngest brother, Robert, was killed around a year ago by Death Eaters.  Shortly after that,” he sighed, index fingers tracing circles over his temples, “the love of her life, a Muggle farmer to whom she was briefly engaged and with whom she kept up a long, pining correspondence, died in a random Death Eater attack - along with his wife and children - for which she blames herself.  She didn’t marry him in order to protect him from the sort of bitterness her own father felt as a Muggle marrying a witch, you see - but she now wonders now if she might have saved him from something far worse if she had instead stayed by his side.”  Hermione’s eyes widened as she listened - she’d known some of this had happened, but she’d never really had a sense of how quickly one thing had followed another.  Dumbledore, in the meanwhile, only looked more tired.  “The depredations he and his family suffered before they were finally killed… they were truly ghastly, and may account for her reaction this night.”

Hermione gulped, slowly slumping back into her chair as she tried to tally what toll all this must have taken. .

Dumbledore spread his hands.  “I believe that James and Lily’s death, as some of her favorite students and very dear friends - she danced with Sirius at their wedding, did you know? - may have been a near-breaking point, but this night… Minerva puts a great deal of love, when all is said and done, into her students.  To see one of them engaged in such an unspeakable act of violation must have been beyond what she could take.”

Hermione sighed, and they both drank their tea without any apparent taste for it in silence for some minutes.

Finally, she broke the silence.  “What happens now?”

Albus shrugged.  “I think Minerva needs to heal, and I do not think she should teach this year.  This is a conversation she and I have already had - she’s entitled to a sabbatical, or perhaps a long honeymoon.  I believe Elphinstone, if he will see her through this, could be invaluable to her recovery.  I also believe that he, given their long acquaintance and his own background in the DMLE and the war, will be able to sympathize.  

“I, meanwhile,” he smiled wearily, “will not suffer overmuch, I don’t think, if I must temporarily take over Minerva’s classes whilst other arrangements are made.”

“And Pettigrew?” Hermione asked.

“Will go to Azkaban without opportunity to bargain, testify, or prolong the hideousness of war through an extended trial - not how I would prefer the matter be handled, however I might sympathize with curtailing the drawn out horror of the war to date. Preparations are already being made for a cell that will hold him despite his… abilities .”

Hermione looked at Albus thoughtfully, and did so for long enough that eventually he spoke.  “May I inquire, my dear, what you are thinking?  And bravo - I know you are exhausted, and that not much time has passed, but I see your Occlumency is already keeping your thoughts from projecting themselves reflexively.”

Hermione shook her head.  “You never told the Dementors about Sirius being an Animagus.”

Albus nodded slowly.  “Hmm.  Imagine that.”

She narrowed her eyes, but he added nothing else.  Not now, anyway.

But another thought occurred to her, breaking bleakly across her mind.  “Albus… maybe I shouldn’t have stopped her.  In my time… the Dementors defected to Voldemort’s side, and freed all the Death Eaters before terrorizing the countryside - Muggles and magical folk alike.”

Albus shook his head slowly.  “If you had done that, my dear, it would have broken something integral to the character of a brave woman we both love, and that would be a tragedy beyond reckoning.  I think it might have broken something in you, too.”  He sighed.  “Besides, magic - and the choice not to use it - have a way of leaving their mark.  The time may come when you will be very glad you saved Pettigrew's life.”

Hermione wrinkled her nose at the tickle of deja vu.  “As long as he doesn’t get an evil hand and Voldemort doesn’t get a new body this time.”

“I beg your pardon?”

She shook her head, feeling the creep of fatigue within her.  “I… oh, sufficient unto the day, sir.”

He nodded sagely, letting a small silence pool between them before he spoke again. “Perhaps, my dear, whilst I go and talk to my dear old friend, you should try to get some sleep.”

Hermione nodded, standing unsteadily as the full force of her soul-deep weariness rolled over her.  “I think I may need to.”

As she approached the door, he cleared his throat - and she turned just in time for a phial of Dreamless Sleep to float into her hands.  

Dumbledore shrugged at her inquiring glance, and said, “I think you may need to, too.  Peace to you, Hermione.”

Chapter Text

NOVEMBER 10, 1981

Hermione slept through the entirety of Monday proper and had to be told to get out and get some fresh air by Moody, no less, when they ran into each other in the hall around 3:00 AM Tuesday.  The Auror seemed to have decided, after the Westminster Incident (as it was now being called), that Hermione really was on the side of the true and the just.

When she was on her way out of the castle, though , she was delayed - Sirius managed, having heard of what she’d done and what she’d been through, to catch her off guard and sweep her into a disused old storage closet after breakfast. When she stumbled out, straightening herself from nothing more than a long stretch of being held and soothed an hour later, she did feel a bit less on edge.

The walk to Hogsmeade was long and blessedly solitary.  She tried to remember the shapes of the trees as she walked through the grounds, taking a meandering route - so many were familiar but noticeably smaller than her mind insisted they ought to be.  There, she had hidden with her own Harry, the Time-Turner around their necks, baying at an older Remus.  There, she’d gotten Ron full in the face with a snowball and he’d grinned at her with pride instead of being sour about it.  Luna’d sat there to read all the time on nice days, avoiding the more popular spots by the lake, until finally Hermione and Ginny had started sitting there with her after the battle and they’d had to shoo others away to keep it from getting overcrowded.

She took a late morning tea at an outside table at Madam Puddifoots and dipped into her backlog of Muggle novels.  There wasn’t enough fiction in the Wizarding world, and besides, she rather liked the works of Terry Pratchett when life got her down.  She charmed the covers to look stodgy and blank to avoid awkward questions - both about Muggle origins and about publishing dates. She hoped, meanwhile, that Mr. Pratchett would not mind too much that she’d Geminio’d the lot of them for Alice, who had taken her advice to start with the Watch books and come back to Rincewind only if she felt really, really compelled to do so.

After tea and a surreptitious pull from a flask of firewhiskey Seamus had given her as a gag graduation gift (only because neither of them ever thought she’d be the type to use it), she steeled herself for the onerous task that was shopping .  

She gritted her teeth and headed into Gladrags, where a helpful salesperson had a measuring tape zooming around her from the moment she closed the door behind her.  “Oooo, welcome welcome!  I smell a makeover!”

Hermione walked out three hours later absolutely beset with bags.

She reflected, grimly satisfied, that at LEAST she’d managed to avoid shoulder pads and puffed sleeves.  And pale greys and rodenty browns.  Good lord, after seeing Pettigrew again, however human he’d been, she had no desire to see those colors again in a hurry.  

Jewel tones, she decided, were fine, though - as long as the fabric wasn’t synthetic, at least.

She felt a little smug seeing a number of posters featuring riotous curls just like hers outside the local hair stylist’s shop (though she was resolved NOT to try bangs again, thanks) as she ducked into an alley to shove her various spoils into the beaded bag.  Doing magic in public was one thing - but the extension charm… well.  

Glancing at a pair of stiletto-heeled leather boots as they disappeared into the bag, she thought for a moment and then, as she’d traded some galleons for sterling yesterday anyhow, she Apparated to the safe zone in the Tottenham Court Road tube station to find some period-appropriate Muggle clothing, too.

It was fairly impossible not to go into the shop she saw Debbie Harry walk out of.  

As Hermione stepped out of the headmaster’s Floo later, having gotten permission to do so via Patronus, she bent her neck to sniff the buttery leather lapel of her new jacket.  It was gorgeous red leather that tapered to a narrow waist and wrapped at the front a bit, deliciously indecisive about whether to be a morning coat or a motorcycle jacket, with braided silver toggle closures in a diagonal line across her chest and waist.  

It might have broken the no shoulder pads rule, but only a little, and it made her feel glorious. 

Both a pale Remus, furrowed of brow, and an almost immediately leering Sirius looked up from the table where they were playing gin rummy in the small sitting area when she stepped through the door at the far end of the hall, probably each curious about the smell of new leather.  

She smiled sheepishly and spun, barely wobbling on the new boots with her new black stirrup pants tucked into them.  “Do I look like a temporal local yet?”

Remus leaned back thoughtfully, nodding his head, and Sirius stood up, walking over and making a show of walking around her for a closer inspection, the backs of his knuckles barely grazing her hips as he did so.  “I think you’ll do, yeah.”

She snorted and elbowed him in the stomach, sending him a step back, looking both wounded and amused, and making Remus throw his head back laughing.  

She rolled her eyes as Sirius began to bark his own distinctive laugh, too.  

Remus finally gathered himself, shaking his head.  “You’ll have to forgive Padfoot, Hermione.  He has such conflicted feelings about people who’re prettier than him.”

Sirius gave his friend a snarky little glance, one brow raised in incredulity.  “Hardly conflicted .  It’s when I don’t get to pick them up and drag them somewhere to undress them that problems arise, I think you’ll find.”

Remus and Hermione cracked up this time, and Hermione walked over to sit on the werewolf’s armrest so the two could smirk at Sirius in tandem.  “I suppose he knows he can’t just, and that’s something, at least,” she said.  

“Hmmph,” said Remus, who was rather more subtly looking her up and down, to her surprise, when she looked over and down at him.  

She snapped in his face as his eyes stuck at her hips.  “Oi, the eyes are up here, you overgrown dogs. I suppose I’ve shopped correctly at least.” She shook her head.  “What are you both up to this evening, anyway?  Care to deal me in?  I would so enjoy the opportunity to repeatedly trounce you,” she added, smiling sweetly at one then the other.

Remus swept the cards up with a graceful economy of movement, shaking his head.  “We were waiting for you, actually - wanted to see if you’d come down to the Three Broomsticks with us for a pint.”  He glanced at her feet.  “Which is an open offer still if you can walk that far in those things.”

She snickered.  “ These boots were made for prancing, darling.  Let’s go get that pre-moon edge off you, then.”

By the time they were walking back, several hours and numerous drinks later, they took turns demonstrating their sexiest walks and alternatingly catcalling at each other then conferring in mock seriousness about ratings on a scale of ten.  

Remus did this incredible American cowboy masculine thing with thumbs hitched near his hip bones and a piece of grass he’d picked between his lips that made Sirius ask Hermione if she had any smelling salts.

It was Sirius, though, who made Hermione and Remus cry uncle, falling on each other for support laughing.  He’d dropped his hanky just inside the hall where all their rooms were, then slid his back slowly down a polished marble column until he was in a low crouch on his toes, knees spread wide despite his tight trousers, his back arched ludicrously to accentuate his leather-clad ass and one hand covering his mouth with a look of over-the-top innocence in his wide eyes as he picked up the scrap of scarlet silk and tucked it down his half-unbuttoned shirt with a wink.

Sirius was also the one who made the other two drink two glasses of water each before they could disappear into their rooms, and who tucked Hermione in with some extremely enthusiastic cunnilingus and slipped out her door before she’d come back down to earth enough to realize he was gone.  

But she was barely incensed a moment before she fell asleep.

Chapter Text

NOVEMBER 11, 1981

Wednesday, however, required a great deal of work - so it was a good thing Sirius had seen to it they all had hangover potion awaiting them in the morning.

A very pale Remus told her at breakfast that he had, indeed, been taking the potion as prescribed.  She’d seen one cup of the finished product - enough to know that Snape was already better at brewing it than she was, irksome bat that he was.  But Remus remained very anxious, and wondered if it wouldn’t be better for him to go to the shack.  

Sirius, from whom this could hardly all be kept, enthusiastically offered to accompany him - but Lupin shook his head, eyes skating to the side as he reminded his old friend of classes early Thursday.  

Hermione knew he had a visceral, miserable response to time spent in that place, though - and one that could hardly be improved by what had happened with James and Peter - so she offered to sit with Remus.  At the expected protests from both Marauders, she argued that she’d done so before, with and without the potion, and gave enough substantiating detail to prove her truthfulness.  She even, gritting her teeth, said she’d have him start the night bound and caged in silver if need be, and would only let him out after both were convinced and he was able to communicate that he was in control of himself.  

She knew the necessary apparatus to do this, after all, was available right there in the castle.  A large silver cage had been buried under the detritus of the 1970s when she’d found it in her own time, in the Room of Hidden Things.  

So it was that she made the appropriate request of the Room of Requirement, making certain the hall was clear before she paced in front of the door, thoughts skittering around the various points of interest she couldn’t very well ignore within, even if they weren’t pertinent to the evils of this particular day, which were certainly sufficient.

After magically unearthing and then bodily dragging the spell-resistant cage to the exit, Hermione did three more things:

  1. Grabbed a certain old copy of an advanced potions textbook and stashed it in her beaded bag.
  2. Incinerated an old, unmatched vanishing cabinet, which had been left in the room in a state of disrepair. (She really did need to work out how to get to Narcissa, she knew, or that could end up being hazardous to Draco.)
  3. Glowered for a long while at a certain tiara on an old, dusty marble bust, irritated yet again that there was no way to remove the taint and keep the artifact.  Being able to move a Horcrux would be exceptionally helpful, and not just in this instance.

Ultimately, she elected NOT to do anything about the diadem - yet.  If at all possible, she wanted to address all the Horcruxes with teams and destroy them as nearly simultaneously as possible in case a remnant of a certain dark lord was sentient enough yet to try and retaliate. 

And that would require controlled fiendfyre and/or basilisk fangs.  

Bugger .  She kicked over a pail of ancient, desiccated flobberworms.  She’d have to deal with the Chamber, too.  

She wasn’t even going to think about the matter of the damned vaults she’d read about causing so much trouble later in the 1980s - not at this point, thanks.

In any event, the crown had been here this long, and she wasn’t going to subject herself to carrying it around unnecessarily, thanks.

At length, she managed to exit the Room - transfiguring a sort of dolley out of some old cracked brooms in order to move the cage and covering it in some aged house banners to disguise it.  After situating it in Remus’ room (his password was “bandersnatch”), she managed to ward both the room and cage thoroughly against everything from noise to physical and magical assaults before lunchtime. Then, she lined the cage floor with blankets so that Remus could avoid directly touching silver. She’d even made a little floating platform for herself to sit on that Lupin-as-deranged-wolf couldn’t quite reach just below the high, vaulted ceiling, just to set him more at ease about her safety.

When she skipped up to the Staff table for the midday meal, pleased with herself for a morning well-spent, Flitwick nodded to her a little sadly. McGonagall wasn’t there. Remus sat quiet and pale beside a cajoling Sirius, not eating.  It would be sunset, alas, before dinner. Sirius, clearly cognizant of this, was at least stopping short of spooning stew to his friend’s lips in his concern, though he was generally comporting himself like a doting mother hen in a way that amused Hermione with its… unexpectedness.

After a few minutes of listening, though, Hermione lost her patience and tried her own way.  “Eat, you idiot,” she growled, moving a few seats down the table to plunk herself at Remus’ side.  She shoved the stew back at Sirius and cut from the rarest center bits of the roast on the table, knowing those would be the most likely to entice wolfish appetites, and putting them on a fresh plate. As a doubtful-looking Remus picked up his fork, she poured him a full goblet of water and put it in front of him, too.  When the lycanthrope still sat still, sallow and sullen, though, she got impatient.  In a huff of exasperation, she seized the fork from his hand and cut a bite of meat before holding it up to his mouth. Only at this point did she notice that Sirius and Remus were now both looking up at her curiously, and that Remus’s eyes had gone half-gold around the pupils

With uncharacteristic speed, her friend and sometime professor snapped up the meat she’d offered him, his eyes remaining on hers.  

Hermione held Remus’s eye contact, puzzled but also feeling a warm flush spreading over her cheeks. Sirius, after his gaze darted rapidly between them a few times, stood under the pretense of gallantly pulling out her chair for her then looked from her to the still-raised fork expectantly.  “Em, Hermione, could I see you in my office for a minute?”

By the time her eyes had darted to Sirius and then back to Remus again, the latter’s gaze was on the meat on his plate, a dark fringe of lashes covering whatever color his eyes might now be.

Confused, she put down the fork and let Sirius tug her away and through the halls, quiet until the door of the DADA Professor’s study was closed behind them and he was pulling her into his arms with a little shiver. 

She pulled back to meet his gaze, but allowed his arms to stay around her.  “Sirius, what was all that just now?”  

Sirius barked a rather softer than usual laugh, pulling her over to a small settee against one wall and sitting next to her.  “Em, unless you want to join the Remus Lupin Unrequited Lover Club, which might be less than ideal, you need to know a few things.”

She blinked in surprise.  “Come again?”

Sirius sighed, coaxing her to turn her to the side and starting to knead at her perpetually tense shoulders - not sorry to avoid the awkwardness of having this conversation with eye contact.  “Em, so there are a couple things.”  He took a deep breath before continuing.  “First thing is, to Remus right now?  You’re a bitch.”

“I beg your…!” Hermione started to surge to her feet, but Sirius caught her and gently but firmly pulled her back down.  

Not like that.  Like, a prospective bearer of offspring or even mate.  Being a wolf fucks with him in a way being a canine Animagus, say, would not.”

Hermione huffed, crossing her arms.  “ As if you don’t hump everything you fancy.”

Sirius turned her head to meet his eyes briefly before following with a searing, brief kiss and then turning her ‘round again.  “I prefer to hump only you , your supreme bitchiness, for the nonce, and I will let you know you’ve a last chance to stake your claim on the magnificence that is me before I seriously consider the virtues of another shapely ass - or calf, for that matter. Especially now you’ve got that jacket.  Did you wake up wearing only that jacket, love?”

She had, and she snorted, unable to help a little laugh as she sidestepped his attempt to get her sidetracked.  “If that’s what makes you happy, I can’t stop you.  You were saying about Remus and me being a bitch, though?”

She could feel him shaking his head, somehow, through the motion of his fingers as they worked along her shoulder blades.  “Remus  at his wolfish-est thinks of himself as becoming a split person. It isn’t quite that simple, but it gets him through the month to think of the wolf’s doings as completely severed from his own desires, and that there are major differences isn’t wrong.  Anyway. The very practical, survival-and-pleasure minded person who is the wolf wants to find the choicest of mates and fuck himself silly, make puppies, eat raw meat, chase things, and surround himself with pack.”

“I… oh,” Hermione said, letting herself lean into his hands.  

“Yes, well,” Sirius continued, working down to the mess that was her lower back with a little tutting sound.  “This is more or less antithetical to the restrained, self-doubting, erudite, human Remus, who despite being desperately lonely wants to be as solitary as possible in order to protect others, and who concerns himself with understanding both people and anything else that happens to catch his interest in as abstracted a way as possible.”

Hermione shrugged.  “That’s… not impossible to relate to.”

Sirius hissed in disapproval, giving her shoulders a soft shake to make her relax them again.  “Don’t do that to yourself.  This is yet another reason why we have to shag more.  I can help with joining up your mind and body properly. They don’t have any excuse to be so at odds with each other as you keep them. Shall I take you now, on the desk perhaps?”

She shook her head, feeling her cheeks redden.  “You really can find a way to make anything come back to that, can’t you?”

She could also feel him nodding.  “And I will keep you coming… back… as long as I can, given my druthers, Hermione.  I urge you to reconsider whatever it is that compels you to keep me at arm’s length.  Well.  Some of the time.”

Hermione busied herself rapidly pushing thoughts and feelings away.  “Could we please talk about Remus right now?” she said, whining a bit over the please.  “As it’s the full moon tonight?”

Behind her, Sirius sighed.  “Look, there’s no ideal way to say this, so I regret to inform you that, well, you’re in season at present.  And you smell positively luscious.

She felt herself go positively scarlet, and started to sputter.  

Before she could find words, he went on, his voice traipsing lightly over landmines as he went.  “I know you have an IUD, so actual puppies may not be a concern, but any gent with a preternatural olfactory sense and an attraction to the sacred feminine would want you badly right now.  Still, as I am a good dog, rather than persuading you to let me mount you here and now as every sinew of my body is demanding I ought , I’m telling you that Remus is unable to be indifferent to how you smell at present.  As such, you need to know that procuring his food for him, physically feeding him, and playing dominance games through eye contact are also things that will make him want to get right on with fucking himself silly - with you .”  

Hermione dimly registered that her hands were trembling in her lap.  “Why the fuck am I a bloody sex kitten-”

“-ahem, sex bitch-”

“-sex kitten,” she insisted, “in this time?  This is not how I’m accustomed to my life going.  Men - and women, for that matter - have long proven quite indifferent to me under a variety of circumstances.”

Sirius’s hands hit a slight hitch before they recovered and resumed rubbing.  “Weeeeell… I suspect, Hermione, that you must have been a bit oblivious, as clever girls who never think they’re doing well enough can sometimes be, or that men - and women, for that matter - have gone rather downhill over time.  Or both.”

Hermione sat silently, letting him stretch her neck toward one shoulder, then the other, as she thought.  “This is mad,” she said, finally.

He chuckled.  “Want to know just how mad?”

She glanced at him over her shoulder, brow furrowed, and nodded.  

He turned her head back to face front and stroked his long, strong, slightly rough fingertips from the base of her skull down her neck, then again.  “I figure you ought to know eventually anyway, given how embroiled with us you already are now.  Remus told me you yelled at him for having alienated his friends.  What you may not know is that, the last time any of us was with him when he transformed, it was just me.  James was with a very new Harry and a recovering Lily, and Peter , I now suspect, was off doing nefarious Death Eater things.”  He paused to sigh, his hands trying to coax her shoulders from their default way of lodging up around her ears - their default position as much as stressed was her default state.  “That night, some of the same animalistic behaviors that often happen among canines came up - but instead of just mounting poor Padfoot as a dominance display, or vice versa, the wolf…”  He faltered a moment.  “Look, Remus held my neck between his enormous wolfy teeth and he mounted me, penetration, knot, and all.  Then I did it to him.  Then he did it to me, again.”

Hermione blinked as Sirius’s hands slid down her back, coming to rest on her hips.  “We woke up human, still all entangled like that. Before I realized how mortified he was, I twisted around and tried to kiss him.  And he… hit me.”

Hermione had stayed facing the other way, but now she tried to turn around, wanting to comfort him after hearing his voice break over those last words - but he held her still by her hips, so she reluctantly continued to gaze, wide-eyed, at the fire. 

She had to wait a while before he continued, but finally, he did.  “Look, Hermione, you’re not entirely off the mark when you say I like humping everything.  I haven’t had as many opportunities, and haven’t had any other really … emotionally charged ones… with men.  Hell, there’ve only been a couple with women that fit that bill.  So here’s my dashing best friend, or one of them, and it just happened, spontaneous if a bit moon-mad, and I thought… well, it could be fucking destiny, could be true bloody love.  But... he broke my jaw, and then he started ranting at me about what it would do to him if he were even more of a freak than he was already, about how his father had beaten him when he’d gotten too close to other boys as a child - when, because of the in-season-sensing-thing around girls and old-fashioned sexism to boot, boys had been the only kinds of friends he’d been allowed.  After that, he said, his folks didn’t let him have any contact with other children or anyone else outside their family of three, at all, until Hogwarts.  They even pulled him out of the end of primary school.  He went on about how he was already such a tremendous disappointment, he couldn’t be even more of one, and how could I.  Then, he Disapparated.”

When Sirius had told her Remus had hit him, Hermione had grim guesses as to what might have followed, but it still hurt to hear it .   When he finished, she at least leaned back into his chest, pressing her warmth into him, and he sighed and dropped his chin onto her shoulder, wrapping his arms around her waist.  “ Nothing was the same after that.  Remus started going away for long periods of time without telling us how to contact him, or where he was going, or when he’d be back.  He’s only told me since James and Lily died - so, since you showed up - that Dumbledore sent him to play ambassador with wolf packs, but that sort of information was need to know in the Order, just in case of capture, and I guess… somehow it was determined that we didn’t need to know.  It wouldn’t have been like that, before we fucked. Remus, when we saw him, was mostly distant - whenever he was around, and especially around me.  I tried one more time to talk to him about it - things were more okay that evening, the moon was new and we’d all had our share of firewhiskey - but because I dared to bring it up to try to find some resolution, we got into a huge fight, grappling and shoving each other into walls in Diagon Alley right outside the Leaky, and James had to break it up.  Lily was sobbing, holding a very very tiny Harry on the sidelines.  And Remus just… Disapparated, again, without a word.”  

He didn’t resist when she turned around now, throwing her arms around his neck and pulling his tear-streaked face into her shoulder.  “Sirius, I’m so sorry.  I had no idea.”  She pulled back a little, bringing her face to his to kiss away his most recent tears. 

Sirius shrugged.  “It makes the reason why Remus alienated us more sympathetic, I hope.  I have a long habit of disregarding or, better still, running headlong into things my parents thought were anathema to everything I ought to be.  Remus tried so hard not to disappoint his that he broke himself.  He’s also… well, working class and a halfblood.  Among the Sacred Twenty-Eight, things like heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality, and several other shades of identity and attraction fluctuate with trends and how bored one is, not to mention what’s on the social calendar, so long as one marries appropriately, produces legitimate heirs, and is discreet.  There are semi-regular big fancy sex parties on ritualistic pretexts, or so I hear - I got my first invitation rescinded because I’d moved in with the Potters before I was of age.”  He shook his head. “I admit I hadn’t thought about the different divides, about my relative position of privilege in that my class is allowed,” he threw up his hands, searching for words, “secrets and peccadillos and lovers. I was incautious and should have spoken before I acted, but still, it seemed to me then that the Thestral had left the forest anyhow, and it’s done now.”

Hermione pulled her knees under her to reach up and kiss him on the forehead, tucking his head beneath her chin for a change.  “I’m so sorry, Sirius.  For what it’s worth, with respect to homophobia… it’s not universally accepted, but by my time, it does start to get better, and I think that it will continue to.  That’s one thing that Muggles are leading the charge on.  Same-sex marriages are legal, even, in one US State, and they may become so, soon, in the Netherlands.  It’s starting to be spoken about in the ICW as well.”

Sirius inhaled deeply, his face sinking slightly against her chest.  “Vixen, with my face this close to you, right now? The last thing I want to do is be with a bloke, much less marry one.  I’m glad to hear it - I know it will help people - but I need to either undress you or throw you out sometime in the next thirty seconds.”

Hermione yelped slightly and scrambled out of what Sirius was quickly making an increasingly compromising position in his arms.  To his credit, he just barked out a laugh, his eyes dry now.  “Better for Remus that way, too.  I’m sure he knows, but it would aggrieve the wolf to smell me on you during your... vigil.” 

When Hermione turned to say goodbye at the door, straightening her new cobalt blue robes, he spoke first.  “Listen - you’re certain you’ll be safe, right? Tonight?”

Hermione nodded.  “I’m certain, Sirius.  Don’t worry.  I’ve done it before.”

He shook his head.  “ You didn’t brew the potion entirely-”

“-Sirius, Severus would not sabotage this!-”

“-and I know you’ve warded the sound in, everything in, and that you’re a formidable witch - but keep your wand and wits about you.  I will be awake.  You send a Patronus to me if you need to and I will be there in an instant, do you understand?”

She shook her head, but said, “Yes, Sirius.  It won’t be necessary, though.”

He furrowed his brow a minute.  “Alright.  Then…”  He ran a hand through his hair, looking frustrated.  “Just... take care of him, then, if you’re safe.  Whatever you need to do, Hermione. Whatever you… feel is best.  He has no compassion for himself, he’s hurting badly , and as the man said, the moon is a harsh mistress.”

Around 3:30 PM, Hermione knocked on Remus’s door.  He opened it wide, not bothering to hide that he knew it was her before he saw her, and stood aside for her to enter.  He was barefoot and wearing muggle sweats. which he saw her taking in.  

He shrugged.  “Muggle things.  Stretchy, cheap.  Hurts less to transform in.”

She shook her head, plopping down in an arm chair very similar to one of the ones in her own study and avoiding looking toward the bedroom, where the cage was visible through the door.  “I get it. I’m Muggleborn.” She paused as he nodded in recognition - she remembered his mother was a Muggle, too.  “I’m... just more accustomed to you wearing a loose robe or just wrapping yourself in a sheet, which seem even less problematic, for this.  I could just put a sheet over the cage, for that matter - I know having anything on your skin hurts.”

He considered her curiously.  “And at that time, when that happened, were other people there?”

She nodded quickly, “Oh, yes, usually your… em…”  She flushed, uncertain of how much to say - spoiling Voldemort’s little playdates was one thing, but she didn’t want to ruin a future romance.  “Em, your significant other was there, too.”

He blinked. “Me?  I had a... significant other?”

She nodded, confused.  “As one does, yeah.”

He shook his head.  “ One may, but I do not, as a rule.”

She made a bit of a sour face.  “Yes, well, that’s rather silly of you, but it seems your hangups about relationships are even worse now than they are in the future, so…”  She threw her hands up in frustration.  “You’re going to change a touch after 4 this evening, when the sun goes down - is now the time to talk to you about the life-affirming and healthful qualities of love, sex, and companionship?”

He snorted, folding his arms and starting to pace.  “Been spending too much time with Sirius, you have.”

She shrugged.  “You could do a hell of a lot worse than to do the same, Remus.”

He stopped, glowering at her.  “So he told you, did he?”

She shrugged and nodded.  “There’s absolutely no shame in it as far as I’m concerned, and it helped me understand where things went awry better.  Do you wish he hadn’t?”

Remus, who had never before been this grouchy or this talkative in her presence … at least in this time… shook his head.  “No.  It’s probably best you know to be on your guard around me, I suppose.  Still, I’d hoped… well, to borrow some novels, have someone who is not Severus, thanks, to putter around in the Library with.”

She laughed, shaking her head.  “We can do those things, Remus.  Nothing about you is repellent to me.  Quite the contrary, thinking of you two together is...” she shivered a little, picturing it with slightly unfocused eyes and a wan smile.

He just looked confused as he sat down in the other armchair, looking at her.  “Why?”   

She pursed her lips, the fantasy fracturing as she looked at him.  “You’re so determined that you’re repulsive and that anyone with the facts should see it, aren’t you?”

He shrugged.  She groaned and kicked his shin, eliciting a little yelp of surprise as he tucked his legs back.  “You’re an idiot, Professor.”

“Remus!” he cried, sounding more wounded by her formality than his bruised leg even as he rubbed at it.

“Oh, whatever .”  She sighed, looking at the tousled blond in the heather gray sweatsuit with his big green eyes and beautiful, delicate features.  “You.  You’re going to owe me a favor after this.  Not unlike your good friend Severus, I might add.”

Remus sat back, furrowing his brow.  “I don’t mean to be ungrateful, Hermione, I just think this is very risky, is all, and -”

Hermione shook her head until he trailed off.  “ Not for doing any of this.  This is basic human decency.  You see someone get a scrape when you’ve a bandage in your hand, doing the right thing isn’t a question.  I would do this for Wormtail , though I’d like it a lot less.  It has absolutely nothing to do with how I feel about you.  Listening to you go on, however, is rather difficult, since I know you to be brilliant, intellectual, socially adroit, caring, gentle, and fucking lickable , you’re so gorgeous.  Despite it all, though, here you are going on about yourself as though you’re a leper pariah who is both on fire and spewing gouts of acid in all directions.  Oh,” she added as an afterthought.  “And ugly, too.”

He snorted indecorously.  “Right, whereas I’m … lickable?”

She glared at him. “Catnip.  Or possibly a chocolate truffle.”  She considered a moment.  “Truffles come in mint chocolate, and catnip is a sort of mint, so maybe that.”

She shivered a little as flecks of yellow bled into his eyes.  “And so..?” he murmured.

She tried to look away but it was difficult.  “It … well, I suppose it means you make people want to play with you to the edge of madness and eat you all up?”

More yellow and a slow, leering grin.  It just looked wrong on her gentle professor’s (angelic, too-young) face. 

So, impulsively, she reached out and bopped him on the nose, saying “Stop that.”

He blinked, looking down for a moment, before his eyes came back up, green and horrified.  “I’m… so sorry, that was… em…”

She rolled her eyes. “Undress, you idiot.  I promise not to play with you or eat you all up, but I do wish you’d work on having a less precipitous drop-off between tear-its-clothes-off-and-mount-it and shy-virginal-scholar, because seeing you act like this is giving me sympathy for Sirius’s complaints about me . And it’s in my interest that he remain wrong.”

Remus pulled a wry face, starting to tug his sweatshirt off.  “Maybe you, oh many-faceted enchantress, could teach me to better embody both virgin and whore.”

Hermione shrugged, making a show of nonchalantly examining her fingernails.  “I could, but I’d have to charge.”

Remus now had one eye yellow and the other green, and was topless and blinking in consternation.  Hermione’s eyes widened.  “Huh.  Never seen that before. Suspect it’s still not the goal, but nice effort.” She whacked him on the knee gently with the back of her hand.  “Pants off  and into the cage with you since you insist on it, you untrusting git - the sun’s about to set.”

Hermione cringed, hugging her knees, as she heard the agonizing screams, then yelps, then howls of his transformation.  

She could not believe how she just emotionally manhandled a werewolf - and a friend, at that - and a fanciable one, at that - immediately before he got sucked unwillingly into transformation on his grumpiest day of the month.  Sirius had asked her to take good care of him.  

Well, she thought, even odds I’m dead or dying anyway, mustn’t forget - so maybe this mouthy new Hermione is just part of doing and saying everything I didn’t get to over the years and no one gets hurt in the bargain.  

Then, even as she shuddered in sympathy and shame at the last two little whimpers of the wolf she’d just given inappropriate degrees of hell, she had to admit that it had felt good to let him have it.

Hermione waited another five minutes or so before she entered the bedroom.  A furry ball of canine was curled up in the cage, shivering and painting, looking wet and spent from a long hard run.  His sweats were, as it turned out, folded neatly on the foot of his made bed - so at least he’d spared himself some pain.

He also wasn’t ravening or attacking himself.

“Remus?” she asked, tentatively, quietly.

He raised his muzzle from where it was curled against his side, turning his head toward her.  

She smiled, suddenly very tired.  This was the wolf she liked - the one who’d taken his potion and didn’t retain structural vestiges of human form that distorted a lupine body into some monstrous in-between thing.  As it was, he looked very much like a typical, large gray wolf - fur long and near-black at the tips, silvery underneath.  Pointed ears up and perceptive.  Intelligent, slightly human-looking eyes, large of pupil and yellow flecked with green, the whites a little more visible than they’d be in a real wolf.  And at the end of his tail, the fur was a little long, creating a sort of tuft - not as distinct from the rest of the tail, which was still long-furred, as a lion’s might be, but still not typical of wolves.

“I’m sorry I gave you such a hard time.  I just came from talking to Sirius, who gave me rather an intense quantity of information, much of which was about you, and it was making me irritable.  And I… I’m not accustomed to you…”  She gestured at all of him.  “Paying the sort of attention to me that your wolfish persona was?  Or being quite this hard on yourself?  For one thing, you’re not at all homophobic in the future - Seamus even told me how supportive you were and how you listened when he was miserably on the outs with Dean.”

Remus-as-wolf’s incredulous sound adorably resembled a sneeze.

Hermione shrugged.  “Anyway.  Do you understand what the potion does now, and agree it’s working?  Are you safe to be let out?”

Remus canted his head thoughtfully, then nodded.  

Hermione undid the latch, yawning as the level of her current exhaustion swelled over her.  “Good.”

Remus sat on his haunches, up to her ribcage in height, and looked a bit put out by how casually she was taking all this. 

She just shrugged.  “Remus, I realize this is a revelatory experience for you, and fully endorse your running about chasing your tail, catching mice, or what have you - I’ll even take you out on a lead and pretend you’re a dog if you need to see the stars while in control of your wolf’s eyes for the very first time. We could go to Potterswood - there shouldn’t be any other werewolves able to get in, so it’d be safer than the forest. Despite all such willingness, though, I’m tired , and you know I come by that honestly.”

Remus shook out his fur, starting from his shoulders and moving through his tail, and then, with a motion that resembled a shrug, leapt up on the bed and pulled the covers down a bit, then looked at her again.

She blinked at him skeptically.  “You’re that convinced, that fast, that you’re so incredibly harmless than I should just go to sleep in your bed while you’re transformed, eh?”

The wolf nodded solemnly.

Hermione sighed.  “Next time, perhaps you could try believing me earlier, so that I’ll have the wherewithal to bring pajamas before the wards slam shut.”

The wolf belly-crawled forward a bit and nosed the sweats his human self had just been wearing toward her.  She looked at them, and then at him.  “Oh… well, alright, you guard me , then.  I’ll change in the loo, be back soon.”

NOVEMBER 12, 1981

When Hermione started to blink awake, bright sunlight streaming in through the open-curtained bed and windows, the world was entirely too golden and warm for it to even occur to her to think of where, let alone when , she was.  

She yawned expansively, blinked her eyes closed again, reveling in the warm sun on her skin.  

Hmmm.  But she was otherwise warm, too. Lovely.  Snuggle into the warmth, Hermione.  Warm, warm, warm.  Solid, slightly yielding.  Delicious-smelling.  Mmmph. Good, good morning.  

Muzzily, still more than half asleep, she let her body chase the warm, shucking off her too-large shirt to let the sun shine on her skin and rolling toward sunbeams and nice-smelling things.

So warm.  She snuggled down, feeling peculiarly safe as she yawned again.  Safe to sleep, safe to let drift her anxieties and just be - comfortable, restful, here, now.

It felt as if the very world was breathing with her.

And it felt entirely in-keeping with the Magical Realism of the cusp of sleep and waking when two arms looped around her, stroking her bare, sun-kissed back and pulling her close.  She sank into the warm embrace of this lovely morning, a smile spreading over her sleepy lips as she pressed a kiss to whatever the warmth was.

The stuff of the universe was fluid and loving and moving around her, and she slept suspended in a hot sunbeam like some pagan goddess sent to be Apollo’s bride.  

And then, she heard a wanton little gasp beneath her, and, confused, started to blink open her eyes.

To find herself straddling an unearthly beautiful man, who, similarly half asleep, had his hands down the bottom of her - his? - sweatpants and kneading, one engulfing each of her cheeks, and was grinding up into her with a startling erection and a beatific smile on his still sleeping face, every fleck of hair on him glowing white as a bulb filament in the sun.

For a moment she was still so asleep that this seemed like the aforementioned loving universe giving her a pleasant, lovely surprise. He looked more like Apollo than Remus Lupin as she knew him, glowing and smiling thus.  

When he ground up against her again, she bit back a moan, her heart starting to race as a cloud drifted over the sun.  She knew him for himself then, and started to go rigid with panic.

It was her stillness that woke him.  But not all at once.

Still half asleep, he tsked and rolled over onto her, pressing down, pulling her up against him insistently before his eyes blinked open.

And he, too, froze, his sweat-dewed chest plastered to hers, his fingers dug deep into the cleavage of her ass, his hard cock pushing the cloth between them into the wetness of her as she both cringed and exalted.  

Their eyes met, jumping between wide panic and half-lidded lust, as mutual understanding dawned.

Hermione scrambled out from beneath him the second his grip on her slackened, scurrying over to her own neat pile of clothes and pulling her own jumper on, not bothering with underthings before donning her skirt and pulling the sweats off from under it. She tossed them onto the bed without looking back before stuffing her underwear into a pocket and shoving her feet into shoes.  

“Hermione…” he said, his voice uncharacteristically deep.

She shook her head.  “It was an accident.  I’m very sorry - especially after what happened with Sirius, I’m sorry.”

He was silent for a moment as she rummaged under an old ottoman to find her little bottomless bag.

“Come back to me.”

He said it very softly, though his voice held an unfamiliar note of command, and it shivered through her just as her hand closed on the familiarly cool, slippery beaded surface of her bag. She reared up on her knees, forgetting not to look at him in her confusion. 

The sun was cleared again.  Uncovered across the rumpled white sheets lay his long, lean-muscled body, unmistakably aroused and gilded by a slanting ray of light.  He was stretched out unapologetically on his side, his full lips slightly parted, his eyes gone yellow-white, his hair - all over his body - glittering as if lit from within.

It was like the beckoning of some mythical siren or a long-forgotten god. It didn’t seem Remus at all - which both entranced and repelled her.  

“Em… I have to…  goodbye!”

And she ran out the door, then down the hall, through the office, and on, not stopping until she was outside the gate - and able to Apparate away.

Chapter Text

SPINNER’S END, COKEWORTH

Severus Snape blinked awake at the sound of knocking, then silently rose and spelled himself dressed, deliberately not in his robes as a fuck-you to blood supremacy. Pushing down his rising gorge at the unexpected intrusion when he’d expected some time free of them, and schooling his face to bored neutrality, he swung open his door.

Hermione was startled almost entirely out of her anxiety over the incident with Remus at the sight inside the door.  Severus’ eyes flickered and his shoulders relaxed some as he saw it was her, but he was standing there, same old haughtily aloof face, in a pair of worn black jeans and a black Guess t-shirt, which was newer - had to be, she supposed, as she’d learned just yesterday the company was only formed this year.  It looked … rather well on him, really.

He sighed as her eyes finally ended up lingering on his well-worn Doc Martens, intoning a flat but impatient “Won’t you come in?”

She blinked up, then nodded, brushing past him in the doorway.  

Teaching her Occlumency, for all it’s going well, is going to be difficult to conclude satisfactorily.  As Severus puttered about the dingy kitchen, filling the teapot and setting some cups and saucers to scrub before scavenging about for a tray, he felt a cavalcade of emotions and thoughts pinging off Granger as if she were one of those paintings - the ones where you squirted drops of paint onto a spinning piece of paper - still in progress. Drips of confusion, curiosity, a hint of … my goodness, was that randiness?... and what felt like a habitual poke or two at proofs to baroque arithmantic theorems spattered him and the walls.  He knew she could put the walls up much better, now, but also that it would likely never be reflexive.  A zing of guilty carnal fantasy, its subject inspecific, spun off her and winged him causing him to pause a moment in his search for the tea until the apparent impact could fade where only the counter could see it.  

If she could get the walls up well when someone was intruding, he supposed, now aware of her childlike fascination with a doxy peering at her curiously from his mother’s yellowed gingham curtains, that would be enough.  It would be rather a shame to lose these reminders of her mind, irrepressibly ricocheting off her around those she… huh.  Yes.  Around those she trusted.

At length, Severus sat with her at the old formica table, distracting her from the unusually calm doxy who was looking at her from its home in the kitchen curtains.  He’d brought a tray with an old yellow teapot, some milk and sugar cubes, and two mismatched teacups.  He placed the unchipped wedgewood in front of her and took the fiestaware for himself, then set to pouring.

“Thanks,” she said, dashing milk and sugar in without lifting hand or wand, and watching the cup spin to mix them together before picking her cup up to sip. 

His dark gaze flitted from the cup to her eyes as it met her lips.  “Of course.  What brings you here this morning?  You seem… agitated.”

She shook her head, slumping forward and resting her weight on elbows propped on the table.  

A tinge of a smile got past him.  He loved watching her sit trusting at this table.  When his mother had broken down here, thinking she was safe, exhausted from cleaning and cooking food his father had screamed was inedible and thrown across the room, she’d let her weight rest on her elbows, once.  

His father had backhanded her and sent her flying to the floor, spittle flying as he screamed at her for being an unmannered cow.  

He had had to wait a quarter hour to be sure the old man wouldn’t return on some pretext before he’d helped her up again.  He’d been 9.  She’d sobbed about how she’d provoked him, how his father was really such a good man, so generous to them both.

It would never happen in this house - now his house - ever again.  It would never happen anywhere again.  Not because of him.

Hermione shook her head. “Yes, I am.  Sorry for slouching all over your table, and thanks for the tea.  I was… surprised you weren’t in your quarters or in class this morning.  Is everything alright with you?”

Severus stirred his tea absentmindedly, though he’d added nothing to it.  “My father passed away last night.  I was called to my mother’s side to help her.  She was very upset.  He stumbled on the stairs on his way home from the pub and fell, it seems.”

Hermione felt her eyes widening in horror.  Severus, however, seemed unaffected.  

“I… Severus, I’m… well…”  She sat straighter, seeming to come to some sort of resolution.  “I’m not sorry, actually.  I’m glad the abusive old bastard is dead.  But how can I help you and your mother?  Have you made arrangements yet?”

She blinked as his eyes came up to hers full of unconcealed surprise and, perhaps, gratitude.

He found himself gaping at her, lost for words.  Sweet Salazar, her unshieldedness is catching , he chided himself, trying to pull himself back together, pulling his eyes from her and trying to focus them on the spiraling little whirlpool in his teacup.  

A minute later, he’d gathered himself again, and looked up at her with only a little curiosity evident on his face.  His voice was soft when he asked.  “How did you know?”

She shook her head, thinking of the memories Harry had stumbled upon, and of the once he’d left at his death.  She blinked back tears forming in her eyes in frustration and shook her head.  “You don’t want to know.  And I only know a little.  But…”  She sighed.  “Well.  What’s next?”

He shrugged.  “I’m going to try to get the entire thing done with today.”

She blinked.  “Today?”

He nodded tightly.  “No religious ceremony.  He never went to church.  The undertakers thought it should be possible. The service will be at the funeral home at 3, and,” he sneered, “Mum put a word in down the pub, so anyone he knew should get word.”  

Hermione thought a moment, looking up at the clock.  “Well, it’s ten now - you must have been out late.”

Severus nodded slowly. “Yes.  Got in around 4.”

She winced, sympathy pouring off her as she reached over to brush a lock of hair from his eyes.  He blinked but forced himself not to pull away. He… he liked her caring, he found.  

And why shouldn’t I? , he thought. Is it even unsafe, anymore?  Hasn’t it been long enough since… since I’ve been cared for?  Does it not feel good?  Is she not worthy of my regard and more, besides?

She felt him tense a bit as she pushed a greasy lock out of his face and tucked it behind his ear, but he didn’t push her off as she half expected him to, and she gave him a wan smile.  “Can I help you, today?  Stay with you?  It seems like something awful to have to do alone, with no one you can talk to about how you really feel about it all.”

His gaze was searching.  “Would you, even if I don’t know that I wish to speak of it?”

She smiled simply.  “Wild horses couldn’t drag me away.”

She had a thought, looking at him there, darting glanced between her and his tea as if uncertain of what to do with a friend’s affection.  Of course he’s uncertain of what to do with a friend’s affection , she chided herself, and then, shaking her head, surged up to her feet and grabbed his hand, tugging him up.  

“C’mon then, Severus.  You’re going to do me that favor so you can sublimate some of your ill-concealed tumult into being almighty brassed off at me.”  

Severus stood under the inconsistent pressure of the hot shower, reading the tiny print of the ingredients she’d written on the bottle.  Jojoba, cypress, tea tree, rosemary, lemon, basil, peach kernel, walnut.  He supposed it could make sense to use oil to strip oils.  And some of these were astringent.

He tensed, holding very still behind the flimsy white plastic curtain, as he heard the bathroom door open and Hermione walked in in a cloud of cooler, dry air before she closed the door behind her again. He heard a familiar creak as she sat down on the closed lid of the toilet seat.  

“I don’t smell suds yet, Severus.  Get lathering.  You owe me the favor.”

He could not believe she had the audacity to… to… but at the same time, he wanted to pull her into the shower with him and pin her to the wall under him for having done it, rip off all her clothes and take her right there.

He blinked.  That was new and interesting.

She looked around at the aging yellow tiles, the mildew stains that no amount of scrubbing could dispel after they’d set long enough.  The towels were clean but fraying at the edges, and she could hear from here that the water pressure was a bit of an unpredictable ride.  

But damned if he was going to slither out of this.  

“Severus.  Don’t make me wash you.” she taunted, her hands resting on her hips.  

“I’ve only ever heard of melaleuca oil being used for fin rot in merrows.”

She shook her head, looking up at the water-stained ceiling.  “Bubble up, potions master , the student surpasses the teacher in some things.”

His eyes peered around the edge of the white plastic curtain at her.  “You are remarkably unmannered, Gran-”

“- Hermione.” she corrected, her eyes drifting over his bare, pale shoulder, exposed by his perpetual need to glower.

He sighed.  “ Hermione.” His eyes flicked over her quickly - but she caught it.  “Do not tell me you would actually do that.”

She treated him to a feral grin, leaning forward threateningly.  “Try me.”

Severus ducked back behind the curtain, shuddering as his body sprang awake.  Whatever that face was… 

He glanced at his throbbing erection in frustration, then, ceasing to dissect her ingredient list, poured some of her concoction on her hands and re-wet his hair before starting to rub it in.  It smelled strongly but not unpleasantly herbal.  

And, as it reached his scalp, it felt cool, soothing.  His hair started to feel lighter under the lather.  It felt nice, he had to grudgingly admit, glaring at the various different bottles of other potions and products he’d attempted when feeling insecure in the past, all lined up along the tub’s edge in their irritating plentitude.

Once he’d gotten the lather in, though, he rinsed his hands to address the more urgent irritant.

“Can you smell the lather to your satisfaction now, Hermione ?” he said as he grasped his cock firmly in one hand and started to stroke rapidly over the aching hardness while his other hand braced on the built-in ledge for soap.

She sniffed and nodded to herself in satisfaction, pleased.  “See that, I knew you could be taught.”

She heard his snarl from within the shower and laughed, her work here done, and exited to go get herself another cup of tea.

The snarl had been cathartic, but when he came several minutes later, painting the inside of the curtain white-on-white, he was silent, his mouth open, his eyes closed.  

He wondered what it would be like, snarling then.  Yelling out.  Making any sort of sound.  To the best of his recollection, he’d never dared.

I bet she does , he thought darkly.  I bet she broadcasts her pleasure with every ounce of her being.  I bet it embeds in the walls all around and changes the color of the wallpaper.  I bet she makes everything for miles wet , when she comes.  I bet it drowns.

He groaned in frustration as he grew hard again at the irrepressible chain of thoughts, flopping down into the tub under the shower’s spray to attend to himself again.  Unresolved tension wouldn’t do him any favors this afternoon.

She sat at the table, feeling a little smug despite what she knew should be somber circumstances, when she heard him swear quietly in his bedroom. 

She made it through a cup and a half of tea before he stepped out, looking… well, well, well, she thought.  

Severus was wearing the well-fitting black muggle suit she’d gotten him, black tie, and dove gray french-cuffed shirt.  The cufflinks were black onyx, and would just look like odd little scarabs of the sort that were fashionable-ish to Muggles right now, but were in fact carved with runes of protection and fortitude she’d engraved herself.  There were robes, too, and wingtip black chelsea boots he could wear with either - similar to the impeccably fastidious, almost Victorian-seeming clothing she’d remembered him wearing later in life but which he hadn’t seemed to have found yet.  She knew he’d been bothered all his childhood by looking scruffy, having ill-fitting and mismatched clothes.  But he hadn’t yet decided to rectify that, so she figured a little jump start might give him a bit more confidence.  

And then there was his hair - which he had never gotten to the bottom of in her timeline.  

That solution had been two-fold.  Sirius had admitted, deep in his cups, that he and James had cursed “the slimy git” never to grow out of the adolescent shortcoming of greasiness.  She’d nearly thrown him out a window, but he just giggled, apologized, diffused her temper with innuendo, and finally told her the counterspell.  It had been a small matter to make it go off when he opened the shampoo bottle, and distracted as he’d been by her barging in on his toilet, he hadn’t noticed it happening, thereby forestalling any extended blood feud bullshit. 

Also, he just needed a decent shampoo and a lot of what was made in this era was damaging crap.  She’d mixed her own and her family’s in the future, having learned the fundamentals from Lavender and Parvati.  It wasn’t hard to figure out a formula for him.  

Now, though, after she cast a small drying spell and sent it spinning his way, his long hair shone, thick and straight to his shoulders, where some bits curled a little at the ends.  Not greasy in the slightest.  Nor would it be again.

He looked quite in the exceeds expectations range, and she was pleased with a good day’s meddling.

“Spear-nosed bat my ass,” she murmured, sipping her tea as she looked him over in satisfaction.

He shot his cuffs and wished she’d stop saying flirtatious things to him as he straightened the cufflinks, realizing what she’d engraved on them as he did so.  He managed to restrict his reaction to a raised brow, though, after his painstaking work to get other parts to stay down.

The hair thing is really remarkable , he thought, combing a hand through it without allowing himself to show too much appreciation.  

Hermione, it seemed, still carried life with her.  While he’d showered and dressed, she’d changed.  The rather fetching red leather affair she’d walked in with had been charmed full black, and it hung open over a knee-length black dress that flared from the waist and was tightly fitted from there up to the swells of her breasts, then strapped broadly over her shoulders.  She wore high black boots with narrow high heels on her feet, over black stockings.  Her hair was pinned into a demure french twist and she wore no makeup.   The effect was comely, but not too much so for a funeral.  

She stood up, nodding, as she saw he’d properly assembled himself.  “You look good.  Let’s go help your mother.”

 

A WEST COUNTRY VILLAGE, UK

Severus seemed uncharacteristically on edge as he’d taken her through the Floo. They emerged in a room almost as large as the hall at Potterswood, but … emplier.  There was a small vase with some wilting daisies on a black entry table, but otherwise, there was little furniture in the large, gray and white room, its marble floors shining in the early afternoon light.  

This was the house, she remembered, that he was given to better befit an esteemed member of the Death Eaters.  She wondered how they’d come by it - surely nothing too nefarious, as Hogwarts faculty were subject to annual background checks, but… well.  No use throwing petrol on a difficult afternoon by poking that hornet’s nest, she knew.  

There were two stairs headed up from here, apparently to two different wings.  One had some men’s coats thrown over the banister, and the other had a worn but clean gray runner going up the stairs.  Severus stepped to the bottom of this one.  “Mum?”  He glanced back at her, then up the stairs again.  “I’ve brought a friend.  Are you alright?  We’re here to help you get read and drive over to the funeral together.”

After a moment, a sniffling woman with pale skin and deep ebon hair came to the top of the stairs, wearing a lavender dressing gown.  Everything about how she carried herself seemed designed to diminish her - her posture was miserable, and she seemed folded into herself, in a permanent sort of preparedness to cringe.  Her face was tear-stained and she held a damp but not filthy white kerchief in her left hand.  As she looked up from it to her son, Hermione took a step back in shock.

Severus was distracted a moment from his mother’s bedraggled misery when a frisson of surprise pinged off Hermione.  She’d taken a step back and was examining the woman she’d not yet properly met closely, curiously.  Severus turned to her and mouthed, what?

Hermione shook her head slightly and plastered a polite smile on her face. “Madame P...  Em…  Snape, it’s so lovely to meet you.  Your son just adores you, you know - I’ve heard so much about you! You look lovely for someone so very sad - I’m so terribly sorry for your loss.”

Eileen Snape blinked between Hermione and Severus, a bit of tentative hope zinging around her.  Oh, shit , he thought.

Well, she wanted to support me, and I did do her a favor. He smiled tightly, stepping up beside Hermione and taking her arm.  “Mother, please meet Miss Hermione Granger, my girlfriend.”

Hermione blinked, almost missing her step forward on her still-new boots, but steadied herself rapidly as she saw the dawning joy on the sad woman’s face.  She did, however, squeeze Severus’s hand in a way that promised there would be a Conversation Later, capital C and capital L clearly conveyed.

Eileen, meanwhile, drifted halfway down the stairs.  “I… my goodness.  I’m so pleased to meet you, Miss Granger.  May I call you Hermione?  I’m Eileen.”

Severus drifted to the kitchen as Hermione took charge of his mother, who was already standing up straighter than he was accustomed to.  He was pathetically grateful, a feeling he did not cherish easily, that Hermione had not let his pretense blow up in his face.  

As he cleaned the dishes - easier for him, as his mother had hidden her wand away at his father’s behest decades ago - he heard bits of conversation and even a little laughter drift down from the upstairs.  Above, closet doors and drawers opened and closed, little alteration spells zinged about, and he could feel Hermione’s sympathy, pity, and determination to put something to rights radiating off her like light from the sun.  

As he finished up, setting tea things out for the second time today as he awaited their descent, he was unsurprised to see the lamp-orange eyes of his kitten, Artemis, gazing up at him from his ankles.  She was a grayish-brownish tabby, mostly short-haired with a slightly longer sort of mane, and she was rapidly growing into adulthood.  Lily had joked that the kitten was born a little adult, much like Severus, and that she’d had to be taught to chase strings and have fun a bit.  She’d joked they’d be perfect together.  

He was glad she’d been here to comfort his mother before he’d been able to arrive last night, he thought, as he picked her up and scratched at the back of her neck thoughtfully.  He hoped the rest of the litter had found proper homes prior to… well.  Prior to his damnation, to the explosion of his idiocy, to the death of the only woman he’d ever loved.

He thought, sitting down in a small armchair in the library down the hall, that Lily would have been absolutely smitten with Hermione.  It was a shame they hadn’t met until too late.  He sighed, remembering that there would be another, much larger funeral this weekend.

“Mrrow?” Artemis climbed up his chest to headbutt his chin, recalling him from the dark he was sinking toward.  He gave her a small smirk.  

“Greedy little cat, you are,” he murmured, scratching under her chin until she rolled onto her back, displaying her tawny belly in delight.

“Now, there you are.  You look lovely Madam...  Eileen.” Hermione corrected herself, glad she could pass it off as an adjustment to informality, as she guided the woman she knew as Madam Pince down the stairs.  

The same woman shot her a grateful look, standing a little straighter.  Nowhere near the ramrod posture Hermione expected of her - yet - but a tinge closer.  

“Do you know, I learned at some point that you were the captain of Hogwarts’ Gobstones Team in a year it won the European Championship.  I would so love some lessons at some point. I’m Muggleborn, you see, and didn’t play it until much later than most of my peers,” she added, looking carefully to see how the woman might react.  

“Are you indeed?” Eileen blinked, smiling.  “My Tobias was a Muggle.  Can’t say he much liked witchcraft and wizardry, but I loved him so very much,” she said, beginning to droop again, like her past-prime daisies.  She shook it off, though, mustering another smile.  “Well.  I’d be very happy to give you a crash course sometime, Hermione.  I haven’t seen my Severus look so good in … well, maybe ever , and I can only conclude you’ve had something to do with that.”

Hermione blushed.  Well, yes, but not like that, she thought, but what she said was, “Oh, gracious, you’re too kind.  Em.  What else did you enjoy in school?”

Eileen smiled dreamily.  “Oh, of all the things I miss, what most often comes to mind is the books.  Severus… well, he spelled the magical library that came with this house so that Tobias couldn’t, well, disorder it, but most of my own school books had to be hidden or they’d end up on the fire.”  She sniffled, then gathered herself again.  “I have been trying to bring some order, and do some simple repairs.  Somehow Sev found my wand and stuck it in there, too - I hadn’t seen it in ages but it’s amazing how things come back.”

Hermione grinned.  “I’d love to see that, perhaps at a better time.” 

Eileen lit up, standing almost straight.  “Would you indeed?  Are you a fellow Ravenclaw, then?”

Hermione blinked in surprise - she’d thought Eileen might have been a Slytherin.  “Em, the sorting hat was rather perplexed in my case, but I ended up in Gryffindor.”

Eileen peered at her thoughtfully.  “Well.  It might take someone like you to sort out my Sev.  I have to say, Slytherin wasn’t as good for him as I thought.  I think he fell in with a dark crowd, and I can’t say I liked it one bit.”

Hermione pasted the inquiring smile on her face, but she doubted it met her eyes.  Lady, if you only knew.   “Em, oh, I can’t say it’s come up, really - this is all still quite new.”

Eileen glanced at her watch, then seemed to determine something.  “We’ve an hour before the service, and it’s only a five minute drive.  I don’t think I could take loitering there any longer than necessary, Hermione. Might you do me the favor of letting me show you the library now?”

Severus abruptly banished the little kissy faces he was making at the kitten, who was sprawled out over his chest and touching her nose to his, as his mother and Hermione walked in.  But he knew it was too late by the mischief in those damnably warm brown eyes.   

But they almost immediately sank to Aphrodite.  “Mrs. Norris!” she cried out, taking in the cat.

Eileen turned to her in puzzlement, “I beg your pardon, dear?”

Hermione stalled a fraction of a second before shaking her head, affecting bashfulness.  “Em, so sorry, Eileen - I thought I saw a novel I loved in my childhood.  Silly me!  It’s just a grimoire on gardening tricks for potioneering,” she said, picking up a tome on the library table near Severus’s chair.

Aphrodite flicked her tail a little, her eyes narrowing, as if she heard and resented the untruth.  

Severus tssked at her, finding himself surprisingly worried about the woman and the cat not getting along.  

Hermione approached the cat, who looked quite young and uncharacteristically happy, with caution she could tell was being reflected right back at her.  She missed Crooks - Crooks would know what to do.

“You must be Artemis!  I’ve heard a great deal about you, too,” she said, extending a couple fingers for the feline to imperiously sniff.

Snape looked down at the cat with knitted brows.  “Artemis, Hermione is the one who reminded me that cats don’t like shows of bad temper and that I should try petting you rather than forgetting to close the door when I had that bad night, last week.  You should be grateful to her high regard for your welfare.”

Miraculously, this seemed to make the cat look upon Hermione with a bit more magnanimity.  Hesitantly, she butted her cheek up against the outstretched fingers and suffered her head to be scritched.  

Hermione, meanwhile, though, Oh Godric, you are so lucky you didn’t end up with Filch.

Followed rapidly by, Oh sweet Salazar’s salty balls, how the fuck is Filch going to survive without Mrs. Norris?

She took a deep breath.  Sufficient unto the day.  Sufficient unto the day.

Then, she looked up brightly.  “I’d love to see what you’re working on in here, Eileen!  We do still have a little while before we ought to go!”

Severus glanced up at her, his thoughts characteristically unreadable.  “I’ll fetch some tea here, then.”

Artemis weaved around his ankles without either tripping or slowing him as he strode down the hall, presumably toward the kitchen.  

When he returned, there was only just time for a cup, so he set about fixing them.  When he got to Hermione’s, however, he stopped.  

And thought a moment, a faint smirk forming.  

“Hermione, darling, how would you like your tea?”

Her head swiveled to him in the haste of shock, her eyes wide.  He made a point of returning her gaze quite blandly.  

“Em… half a teaspoon of sugar, dash of milk, thanks,” she replied.  

Eileen, who’d been interrupted in her explanation of the hybrid system she’d been using to organize the modest but reputable collection of tomes in the house, planted her hands on her hips and looked down her long nose at her son.  “You hadn’t yet sussed that out?  I’ve half a mind to write you a list of things you ought to know about the lady in your life, silly son of mine.”

Severus shifted in his seat, on unfamiliar ground, and thought a moment before he spoke.  “Please do.  I would like to be more attentive, but may lack some wherewithal I’d be glad for you to impart, mother.”

Hermione stood behind Eileen, her head cocked with a look of confusion on her face.  He stifled a chuckle, and she saw it, glowering, though her smile was firmly back in place by the time his mother turned back to her.  “Let’s have a cuppa, then - we have to leave soon.”

Eileen had asked, as they filed into the front row of dingy folding chairs, if it would be alright for her to sit in the middle.  

Hermione’d said of course (of course).  

The older but still-young woman had clutched her hand on one side and her son’s on the other’s throughout the mundane, humdrum service, reclaiming her hands only to wipe at her ever-tearing eyes. 

Hermione had seen the bruises that still stood testament to the relationship she’d had with her husband when helping her dress.  She fell into a sort of dark reverie, trying to imagine what they must both be thinking.

When she looked over at Severus, his jaw had been fixed and his eyes gazed steadily at some fixed point ahead - one that seemed to be far beyond the wall that enclosed the room they sat in.  

Also in attendance were the local barmen and a few former colleagues from odd jobs turned drinking partners, along with some of their wives.  

The man in the coffin was handsome and lighter in coloring than his wife and son - but his face betrayed the capillary damage that often accompanied a long-term heavy drinking habit, and his knuckles, on the hands folded over his heart, were abraded as if he’d hit things.  

Habitually.

Hermione felt the world shrink to a sucking sort of grayness she sometimes felt around Dementors, or when listening to Harry recount summers denied food, locked away by the Dursleys.  Her heart hurt as she realized that this depth was almost certainly where Severus had grown up.  

She started as she realized Severus’ head had swivelled, and that his fathomless black eyes were staring directly at her.

She was too fucking loud .

Severus settled his father’s tab with the barman as discreetly as possible, watching Hermione hold onto his mother’s arm as well-wishers approached her.  Seeming to understand, she’d made certain Eileen had been looking elsewhere when the money changed hands.

Severus was tiring of this understanding .  Of the peaceful look on the old fucker’s dead damned face.  Of the mourners who came more because they were habitually pious or maudlin more than because they’d known his mother or, really, his father at all.  

The barman, cheered to be paid, was next in line to offer his condolences to the widow, now.  Would they all like to come by the pub after to drink a toast to the old man, on the house?  His mother wept in gratitude and assented.  She’d walk over with the others - it was just across the street.

He couldn’t stand it.

Severus appeared at her elbow.  

“Darling, might you help me in gathering up the flowers and the photographs to take back to the house, before we join the others at the public house?”

Hermione looked up at him from helping her mother fix her mascara, nodding.  “Oh, of course.”

Eileen looked up, seizing her son in an awkward hug.  “Oh, Severus.  Take your time.  I know you didn’t always get on.  I don’t think he always got on with anyone.”  She sniffled, pulling back.  “I’ve five offers of supper and a ride home - you needn’t come on this next leg if you don’t wish it.  I know the smell of beer makes you sick.”

Severus looked at Eileen for a long moment and then nodded.  “Thank you.  I’ll think about it.”

Hermione could sense more at play but wasn’t yet sure what as they gathered a few sparse family photos and small bouquets, placing them all in a box provided by the funeral director.  The director smiled and said he’d go over to join them all in a pint - and he was sure they’d be alright saying a private goodbye if they wished, but that the doors would lock after them when they departed.

Severus nodded stiffly and then cast a look back at Hermione, who was standing by the cloakroom, watching.  

“My dear,” he said as the middle-aged director looked on with a twinkle in his eye, “Let me help you on with your coat.”

She heard the door to the outside closing as she stepped into the small cloakroom, running her thumb over the black lapel of his overcoat before she turned to pick up her new jacket.

But before she reached it, like a snarling storm, Severus had stepped in behind her and slammed her back into the wall.  

“Do not pity me,” he seethed, holding her eyes with his, the edge of surprise and perhaps a bit of fright in them  somehow only drawing him closer.  

“Severus,” she said, her brow furrowing, the fear fading into understanding, “I know what he was!  I saw the-”

The bruises on her, her thought lept to him even as he smothered the words with his mouth crashing down over hers.  The pain in you.  How badly you need to be loved - loved above others, which even your mother-

He tore his tongue from her mouth, panting and pinning her to the wall.  “Leave her out of it.  She can’t help what she is.  It’s not her fault.”

Hermione panted up at him, the thought projecting clearly. She should have tried.

He growled, raking his hands roughly down to free her breasts, pulling them above the low neckline of her dress and squeezing their perfection greedily in his hands, pinching the delicate erect nipples until she cried out and feeling a grim satisfaction as her head lolled back.  He bit down roughly on her pulse point at her neck, feeling a shiver of fear and desire rising off of her.  It was making him so fucking hard.  He had never been so hard in his life, he thought, laving the bruises left by his teeth with his tongue and grinding his erection into her to show her before worrying her neck with a long, hard suck.  

He felt her reasonable objections melting, some out of desire, some out of sympathy, pity.

He pulled his mouth clear, grabbing her chin and turning her face to his, making her meet his eyes. 

“I find I need to be loved now , Hermione,” he told her, pleased by the level coldness he heard in his tone.  “I’m going to fuck you.  I’ve cast quieting spells.  You may scream as much as you like. Are you ready for me to proceed?”

Stilling, she gave him an unfathomable look and a tight nod. 

He felt the grim smile settle on his lips.  He’d fuck her clear of this pity before the night was through.  He’d fuck her to crawling and mewling and moaning only his name.  She was his , now.

She shivered.  He wasted no time in shoving her skirt up, fingers pausing appreciatively at her garters (she’d intended those for Sirius, if anyone, to discover), before he yanked the gusset of her knickers aside, unfastened his pants, and drove into her with a moan.  

She could feel the wall behind her back crack as he ploughed her, each thrust a lesson in carnal brutality, his fingers reaching around under her hips to pull her delicate labia aside with such force it felt he meant not just to give himself unfettered access but to tear her in two.  

Then, the pounding of his cock not slowing, one of his hands was at her face, pinching her nose and covering her mouth.  She was startled by this for a moment until she realized she couldn’t breathe.

Then, she kicked, fought, looked into his eyes with alarm and rebuke as she pushed at him, projected a litany of Why?  Who in the hell taught you to do this like this ? Severus I will never let you again if you don’t talk about this like a bloody adult! and he yielded not an inch, and when she scratched bloody furrows in his stomach under his shirt and the pistoning of his hips only quickened.  He only smiled grimly at her.

“Wait for it, Hermione.  You’ll feel it soon.”

Fuck, he’s going to suffocate me, she thought, panicking, the edges of her sight going black and a sort of unearthly euphoria permeating her. Does he have any notion of how to stop in time?, her last truly cogent thought, evaporated from her. Suddenly floating, feeling her desire to flail herself free ebb, she didn’t think she’d really been dying before, not really hallucinating some end-of-life fix to all the problems of her life’s narrative.  She thought this, now, might really be dying .  

Somehow, it made her a little giddy.

As if he’d been waiting to see the smile her mouth could not express finally reach her eyes, he let go, letting her take in a long, ragged breath as his hand darted down and… 

Grabbed her swollen, abraded clit and pinched .   Hard.  

She came screaming, terrified, gushing.  Her knees collapsed - but it didn’t matter, because he didn’t care, didn’t care she was rubbed raw and bruised, oversensitive, not supporting her own weight, recovering from something she had believed was either a near death or a near life experience.  Unrelenting, he just kept fucking, and fucking, and fucking her, his every crashing volley pushing her up the wall as far as she’d fallen since the last.

She’d come as he knew she would.  Yes, she seems so like Lily, he thought.   But this beauty, this mind, this I can pull down into the cold and dark and the pain with me.  

He could not get enough of her.  He kept pulling back his own imminent ejaculation to pull her farther down, down.  Into that animalistic place.  That place where bad things happened but all you wanted was to feel, so hard the pain and pleasure mingled into a startling new heat. 

She’d been wet when she came, just like he’d imagined.  His trousers were soaked.  He wondered how many more times he could make her.  He resolved to learn.

Hermione had lost track of how long it had been long ago, let alone all the things they’d done together.  She was on the hard floor and the tip of his cock was sliding against the sticky wet inside of her upper thigh as the base of it thrust through his hand.  

His other clenched fist, meanwhile, thrust into her poor, beleaguered pussy in the same time.  She wondered if she’d ever unstretch from this assault.  It didn’t feel like it, but she was so obliterated, so inside out and so blissed to death, it felt good.  Maybe his hand would always fuck her.  Maybe the muscles of her delicate walls would always spasm and jump at the scrape of his knuckles as they railroaded past.  

“Would you like more, Hermione?  Shall I keep going?  There are more... things we can do.”

She looked up at him through tear-blurred eyes and shuddered.  He’d cast some sort of spell, and it was as if a third  hand was over her nose and mouth again and she didn’t know what she’d say even if she could speak. It didn’t even occur to her to project a thought now.  

He punched into her, harder, faster.  “Or should I come on, or perhaps in you, and let you go?  I think I’ve earned my turn, don’t you?  My turn to get you wet? To drench you?”

She nodded slightly, bearing down on his punishing fist to feel it burn more.

“Tccch… good girl.  Not so powerless now, either of us.”

She tried, but couldn’t remember what he was talking about.  The dark was building again. 

Kneeling over her with her head bumping the wall, her ass and lower back up on his thighs, and her shoulder blades on the floor, he pummeled her such that she thought the pine planks beneath her would snap.  Her neck bent awkwardly and  joints all over her body that never had before cracked.  Her insides burned as the friction built, kindling fires within, making her distantly wonder if she should feel ashamed to have allowed this.

Then force blocking her breath was gone and he was crying out her name, bucking into his on hand wildly, his other hand opening, fingers spreading  inside her as her breasts, her stomach were wetted with a spatter of his semen, and she sucked in a long gasp then screamed , her voice hitching and failing, her back arching so high she toppled off him onto her side, everything going white…

And then everything went black.

He lowered her into the steaming froth of the tub slowly, then climbed in after her, pulling her onto his lap before he took up the flannel he’d already soaked in a salve of murtlap, dittany, and a few rarer ingredients from his personal stores.  The Wiggenweld potion he’d tipped down her throat was already doing its work - he saw the marks his teeth had left all over her fading into nothing, saw the love bites he’d sucked into her skin lifting away.

He wished he could leave just one.

Shuddering with that thought, he reached the flannel down between her legs, angling her hips above the water’s surface, and devoured the sight of the swelling going down, gently working a corner of the cloth up into her first here, then there, with long, clever fingers, and feeling her shift in her daze as she healed.  

She was coming around now - as she hadn’t on the drive back to the house, or in the Floo black to his rooms in the castle’s dungeon.  Hadn’t as he’d carefully, methodically undressed her and mended the tears in her clothes. He wanted her to feel whole walking away from him (and he wanted to see her wear it all again and remember).

He let her hips submerge again and smoothed the flannel over the still bruise-tinged tips of her breasts, much sucked and not unbitten, returning them to a less altered sort of beauty.  He passed a clean bit of the cloth over his own lip, where he’d bit too hard in the aftermath of his chaotic climax, drawing blood.  

He'd lain there with her, gazing at her, giving her the potion and checking her body for anything more superficial injury, stroking her tense muscles into restfulness, for her didn't know how long after. He wished he could have talked to her - he could have woken her, but she was exhausted. Wanted to wake her, but he thought he'd already taken too much.

He didn't know why she'd let him, and a small, vulnerable part of him anticipated her eventual disgust. Wrath. Horror. Disdain. And that part of him mourned something who'd become… a friend.

Her eyes were focusing now, and swiveling around to his.  He braced himself, trying to get his armor into place. Her voice, a moment later, was a rasp.  “Severus."

"Hermione," he murmured in reply, quiet and sad.

Her gaze found him and rested balefully. "You’re meant to have specific, explicit consent, especially for breath play, and a safe word for any of that, you ignorant bastard.”

He blinked down at her, taken aback with the… itemized objections… and wondering if this was when she’d slap him, or if this was when she’d run.  Merlin I think it would kill me if she cried; maybe it would be for the best.  Cry and set me free, Hermione. Everything, everything about me is wrong. He hadn’t been inducted into the arts he’d subjected her to in circles where any of those things were expected, but he shuddered to think of her soft flesh subject to any of the Dark Lord’s little parties, and wondered what better ways might exist.

She did slap him, her calendula-scented foam-covered hand turning his head hard and fast, leaving him tasting blood - his own, this time. 

He felt grateful for it, somehow. It felt the opposite of shunning him. 

But she didn’t go.  She lay there in his arms, assessing her healing body with sought movements, cradled in his arms as if he were a prince who’d rescued her, not the dragon who had burned her down.

After letting it pool for a long moment, he quietly bent and spat the blood onto the flannel that had already served its purpose, then looked down at her, primed to feel the loss, the regret when she fled.  Ready for the rebuke, the condemnation.  Wanting her to hurry up and hate him so he could go on. Go on with the desolate life he know how to live, or to rush to its end. Because ultimately, was he any better… any better than…

He couldn't even finish the thought, and it disgusted him with himself.

But she… she looked up at him with that damnable cleverness she wielded so casually, cutting this and gutting that.  “Do you feel better now?”  she asked quietly.  Her throat already must be healed - the rasp was almost gone.

Blinking in surprise, he was caught off guard enough to wonder - well, did he?

Maybe, now that you've asked me that?

After a long moment, looking down at the vulnerable, formidable, beautiful, fucking defiant woman across his lap, he nodded.  “Yes.  I do.”

She shook her head, sighing.  “You need to know that I gave you this.”

He felt his face distorting from its mask of calm but couldn’t pull it back.  “... what?” he asked, quiet, hearing his voice break.

She moved then, sitting up sideways on his lap and pulling his chin up to make him look at her.  “I gave you this.”

He shuddered, trying to look away.  

She brutally whipped his head around, not letting him take his eyes from hers, shifting to sit astride him so he couldn't shake her off.  “Severus, look at me.  It was a gift. You were miserable at properly asking but you tried, and I said yes and I was able - perhaps save for one point which we will later discuss - to revise that position. You were miserable at properly asking, but you were also just miserable - of course you were - and you would accept no softer comfort so I let you take it rough.”

He flinched.  He was not prepared for this and it burned him.  

She sighed, then lent down and, so gently, she kissed him.  

It broke him into splinters.

By the time she’d slowly stroked his lips open with her tongue, he was crying convulsively beneath her.  He both returned her kiss with an eager innocence completely unlike the man who’d demolished her earlier and clearly couldn’t get enough air to sustain him through his sobs without her relinquishing his mouth.  

He wept so quietly when she did, despite the violence with which it wracked his body. She folded her arms around him and coaxed his ear close to press to the constant thrum of her heart in her chest, holding him there. 

A tear or two of her own fell.

Eventually, his shaking arms snaked around her waist, awkward, as if unsure of their welcome, but, after some hesitant minutes passed, they’d gradually wratchetted tight, until he held her for dear life while she watched over him, eyes and nose streaming, dissolving in unselfconscious pain.

She picked up the same blood-marked flannel he’d used on her to wipe his face clean from time to time and just held him.

He couldn’t stop crying and crying and crying, shaking so hard she worried his bones would be reduced to powder before he could reign it all back.  When last, but when Lily Evans Potter died, had Severus Snape been allowed to cry? And now that he'd let himself, what hope or reassurance could recall him?

Sighing, she reached down between them and took him in hand.

His head shot up, his hands flying back and pinning themselves, open, palms facing her in surrender, against the tub’s edge.  His eyes met hers with bald shock.

She gathered him up and stroked him down.  And again.  She felt his pulse there as he swelled to her touch.

He looked anguished, mouth trying and failing to find words as his eyes, reluctant to leave hers, nevertheless rolled back, and a moan rose from his throat as she glided forward, and, giving him a moment to meet her eyes through his tears, guiding him into her.

He sobbed with frantic questions on his face as he slid home and, thighs firm around his hips, she started to move over him.  

She shook her head, pulling one of his arms back around her waist, placing the other hand cupped beneath her breast.  “I am giving you this, too, Severus.  You do need love, and I will give it to you tonight.  I will show it to you.  I am not the solution to your problems, but I might be able to show you something on the other side of this. I am my own problem, and no one’s solution, for now. I would like to help you seek peace, though, as I think you may have never have done when I knew you last.”

She bit her lip, then, as he sank to a deep, resonant place.  “Yessss… like that,” she heard her own voice purr.

She wondered if he’d ever given anyone else power over him without winding up hurt as he shuddered, burying a kiss between her breasts.

And she quickened, determined to ride him hard enough to send him to a peaceful sleep.  She’d be there for when the nightmares came to call, tonight - she had already decided that.  She’d love him with whatever parts of her he needed.  She’d take care of him.

And then she’d really take a bath and let herself cry - for him, because of him, for Sirius, for the havoc bad men wrecked on whoever they could master.  For Remus and the pain he must have felt when she ran. For herself for the idiocy of wanting to fix everyone. For Harry, orphaned so young he’d only be able to remember his parents under the torturous influence of dementors, and then only at their worst.  

For her Harry, who might be somewhere frantic with worry, trying to get her back.  For her Ron , who’d be right there beside him, no matter what had transpired between the two of them.  

She shifted her hips, taking the sobbing Severus deeper, flexing her thighs faster.

For herself .

Not much longer, then… and then… she cried out, her back bowing, her soul in flight.

Chapter Text

NOVEMBER 13, 1981 - HOGWARTS SCHOOL OF WITCHCRAFT AND WIZARDRY

Hermione sat at the large round table, this second time, as though a loud noise might frighten her away.  Every time the door opened, she jumped, then gathered herself to greet whoever had come in and resume jotting things down in her notebook as they awaited the time the Order meeting would officially start.  

That would be at 7:30 AM.  She’d gotten here, tired and still wet from every manner of perfume and bubbles known to the Prefect’s Bath, two hours early.  

Around 7:15 AM, Severus came in, raising an eyebrow at her anxious twitch as she looked at the door.  He started as if to come sit next to her, but, as if considering the tension oozing off of her, elected to backtrack a step, sitting directly across from her and peering at her intently whenever her focus was elsewhere instead.

She, ever the quick study, assiduously avoided all eye contact with him.

It was 7:28, and all the others were seated, including Albus and a weary, thoughtful-looking Minerva, when Sirius and Remus strode in together, an animated conversation trailing off as they entered the room and called cheery hellos to all.  

Which was just unsettling , in light of everything from Hermione’s increasing certainty that her only recourse was to throw herself from a tower or start shopping for the right nunnery. Neither of which she had time for at present.  

Of course, the bastards had to sit on either side of her.

She did look up at Minerva then, as if to say, ARE THESE BASTARDS BLOODY KIDDING ME?

The Transfiguration professor sat back, startled, and then arched a brow, looking around to figure out what she’d missed.

Hermione rolled her eyes and shook her head, leaning back in her chair with her arms folded.

Then, Dumbledore cleared his throat, glancing around with an edge of amusement sparkling in his eyes.  “Ah, what a joy it is, in difficult times, to be surrounded by energetic young people.”

Minerva pursed her lips, but most of those around the table smiled and nodded agreeably.  Severus, shockingly, gave a little, dark chuckle.

Letting his little smirk fall into a benign smile, Albus cleared his throat.  “To business, then.  I understand that arrangements have been made for young Harry?”

Oh, dear , Hermione thought, standing up shakily and preparing for a serious dip in her popularity.  

She slid a sheaf of papers across the table to Arabella Figg.  “Em, Arabella, I found a village in Scotland with a cat rescue that needs a new afterhours resident - there’s a small cottage on the grounds, and you’d essentially just need to live there and be present in case of emergency.  I thought… I thought it might suit you, and I hope it does, because I’ve also found you a job nearby during the day, if you’ll take it. Seems far nicer than Little Whinging to me, but, well. Em. Doubtless you all have noticed a third and, to Alice and Frank’s credit, increasingly well-adjusted baby among us this last week.  This baby… is Harry’s mother’s blood-nephew, and he and Harry, who will be thought of as fraternal twins by their new parents, are going tomorrow to live with their elder sister… me.”

A sea of eyes blinked up at her.  “Em, this time’s me, who is not quite a year their senior.  Hermione, Henley (ne Dudley), and Harry Garnier.” She shrugged.  “They’d wanted one more - I think my parents will manage with three.”

There was  a sea of questions, most of which Severus was kind enough to answer. Hermione spent a long while watching Sirius clearly measure out his breaths - but also shoot her a sad little smile, as if to let her off the hook somehow. 

On her other side. Remus had seized her hand, giving her a slight but encouraging nod.

She stalwartly didn’t melt into hysterical laughter.

“So, when does this … family reunion… occur, then?” asked Alastor, glancing about.  

Hermione nodded.  “On Sunday - er, the day after tomorrow - I’m meant to show up with Harry and Henley.  I’m their godmother, you see, and -”

“- and as their godfather , of course, I will be accompanying my beloved fiance to regale the boys’ parents with tales of their exploits during our two week vacation together, and to give my regards to young Hermione Garnier, named after the aforementioned godmother and fiance, for the loan of her brothers,” Sirius interjected smoothly.  

Severus sat forward, but didn’t seem to be able to figure out how to insert himself, to his chagrin.

Hermione smiled a tinge too brightly, she already knew, as she sat forward.  “Em, Arabella, if you’d like to help them move in or just come by to say hello, that’d be grand, too.  Em, Alastor, I’m sure you’ll want to see the wards and give them a few kicks - you could be my dad, if you’d like, who we were staying with in the Highlands?  Em, with a patch, though.” 

Moody was already nodding in approval, pleased to have been considered and included.  “And a very proud papa I am indeed, though this scamp of a future son-in-law needs an eye kept on.”

Hermione nodded.  “Em, and… er, perhaps, Albus, you could be Arabella’s… Arabella’s…”

“-Doting elder brother should do, I would think,” he supplied lightly.  Arabella blushed and ducked her head, but Hermione didn’t think this was the time to tell her about dear old Gellert. Lord, she hoped he'd loved someone saner since.

“Em, and… and… Well, Remus and Severus, you could be a charming couple we met at a Cèilidh!”

The two looked at each other, then her.  The room was rather quiet.

Sirius picked up her hand.  “Of brothers .”  He laughed gregariously.  “A couple of brothers , of course.  Not that you’ll charm my lovely fiancee from me anytime soon, and don’t think I haven’t seen the covetous glances!” he joked, hopefully not noticing the ice in Severus’s eyes or the way Remus’s hand clamped down on her fingers just over her far armrest.  

Minerva rolled her eyes.  “And I’ll be a stray cat.  Right then.  That’s that. No more covers, I'm bored.” She shook out her shoulders and started handing around bound reports.  “Moving along, I’m distributing files detailing the capture of Peter Pettigrew, who Ms. Granger and I apprehended and who is now in Azkaban.  The particulars are disturbing, and as,” she huffed, “ love is in the air, I’ll leave you to review them or not at a later point.”

Minerva skewered them all over her glasses in a way so much more like her than most of what Hermione had seen lately that she nearly clapped - not that her hands were her own at present.  But then the older woman resumed speaking.

“You should all be aware that I will be taking some much-needed time off to pursue some personal projects, not least of which is getting myself straight after too bloody much death and mourning for anyone to have to bear in so short a time.  If you don’t know the details, please know that Ms. Granger saved me from making an unforgivable mistake during the apprehension of Mr. Pettigrew - and that I do not presently consider myself fit for field work or, more taxingly, teaching .  It is because of Hermione's good judgement and her stellar academic and practical skill that I would like to recommend she teach the remainder of the year’s classes in Transfiguration.”

Hermione blinked, belatedly closing her mouth.  “Em… I…”

Dumbledore nodded decisively, his smile beatific.  “Ah!  An excellent plan!  Ms. Granger, I will see to it you get a contract at once.  Is Monday too soon for you to start?  What with the Wizengamot and several unexpected staffing changes that have come up since Samhain, I fear I’m a bit more overextended than I’d thought I would be.”

Hermione wondered if one’s eyes could ever be pushed out of their sockets with incredulity.  

Then Sirius gave her hand a reassuring squeeze - and when she looked over at him, he met her with an encouraging smile.

Across the table she saw Severus roll his eyes and look elsewhere, fuming.

“Em, I would like a week to review Minerva’s lesson plans and notes, sir.”  Then, blinking, she shook her head free of cobwebs to ask.  “What other staffing changes, sir? And is there a common reason?  Leaving midyear is unusual, is it not?”

“Yes!” Dumbledore said, looking wounded.  “And it says plainly in their annual contracts that I cannot recommend them for other academic postings or knit them socks for Yule in the year of a breach!”  He shook his head, reminding Hermione for a moment of the few words he said at her first Sorting Feast.  “But it seems that several members of the faculty and staff were holding on to their posts with a mind to sit out the war in what they supposed to be the safest place possible.  I suppose that says good things about us,” he mused thoughtfully for a moment, but then shook his head.  “Since then, however, I’ve had resignations from our Librarian, our Muggle Studies professor, and even the caretaker! I have some resumes filed, but really, how the rats do flee a floating ship!” 

Hermione was thinking.  This… hmmm.  This was bloody brilliant.   A wide grin started to spread over her face.  

“Ms. Granger, would you care to let us know what you’re thinking?” Minerva said.  “I see gears moving.”

Hermione beamed.  “We’re going to fix it all.  We’re going to make the changes that need to be made.  And we’re going to start it - all of it - with Hogwarts.”

Chapter Text

NOVEMBER 14, 1981

It was a little after midnight, and after 17 hours of hashing things through, Hermione saw that look in the others’ eyes (well, other than the delighted Dumbledore) that meant they were all plotting her untimely demise.  She was so excited - this was the last phase of resistance before they would all give in!

“C’mon, people, you know I’m right about this!” she exclaimed, bouncing on her toes.  Remus and Sirius were now huddled together, plotting, rather than corralling her, and Dumbledore kept nodding to himself and absently murmuring “Yes!  Quite so!  Quite so!”

“Let’s just get everything finalized and summarized for the notes! Dinner and whatever you’d like to drink’s on me at the Three Broomsticks, just as soon as we’re done!”

She dodged to the side but reached out to catch Moody’s eye as it went hurtling past her ear.  “Alastor, come now!  That’s hardly sanitary or collegial.  And imagine what you’d do if it broke!”

The veteran Auror banged his forehead against the table repeatedly, then looked up with a wail.  “But I don’t want to teach!”

Hermione shrugged. “But you’ll be damned good at it and if you take some time off from the Ministry, I suspect it’ll add years to your tenure there!  Right after the war your paranoia mounted to such an extent that it scared the hell out of your colleagues, and while you were probably right about everything, let’s not dangle an excuse to put softer Aurors at the helm under leadership’s noses, shall we?”

She walked over and rubbed his shoulders, which tensed, flinching away.  “Go away,” he grumbled. 

“Oh, Alastor, please just imagine it - haven’t you always wanted a world in which more people understood danger like you?  This is your chance - you start with all the youth of England, Scotland, and Ireland!”

He cast her a sidewise look, mouth twitching.  “Alright, alright, so it’s a good idea,” he groused, snatching his eye from the hand with which she held it out to him.  “But I’m allowed to be grumpy about it.”

Dumbledore shook his head appreciatively.  “I must say, Hermione, if Minerva continues to insist on not being my likely successor, you would make quite an excellent -”

“-I don’t want to be Headmistress!” Hermione insisted.

“-quite an excellent Supreme Mugwump,” Dumbledore finished, unruffled.  “Oh, how I would pay to watch you subject the Underwump from Brazil to a meeting like this.  Oh, it gives me little shivers,” he concluded, his smile dreamy.

Hermione shook her head.  “Maybe let’s keep it to the Minister of Magic - wouldn’t want me too big for my britches, would we?” she said sarcastically.  

Dumbledore merely nodded.  “Oh, perhaps, perhaps.  I tremble to think what education reform you could achieve from that seat, truly! Wrangling the Wizengamot is irksome business, mind, but you wouldn’t have to try to reason with MACUSA!”

She shook her head.  “Alright, so. Alastor will join Sirius in teaching Defense Against the Dark Arts, giving each of them something more like a reasonable load - and us all a chance to confound the curse Riddle put on the position by structurally outwitting it.”  

Around the table, weary sighs.

So she continued.  “There should be no structural difficulty - there are a half dozen DADA classrooms with faculty quarters to match, so they will even be able to have courses at the same time, significantly decreasing the complication of scheduling starting in the next school year.”

Sirius raised his hand timidly. “Hermione, now, I’ve only committed to one year, and-”

She scowled and cut him off.  “-And you’re perfect and you love it.  You’re adored.  Alastor will be adored too, but differently.  You, who will age quite well, thanks, will be winner of so many Witch Weekly smile award things your head will spin, more beloved with every generation that passes through these halls.”

Sirius held up his hands in surrender and she nodded.  Damn right you surrender.  Now, who’s next?

“Ah!  And the school, which both richly needs one for the wellbeing of its children and faculty and which is well positioned to lead the way in normalizing the field in this time of great trauma and recovery, will hire this woman, Charity Burbage, as its first Mind Healer!  She applied to become the Muggle Studies teacher for lack of work in her chosen field, in which she is well trained to work side by side with Poppy Pomfrey to see to everyone’s wellbeing.  Remus will be her apprentice and help her with, what I suspect, will rapidly become a large workload as she and her field become trusted by our students and colleagues.”

Remus shot her a wan smile, nodding.  “I hope you aren’t just constructing this opportunity to help me, Hermione, because I have to say it sounds like a ruddy good idea even if I’m ten miles away from it, helping you teach Transfiguration or something.”

Hermione shrugged.  “I suspect you’d be very good at that, but also that Severus and I,” she paused as the Potions Master radiated approbation from his seat, “will each assist in the search for counterpart teachers ourselves.”  

She shook her head and looked away from the dark eyes boring into her.   “Em, and Hagrid will be apprenticed to Professor Kettleburn - a move that could hardly be disputed after he helps to solve the true mystery of the Chamber of Secrets and clear his name,” 

“-WHAT?!” chorused from around the room, but Hermione waved the interruption off, “Oh, hush, it can wait until next Christmastime, and I don’t think there’s time to do it tomorrow - ah, yes!”  She looked up again.  “And Eileen Prince will go into hiding here at Hogwarts as Madam Pince, Librarian, so that no repercussions from Death Eaters suspecting Severus was a triple agent could fall on her.”

Dumbledore beamed.  Severus groaned.  

Hermione shook her head.  “I’m missing things.  What haven’t I tampered with yet?”

Dumbledore looked up from his notes.  “Em.  Let me look… ah!”  He read through the half-moon glasses perched on the end of his nose. “Flying and Quidditch?”

Hermione nodded.  “We should hire a Veela or flight-capable half Veela, a sentient magical being born to flying, to co-teach with Madam Hooch.”

“Hmm,” Dumbledore said.  “Arithmancy?”

Hermione shook her head.  “There’s a young, ambitious goblin by the name of Griphook who works at Gringotts in Diagon Alley.  He’s a wickedly capable Arithmancer.  We should see if he could be tempted to co-teach with Professor Sinestra.  There are several Goblin-made items wasting away in the Room of Hidden Things we could use to sweeten the salary.”  She paused thoughtfully.  “Em, just don’t touch any of the headgear.”

Dumbledore chuckled, putting down the list.  “Divination?”

Hermione was pacing in her excitement now, exulting in the intellectual burn and the rhythm of the conversation.  “Hire a centaur!  There’s always a member of the herd who’s on the outs with the others in the Forbidden Forest, and they’re good people who actually know some things they can explain, unlike Trelawney, who has a talent she can’t understand.”

“Herbology?”  

Hermione shrugged, “Are there no wood nymphs?”

“Charms?”

She let out a long, raspberry, annoyed she didn’t have a ready solution.  “Might have to post that one.”

“History of Magic?”

Hermione raised an eyebrow at him.  “Albus, I’m not a miracle worker here - but we can try to talk about it, and get Binns to include the recent war in his ungodly lectures, at least.  Maybe we could bring Bathilda Bagshot in to overhaul the curriculum and oversee hiring - hell, maybe she’d like to teach.  She’d be safer here anyway.”

Dumbledore looked a little concerned for a moment, but decided to table that remark for later, picking up the list again.  “Em… the Caretaker?”

Hermione shook her head.  “Should be elected from among the Castle’s elves, by the Castle’s elves.  They’re doing the work anyway.  Let the larger faculty and the prefects handle discipline instead of getting someone who says,” she picked up Argus Filch’s letter of interest, “‘I love kids, I do, an’ I’d love ta help ‘em be safe and tidy in the great school what is Hogwarts,’ and then paint a target on them for every troublemaker in the school and Peeves to boot.  They all end lobbying to use thumbscrews!”

Dumbledore nodded.  “And this,” he peered closer to his own writing, reading something back verbatim, “Grand Scheme to integrate Muggle and General Studies?”

Hermione nodded.   In some ways, this was her favorite part.  “Alright, kids, I think this is the end, so hang in with me just until we get through it, then fish and chips and whiskey for all!”  She took a deep breath, hardly hearing the tormented groans or Minerva’s snores.  “Nonmagical and Magical General Studies will be added as required curriculum areas for all subjects, to be team taught.  I highly recommend there be four constituent teaching positions.  On the Muggle Studies side, we need to hire people with first hand familiarity with both worlds, including this Mr. Filch, who loves children and is wizardborn but non-magical, and a certain Mr. Arthur Weasley, who works in Ministry’s Misuse of Muggle Artefacts Office.  I think they should both be scheduled for interviews immediately - and informed that a condition of taking it will be that at least one month each calendar year be spent living among Muggles, without magic.  The counterpart positions for Magical Studies should be held by people who expertly understand all aspects of the running of wizarding households, including domestic spells and Wizarding traditions.  I strongly recommend that at least one of the two be staffed by a house elf, and that the other be offered to Mrs. Molly Weasley.”

She took a breath.  Dumbledore had come up with popcorn and was on the edge of his seat.  Everyone else was glowering or asleep.  “These classes will sometimes be taught in double-tandem groups, in which, say, cooking and cleaning are explained from both Muggle and Magical standpoints.  The classes will mostly be broken out such that Muggleborns learn how magical households and traditions are kept, and wizards and witches from magical households learn how these same things work in the Muggle world.  Only understanding,” she thundered, bringing her fist down hard on the table, “can keep some other Voldemort from shattering our peace, even if he is vanquished!  Only fellowship with and respect of our Muggle and non-human brethren will keep mages from once again becoming a menace to each other and the rest of the world!”

She panted, looking around.  Dumbledore was clapping and spinning in circles in his chair, laughing.  The others were bleary and murderous or … oh, look, Severus had even fallen asleep.  

Dumbledore finally came to a dizzy halt.  “And, my dear?  Did you have anything else?”

She shook her head, feeling dizzy but triumphant.  

“Nothing, say, on the integration of literature, composition, non-magical mathematics…?”

She scowled at him.  “I’m tired.  Let’s figure that out later.  I need a drink.” 

Albus threw his head back and laughed, but he did stand up and set the chairs of the sleeping parties to jiggling with a twitch of his wand.  “Let’s take my Floo!  I think I’ll fall asleep walking otherwise.”

Everyone started getting up and ducking through the fire - except Alice, who’d waved Frank off ages ago and approached Hermione.  “I’m sure Frank got the elves to save something for me and I’m knackered - but you can count me in as a Transfiguration candidate if you’d like.  I’ve got a solid NEWT and I feel like I’ve fought enough for a lifetime in the last few years.  But Hermione, what about catching those last four Death Eating menaces so me and Frank can move on?”

Hermione smiled.  “Let’s talk about that with Dumbledore tomorrow, shall we?”

Chapter Text

Rosmerta kicked them back through the Floo at 2 AM.  But she had suffered them to eat shepherd’s pie first.  

Hermione stumbled out, absolutely knackered and a little punchy after two exhausting nights in a row and an all-day meeting of pure, exhilarating making-shit-better, which was her altered state of choice - and one she’d gotten a lot more circumspect about how to do effectively since SPEW.  

(not that she’d given up on SPEW, thanks, Ronald )

Anyway, she was thinking about all that and also, generally, Woo, I’m exhausted! when she tumbled out of the grate… and was caught in the act of falling over backward by Severus, whose gaze was dark, intense, and focused.

We need to talk.  

She jerked in his arms - she’d mostly been thinking This is such an ice dancing pose! and Oh shit oh shit oh shit panic!  hit the panic button, people, battle stations!  He had never projected a thought at her before, and this one's depth and clarity were precise and loud and extremely disconcerting.  

She smiled anxiously, stalling and trying to get her feet back under her.  She was not ready for that conversation, especially not from an actual, literal compromised and off-balance position.

Or, you know, at all .

But then… strong arms lifted her up with a comfortable but firm grasp on her upper arms, putting her back on her feet, though very much within the personal space of… 

“Oh, hello Remus!  The pie was excellent tonight, wasn’t it?”  Hermione squeaked brightly, darting her eyes up to his concerned, warm, territorial gaze and then over to Severus’s increasingly irate one, then flicking back and forth too quickly for either to quite burn her.  

She saw Sirius, over Remus’s shoulder, glancing at her predicament with a smirk before shaking his head and heading through the door to the hall where their little suites of rooms were.  

Severus’s.  Remus’s.  Sirius’s.  Severus’ Remus’ Sirius’?  DAMN these men and their bloody terminal esses! she thought, her gaze drifting toward some vague point in the distance as an expression of ire pursed her lips.  

By the time she’d shaken off the inane mental tangent, both men had stepped back a little - neither of them glowering at the other any longer, and both seeming a little wary of her.  

It seemed her expression had frightened them.

She couldn’t suppress the smirk, but she tried to minimize it.  Realizations that one has power when one has felt rather vulnerable can be rather invigorating like that.

But, all too quickly, she felt her advantage diminishing, and both men began, physically or ineffably, to lean toward her (and also their rival).

Then, the most miraculous thing happened.  

The wireless switched on, and some sort of stately old waltz was playing. Then,  suddenly, Albus swept her up in his arms and was leading her, 1 2 3! 1 2 3! 1 2 3! around his office.  

“Oh, Hermione, I cannot thank you enough!” he crowed.  “The faculty NEVER invites me to drinks anymore - I’m either too intimidating or too odd - which is it, do you think?  Ah, dash it, who cares -” he said, lifting her up the stairs to the higher bit where his desk sat and then spryly dashing up after her with a sparkling blue wink.  “The butterbeer was excellent and I do LOVE reforming education!  What a breath of fresh air you are!  I’ve never been so delighted to see the space-time continuum smashed to smithereens before in my life - and it’s been quite a long one, you know!”  

She laughed breathlessly, already too winded to do anything else as they went up more stairs, then spun and spun, Dumbledore humming along, then down and down and spin, spin, spin.  

Dumbledore definitely stepped on Snape’s foot intentionally as they passed the two gaping men, and then narrowly missed a dodging Lupin.

Dumbledore looked up from Hermione and waved them off with a twitch of his fingers from their joined hands.  “Off to bed, off to bed, you both, you look so terribly grumpy and tired!  We have much to do this weekend, you know!”

Then, he resumed humming, and they went twice around the office again, the aggrieved parties departing before the song stopped and Albus bowed over Hermione’s hand.  

“Mademoiselle, an unparalleled pleasure,” he said, smirking.  

She tried to catch her breath, beaming at him.  “Thanks for the rescue.” 

Dumbledore, doing her the great favor of not playing dumb, gave an airy little wave.  “Pssh, not at all.  They’re all of them so very pretty - if, well, messy .  I believe you will find Professor Black’s door open, if that information should prove useful to you.  Interesting, is it not, that he has opted not to move into the DADA quarters?”  He beamed.  “Do enjoy it all - ah , to be young again!”

Whereupon, smiling, he started to waltz alone around the office to the next song, twirling and throwing a great many more little tricks in as he hummed his way around, and she smiled and walked through the door to the hall.

She closed the door behind her, holding her still-short breath and endeavoring to move as quietly as she could.  She’d even cast a Muffliato on herself in the hall.  

Then, she looked up.  “Well, here I am, an utter disaster.  Which you can no doubt tell.  If you don’t want to call me a harlot and throw me out, em, how do you feel about snuggling?”

Sirius laughed softly and opened his arms.  She let herself fall into them gratefully.

“So,” he said after a long moment.  “Which of them is better in bed, out of curiosity?”

She punched him halfheartedly in the ribs and he halfheartedly feigned an attempt to squirm away, along with some indignation.  “I don’t know that.  I ran away from Lupin when he was all glowing in morning light-”

Sirius nodded, a dreamy look in his eyes, as he interjected, “Oh, yes, yes, he does do that.”

She shook her head at him, then continued, “And then I went to see Severus, thinking I could converse with a friend to calm myself, only his horrible abusive father -”

Sirius shook his head, interjecting again, “Maybe you do have a type.”

She shook her head more vigorously.  “Shush!  Look, his horrible abusive father had just died , he’d gotten in at horrible o’clock -”

Now he was kissing along her hairline.  “Oh, horrible o’clock, that’s even worse than awful o’clock,” he murmured into her skin.

“- AND he had gotten the funeral to happen the same day because he couldn’t stand to have it drawn out -”

He was kissing down her neck now, nodding, “Very, very relatable, yes, wish I’d done that very thing.”

“-and so of course I helped him get ready, then helped his mother get ready, and met his cat -”

“Ooo, that is serious!” he breathed onto her shoulder.  Then he looked up a moment.  “And I thought his hair looked better, you saucy little meddler!”

“-and after the funeral he’d felt me projecting, well, compassion , and he jumped me in the cloak room because he didn’t want pity and we had this unbelievably rough sex that I actually passed out from while he worked out his feelings -”

Sirius stood up suddenly from unfastening the front closure of her bra with his teeth - he’d somehow rucked her blouse up along the way.  “Are you alright?”  His eyes, boring into hers, were suddenly bright and clear and alert.  “Did he cause you any unwanted pain?  Do you need healing?  Do you need me to stop?”

Hermione drew in a deep breath, let it out slowly, and then absolutely exploded forward to kiss him, sending a lamp crashing to the floor before his back hit the sturdy, built-in bookshelves.

It was at least a minute of her aggression and his gentle response - clearly still intent on answers to his questions - before she mulishly stepped away, brushing a cuff over her wet, swollen lips.  

Thank you .  I… I consented broadly if less fully than I’d like… and I do care about him - and I enjoyed much of it - but I think, since he was too controlled to be ad libbing, that someone taught him from a perspective of taking and scaring, not consent, safe words, and - well, it’s all in your little red book and I’m sure you know.”

Sirius nodded, his eyes still sharp.  “Yes.  And if you plan to sleep with him again please make certain that he does too first, alright?”  

She just… she looked up at his grave, concerned face and felt something in her just… just uncoil as if it had been waiting to do so for a very, very long time.

“I will,” she promised.

He smiled softly and gave her a peck on the lips.  “Good. And you’re alright?”

She nodded. “I think he was trying to scare me away and felt half-awful about it.  He was in a very dark place.”

Sirius shook his head.  “Don’t care.  Doesn’t give him any rights where you’re concerned without you being 100% transparently into it and able to object at any time without fear of real harm, physical or emotional.” He shook his head. "None of us were models of gentlemanly behavior then, and we probably still aren't now, but he had issues with accepting rejection where Lily was concerned in school, too."

Hermione shrugged.  “Yeah, I don’t… I don’t want to examine it so much in retrospect that I turn it into something it didn’t feel like at the time. And I would have said yes, even though it was more for him than me.  Even though I was a bit scared.  I could have projected a thought of ‘no’ and I believe he would have stopped.  I could have cast any number of wandless spells on him, too.”

Serius looked at her worriedly, biting his lip.  It was such a novel look of doubt.  And it was… it was entirely on her behalf.

She reached up and kissed the lip right where he was biting it, sucking it out from between his teeth and laving it with her tongue.  “Thank you for not just raining down Snivellus insults.  I know it’s difficult for you, I know you don't like him, but it would have made me feel… well, I expect you know.  For what it’s worth, I showed him at least a bit of how to do it better and also hit him rather hard.  And I also know - I know - you would never.”

He smiled down at her a little, looking relieved and grateful - and not at all like the great preening peacock she often saw in him.  

She didn’t think her heart could take it.  She shook out her shoulders and off the impulse to propose Gretna Green on the spot and damn the consequences.  “But now I’ve told you all that, how’s Remus in bed?”

Sirius rolled his eyes, picking her up and wrapping her legs around his hips.  “Oh, you know.  He’s a dog with a bone.”  He took a few steps then paused.  “Not that I’ve had the pleasure in a bed as such ...”

They both laughed as he carried her to the bedroom.

Chapter Text

ST. IGNOTUS’ CHAPEL, GODRIC’S HOLLOW - (STILL) NOVEMBER 14, 1981

Hermione stood near the back of an incalculable crowd.  

The little church where once she’d heard carols sung had either been temporarily altered for this occasion or had always been bigger on the inside.  Stadium-like rows of pews elevated slightly as they streamed back from the apse, and second- and third-tier balconies soared over the nave.  

And it was absolutely packed.

Sirius and Remus, black-clad, were in the front, Sirius holding Harry.  To the shock and befuddlement of the ministry officials tasked with turning this from a private into an essentially public service, Sirius had insisted that Peapot and Hilly sit right there, in the family’s area, alongside them.  Peapot was holding hands with a standing Henley, who, if the press asked, would be the only Dursley able to come - a truth in a lie.

Of course Petunia and Vernon were not in attendance; they were nowhere to be found.  Hermione swallowed her guilt with a reminder that they hadn’t come last time, either.

Dumbledore, though, sat next to Hilly, and from the hand motions they were making, Hermione guessed that, as all waited for the service to begin, they were comparing notes about the knitting of socks.  McGonagall was with him, and the Longbottoms, holding Neville, had fought for the right to be there, too - despite the fact they were supposed to be eschewing public places where wizarding folk gathered.  Guarding them was Moody, his eye swiveling madly and his face grimly set, and across from him sat Minerva, who also looked watchful.  

They were all very, very far away.

Albus had tactfully waited until Hermione returned to her room earlier this morning to knock and suggest that, while he was very sorry to suggest such a thing at such a difficult time, she might be best served by keeping a low profile.  She only felt a little conflicted as she agreed; this was a much nearer and more present grief for others, and she wanted her usefulness to this time to extend as far as it possibly could.  

So she stood alone, watching from the back near the door.  Having had access to her entire wardrobe for this day of mourning, including the more sombre and fussy black dress robes she’d bought for occasions like commencement, Hermione was dressed quite conservatively.  In addition to her own clothes, she wore a sort of black cloche-like hat, only wider of brim and with a black veil draping down around it on all sides to wrap like a sort of graceful lace scarf at her neck.  Her hair, which was always content to stay in any sort of knot, was bound in a chignon at her nape - and completely hidden from view.  

The veiled hat had been handed to her by a slightly reticent, thoughtful Albus.  It had been his mother’s.  It seemed that, in the last war, veils spelled to conceal their wearers’ identities were common garb for funerals; mothers mourned no matter who their children had become, he’d said, and lovers mourned no matter what their sweethearts’ family members allied themselves to.  It was a sort of unspoken agreement that all might attend such rites as these unharrassed and incognito to say their goodbyes.  

After ages of trying to avoid it, having tired of looking over politicians and ministry officials who her darker demons would rather like to push into their own graves sooner than later, and after seeing friends in their parents’ faces, her eyes finally lit on the coffin beside the altar.  The politicians were beginning their own speeches and would be followed by Dumbledore - who, she supposed, was a politician, too.  She’d rather look than listen to what she’d read again and again - thanks to Bathilda Bagshot, also near the front, her transcribing quill so discreet Hermione wouldn’t have noticed it had she not known it had to be there.

There was only the one coffin - only a little wide - white and lined with scarlet and gold.  James and Lily were dressed in white. Hermione realized, remembering the album Hagrid had made Harry, that they were in their wedding clothes.  Lily’s head rested on James’ shoulder, his arm wrapped around her.  Hermione, for all her curiosity, had never researched magical embalming or preservation magic, but they looked more alive than the only time she’d ever before seen them - they seemed peaceful, happy, asleep.

A small picture of Harry in a gilt frame lay nestled between them.  

Hermione shook with a sob before she even knew it was coming.  To her surprise, a black-gloved hand offered her a pure white handkerchief from her right.  Mumbling, “thank you,” she accepted it, then maneuvered it up under her veil to wipe her eyes.

When she had gathered herself, she glanced to her side to see that another woman had stepped quietly in beside her.  She was immaculately dressed in cashmere more stylish than what Hermione knew where to find, along with expensive but tasteful jewelry, and standing straight and tall though the occasional shudder of weeping went through her, too.  

Her outfit was completed by a wide, lovely, more current take on a very similar veiled hat to Hermione’s own.

Hermione blinked, wondering who she was for a moment before offering the damp hanky back.  The stranger waved her aside, her long, narrow hands graceful, her voice low.  “Please, keep it.  I brought… well, I brought an embarrassing heap of them, really.”

Hermione nodded under her hat.  She tuned out Millicent Bagnold, who was asserting the gathered’s “inalienable right to mourn,” and glanced sideways, curious, fumbling a moment before thinking of something to say.  

“Thank you.  I… offer my condolences upon your loss,” Hermione offered softly.

The strange woman stiffened a moment and then nodded graciously, pulling another white handkerchief between her hands. “And I mine to you,”  she replied, in a similar tone.  

Hermione had waited a polite moment, and then started to look back around, assuming that would be the end of their conversation.  

However, after a long lapse, the other woman whispered with some apparent frustration.  “I… I didn’t know them well.  I don’t even know if I’ve any right to be here.”

Hermione, looking at the correct but trembling carriage of the stranger, then tapped silently at the surface of her veil.  “We all have the right to mourn.”

The stranger sighed, her hat bobbing as she glanced down and then back up again.  “Yes.  Yes, I suppose.  No one… no one should have to die so young.  No little boy,” she said, her voice cracking over the final word, “should be left bereft of his family at so tender and innocent an age.”

Hermione blinked, then turned to half face this curious woman.  Impulsively, she took the stranger’s hand and held it firmly in her own, ungloved fingers.  “No.  No little boy should.  And that little boy is marked, now.  No one will ever let him be just a little boy again - no one who knows what happened.”

The woman shuddered, squeezing Hermione’s hand back after a moment’s hesitation as her other hand dashed under her veil with a kerchief.  “It isn’t fair .  The young shouldn’t be marked by choices that they cannot possibly understand.  By schemes they cannot possibly be fully cognizant of.”  

Hermione peered at the impenetrable veil, then put her arm around the other woman, who readily returned the gesture, leaving them standing side by side, each with an arm slung around the other’s lower back.  

The woman’s perfume was lovely and distantly familiar, distracting Hermione a moment, though she would hardly ask its name under the circumstances.

Dumbledore stood and the woman shuddered, her knees threatening to go out from under her as his sonorous voice swept over the crowd.  Startled, Hermione grasped the woman firmly about the waist and half-walked, half-carried her the few steps to sit in the last (and only empty) row of pews and pulling her into them with her.  After they were seated, she reached over the now shaking woman’s knees to pull her feet from where others might trip over them in the aisle and, after a moment’s hesitation, pulled the woman into her arms, letting the stranger weep on her shoulder.

“I’m… sorry…” she said through gasps and hiccups.  “So sorry… I’ve never… but my son… my son , the same age…”

Hermione felt the cold place inside her that remembered Harry’s death - and the moments when she’d thought it final, and pulled the woman closer.  “Sssssh.  There, now.  I know.  It was evil, what happened.  It was evil, and we must fight to ensure it never happens again.  We must fight to keep your son, Harry Potter, and all our children safe from the senseless, stupid hatred and murder that, if we do nothing, will continue to rip through our people, again and again.”

The woman cried harder, and dampness soaked through her veil until it just kissed Hermione’s neck.

“And it is in light of these truths,” she distantly heard Albus say, “these shortcomings that we have suffered to fester too long, taking these and countless other bright young heroes like them from us, that I announce, in their honor, some changes coming to Hogwarts this year…” 

Hermione vaguely registered an aberration in Dumbledore’s speech as she’d known it, but was too concerned about the veiled woman, whose cheek had slipped to lie pillowed on the softness of Hermione’s breast, to listen attentively.  Who is she?  Dear Godric, how can I help her?  she thought, casting about for possibilities.  

She wondered if it could be… well, she’d seen the photos, and Molly Weasley had once cut such a figure as this woman’s, and from her Prewett days, might even once have had so rich a wardrobe, with some remnants remaining still.  Could this be her once-mother-in-law, on the verge of falling weeping in her lap?  The Weasley family was nowhere in visible attendance  - she’d have found them impossible to miss.  And that seemed odd .

She leaned her forehead against her free hand.  Good gracious, this was… maybe coming had been a mistake. 

And then, she saw it.  

The woman’s hand, when next it came out from under her veil, clutching a newer handkerchief, was draped with a fine lariat of platinum - a single long, straight, white-blonde hair.

Holy shit , Hermione thought, her arm loosening and then tightening around Narcissa Malfoy as her mind reeled.  Merlin’s mistress in Aberdeen, this is… fuck, this is mad .

But she wasn’t going to miss the opportunity.  

Dumbledore was still speaking, she ascertained quickly - and had a ways yet to go.  Even the ushers were standing further forward than where she and her unlikely companion sat, in the very, very back, where the first of the mourners to dot the increasingly congested landscape after them was a row up and well into the other side.  

She took a deep breath, tensing, her hand mechanically stroking the frightened woman’s back.  

And then, she pulled Narcissa up and threw her own veil over both their hats.  

Narcissa gasped in shock, then gulped back a sob.  “But… why…?”

Hermione shook her head grimly, putting a finger over her mouth.  “We need to talk.  Quickly, before someone sees.”  She took in a deep breath, bracing herself. “Narcissa, I know you.”

The other woman, who had been swaying with her breath, stilled, though a shiver still disturbed her arrested form.  “I… I cannot think you know who I-”

Hermione shook her head more fervently.  “I know you, and I care about Draco, and I will help you.  I am with the Order.  Please,” Hermione said, her gaze darting aside as the organ played.  “Dammit, his remarks were meant to be longer, but he changed some things I didn’t know about.”

Slowly, reluctantly, Narcissa crept her veil up to reveal red, swollen, enormous grey eyes. 

Hermione blinked, a bit taken aback.  She hadn’t realized, having met this woman, still strikingly beautiful in her middle years, that she had in fact aged rather badly .  

“Em,” she said, shaking it off.  “Look, I will find you.  Look for me.  My name is Hermione.  I will come to you and I will help you, and Draco. I… I don’t know if Lucius can be saved. But Harry and every other child who stands to be in peril if Voldemort-”

Narcissa cried out softly, putting a hand over Hermione’s mouth, which Hermione impatiently brushed aside.  

“-if Voldemort , who cannot hear you now, comes back into power.”  Hermione examined the pale, perfect face.  She wondered a bit bitterly what it would have been like, never to have had an awkward phase.  “Narcissa, this will be dangerous for you, but I know - I know you are brave .  You don’t remember it, and I can’t explain, but you saved … you saved everything, once, for the love of your son, myself included.  I know you have it in you to defy the darkness that threatens us right now.  And I … I know you love Lucius, but I know you know he’s a damned arrogant fool who will lead you into ruin, too.”

Narcissa, when shocked, didn’t look arrogant at all.  She looked angelic and lost and so, so afraid. Hermione just looked at her a moment, letting her words settle.  

“I… how? The manor is guarded, by the Ministry and the Death Eaters!  How?  Even the owls, searched.  He throws money everywhere but I know my… my husband will be arrested, even if he can explain away his actions under the public eye.”  Narcissa frantically gathered both Hermione’s hands in her own, forgetting the kerchief and letting her tears fall freely, looking at a Mudblood as if she were salvation.  “I’m not allowed to leave - an elf helped me, but he’ll be punished, and I can’t… I can’t do this twice, I just couldn’t stand that house any more, I …”

Hermione thought, difficult as it was under such an imploring, desperate gaze.  She finally had to pull her eyes aside to focus.  “You… how’s he getting the bribes out?”

Narcissa’s lip curled - yes, that was the Lady Malfoy Hermione recognized.  But it was turned inward, now, somehow, self-mocking.  “Lucius has… social occasions.  He uses them to grease wheels, he says. Invites people those guarding don’t dare search. To… keep people in power and people with power happy .  The Dark Lord was once a perennial guest of honor.” She laughed, quiet but half hysterical.  “Half of them even think he’ll come to this one, prove all his detractors wrong.”

Hermione thought rapidly, then made a disgusted face.  “What, the awful pureblood sex parties I’ve heard of?  Those?”

Narcissa looked down, fidgeting her fingers. “Lucius has been saying he can have his pick of anyone to entertain him, to welcome him back, if he comes.” She looked ashamed.

Hermione shook her head.  They were giving instructions for how to exit, now.  There was no time.  “Narcissa, are all the Death Eaters invited?”

Narcissa blinked.  “Well, yes, I think so.  Not all have come, since Samhain… he’s planning something extreme, something decadent to try to lure them, but it’s because… it’s because some think some duplicity on Lucius’s part was involved in the Dark Lord’s fall, or his confidante’s, -”

“-Severus Snape?” Hermione cut the other woman off grimly.

Her answer was a halting nod. 

Hermione shook her head.  “I will figure out a way in.  And it wasn’t duplicity. It was a prophecy.  Some of them already know about it, regardless of what terror they may be trying to sow.”

Narcissa radiated fear and doubt and dawning hope up at her.  Hermione realized uncomfortably that at some point, she’d become the taller of the two.

“Yes,” she said, breathless.  “I … I can wait for that.  I’m sorry - I… I wouldn’t wish going to this travesty on any woman, but… but surely we can find a way…”

Hermione shrugged.  “Don’t let it be next weekend - that’s all I ask.”

Narcissa thought.  “I think it’s Friday - is Friday..?”

Hermione nodded.  “Yes.  That will do.”  

Narcissa jumped as an older wizard slipped by, regarding their strange huddle curiously and attempting, it seemed, to beat the departing crowd.  “Oh!  Salazar, it’s over!  I… I…”  She looked at Hermione, frantic and pale, and then, after her eyes darted to one side then the other, threw her arms around the brunette’s neck and kissed her soundly on both cheeks.  

Hermione blinked as she pulled back, stunned. 

Thank you ,” Narcissa breathed, then darted out from under Hermione’s veil and ran out the door.

Chapter Text

HOGWARTS SCHOOL OF WITCHCRAFT AND WIZARDRY

Hermione managed to pull all the necessary parties back to Hogwarts, either before or instead of attending the reception planned in the Ministry Atrium.  

Dumbledore stood looking at his new Order Sickle, seeming to marvel at it.  “Well, Hermione, as much as I enjoy seeing everyone’s Patronuses, I must say, this is brilliant.  I feel quite the idiot, not having thought of it myself.” 

Hermione laughed at how cheerful he sounded to pronounce himself such.  “Aren’t you still working on the uses of dragon blood?  I think you have some other things competing for your attention.”

Dumbledore tapped the side of his nose, grinning.  “Of course you knew that!  Do I determine them all?”

Hermione raised an eyebrow. “Cleaned your oven lately?”

His eyes widened and he spun on the spot in delight.  “Oh, but you are a delight, Professor Granger.”

She treated him to a wilting look.  “Next week.  Not a professor until next week.”

He nodded, winking.  “Of course.”

Sirius handed Harry to Remus and stepped up to them.  “Are we ready to begin?  I don’t want to run afoul of his Nibs’ naptime, and I think that if I don’t show my face at the reception with him, there may be talk.”

Hermione smiled at him, taking in everything from the cravat she’d tied around his neck to the little milk stain on his lapel.  Shaking her head, she summoned a vial of dragon blood nonchalantly from the headmaster’s desk and stepped close to dab a tiny amount on it as she spoke.  “Yes - em, everyone, don’t want to take too much of your time -”

The smaller conversations around the room quieted and everyone came to stand around the table.  Moody was there holding Neville - and trying to teach him to say “constant vigilance,” evidently - beside Alice and Frank.  Severus, too, in addition to the Marauders, herself, and Dumbledore.

Hermione started, though she was still concentrating on saturating the stain, her wand held just above it, as she handed the vial back to Albus blindly behind her back.  “I’d only meant this to be a one-point conversation, so let’s start with that, shall we?  Alice and Frank have an anniversary next weekend -” 

There was a small chorus of awws and congratulations as Severus rolled his eyes and scowled.  He’d had to sit behind the “family,” among the Hogwarts faculty, and she could only imagine how it must have rankled to be lesser at the funeral of the woman who had been the most important in his world.  

And how otherwise his heart must roil, forced to spend a day embroiled in the deaths he’d been complicit in.

But she shook those thoughts away.  “Yes, and I have a special, and indeed rather romantic weekend planned for them, during which the room of hidden things and all the other incarnations behind the same door will be closed to other use, so plan accordingly.”  Several of the others shrugged or looked perplexed.  Apparently not everyone used that room all the time like she and her friends had.

“Anyway,” she continued, “Frank’s told this to Alice, now, though I’m still sorry it spoiled a more spectacular reveal, but he’s opening a house for them and Neville just outside Hogsmeade.  It is my strong suspicion - especially given the vagueness of detail about exactly when they were found and tortured - that it was in the course of this time when they were found, in my timeline, and captured by the four extremely dangerous Death Eaters we have yet to flush out.  Therefore,” she said, glancing around, “Not because Alice and Frank are any less competent than any of us - they’re damned fine aurors, and that’s from Mad Eye himself...”

“Psssh, you said you wouldn’t repeat that - there’ll be no living with them!” Alastor interrupted, red as an apple as Frank grinned and Alice looked like she might cry.

Hermione nodded, then shrugged.  “What can I say?  I’m a wicked witch.  Anyhow!”  She glanced around.  “I think that we need to send imposters in to follow their itinerary, under Polyjuice or, if possible, something better.  And I think it’s important that whoever go be experienced in withstanding torture.”

The joy and frivolity immediately drained from the room.  After a moment, Dumbledore cleared his throat.  “My dear, what you ask is not something most alive and whole have been able to endure - it could be difficult -”

“-I’ll do it,” said Severus.

“-I can,” said Sirius.

And “-You’ll want me,” murmured Remus. 

All at the same time.

Dumbledore looked at each of them closely in turn, the habitual mirth falling from his eyes, and suddenly looked every inch at least 500 years of age.  “You know,” he said quietly, “I suspect you’re each right.”

Hermione frowned.  She knew, or could guess, mostly, but… it hurt .  

She gathered her words, though, and tried to go on, forgetting Sirius’s lapel a moment.  “Em… I… I can, too.  And I think I rather ought, because I’d have an easier time playing Alice and, well, might notice something one of you might not.”

Remus blinked.  “Hermione, you…?  But…”

Hermione smiled weakly, pulling back her left sleeve to show her jagged scar.  The Longbottoms gasped and Moody looked like he needed someone to curse.  Severus, looking overwhelmed by the revelation of any expanse of her skin, looked away. Remus’s face fell. 

“Hermione,” he said, “Look, Sirius and I can do it, you needn’t put yourself in the way of any more harm, and I-”

“-Remus, I need to,” she said, only realizing as she said it that it was true.  “The person who did this to me... who used the Cruciatus Curse on me… she’s one of the ones who will be there.  I want closure.  I want to see the cycle break.  And I know things about them that they don’t yet even know about themselves.  It might help.  It’s not worth risking not sending me.”

Remus clenched and unclenched his jaw, stepping forward before Sirius could quite get a word out.  Harry, innocent of many words but sensitive to the tension of the room, began to fuss in the werewolf’s arms.  “I want to come.  You’ll not find anyone better able to endure pain than someone who’s spent most of his life transforming into a monster each month.  I’m your man, Hermione.  Not… not to diminish what others have suffered, but this is something that I can do that would give some meaning to the senseless violence a maniac inflicted on my life, and I would appreciate the chance.”

Hermione gnawed on the inside of her lip, looking on with worry.  Sirius was silent, eyes downcast as he lifted Harry from his friend’s arms, touching his shoulder for a long moment before he stepped back again.  

Severus just looked… angry.

Hermione sighed.  “Alright.  Severus, I think your cover isn’t worth risking, anyway, and Sirius, I …” 

reckless grin, falling through a black curtain blown by an unknown wind

She had to work to keep her knees steady as she recognized the same eyes he’d had dying in his face now.  “Em, sorry, I… I think you might have trouble keeping a level head around your sadistic cousin Bella.”

He blinked, suddenly more eager to displace Remus.  “Hermione, I don’t think...”

Dumbledore interjected, this time.  “The lady has spoken, and I believe her judgement to be sound.  Let us help them to prepare.”  He quieted a moment as various levels of dissatisfaction and misgiving fizzed around the room.  “And I might have a better trick, Remus and Hermione, than Polyjuice for you.  You’d need to keep it on you, but you couldn’t spill it, and it wouldn’t need to be reapplied.

Hermione nodded.  “I’d be grateful - and I think we should talk more soon.  I know Frank was planning to ask you, Albus, and you, Alastor, to ward the new house ahead of time anyhow - perhaps while you’re there you could think of some other helpful things that might be done to lay the trap.  But if that’s all…”  She glanced around, picking out the people she needed from the crowd.  “There’s one other matter, and I believe I only need Severus, Albus, and Sirius to discuss it.  Alastor?”  She asked, taking Harry from Sirius and dropping a kiss on his nose before walking over to the legendary Auror.  “Would you please bring Harry to the reception?  I know he’ll be safe in your hands - and he is, whatever posturing I might do, the key to Riddle’s destruction.”

Harry reached out his tiny fingers and touched Moody’s cheek just below his whizzing eye while the Auror stood still, surprised to have been asked.  When the bright blue orb zinged around to fix on Harry, the child laughed, clapping his hands. “Pretty!” he exclaimed.

Alastor now looked like he might cry, but he reached out to take Harry.  “Of course I will.  Little champion.  No harm in this world will dare touch him when he’s in these arms.”

Hermione nodded, kissing Alastor’s scarred cheek.  “I know.  Thank you.”

And then all but the four of them filed through the Floo.

Hermione, when the four of them were alone, looked up.  “So.  Who should sit next to me, today at the funeral, sobbing as if the world might end, but Narcissa Malfoy…”

Chapter Text

NOVEMBER 15, 1981 - GRANTOWN-ON-SPEY, SCOTLAND

Hermione sat on the enormous, beautiful old porch overlooking the wood-edged meadow behind her parents’ house.  She watched Harry toddle into the tall grass while Sirius loudly and theatrically lamented his inability to find him a few feet away, making a show of looking in one direction then another before melodramatically throwing himself down into the wildflowers on his back in defeat.

Her mother quietly placed a steaming cup of tea in front of her and sat down across the table, similarly taking in the sight with a reverent little smile, shaking her head as she picked up her husband’s hand in hers.  “Thank you for bringing the boys back to us, and for keeping them out of the melee as we packed up.  Goodness; it seemed like only yesterday that we just had Hermione to mind.  I still can’t entirely wrap my mind around these two little imps we were blessed with in her wake.”

Hermione smiled softly into her teacup as she took a sip.  Perfect; Mother’s tea is always perfect, she thought.  What she said was, “Oh, I think as you reacclimate to each other and the house it’ll all be sorted again.  

They all watched, her parents chuckling, as first Harry, then Henley, then… then Hermione threw themselves at Sirius, knees and elbows landing on his stomach and perilously near his nose as they shrieked in delight to swamp the scuttled adult and make him their next mountain to climb.  Little Hermione was wielding a stick - already very careful to keep the point away from poking anyone, but waving it about like a sword and fighting off imaginary Habsburgs and Prussians, for all she still had trouble pronouncing either. Though her memory hadn’t been modified, she took to having two younger children to boss around like a duck in water. 

Hermione fumbled up a handkerchief and daubed at her eyes, drawing a little cluck from her mum, who reached over and grasped her shoulder reassuringly.  “Oh, then, don’t be like that.  You’ll see them all again soon.”

Her dad nodded.  “Though how you persuaded us to give you the kids for Christmas I may never know.”

Hermione shrugged.  “I don’t know.  I thought you were due a little rest and relaxation, especially since you’ve got so much to build here.  And… I’m not too sad, really.  It’s just so different, seeing them all together, here.  Do you think they’ll like it?  After London?”

She looked between her parents with some real anxiety, hoping for their reassurance.  They continued to just… radiate it.  She could swear she felt the pinging of their souls off hers in some unassailable harmony, some order that refused to be suborned that made them turn their chairs toward her just so, cut the crusts off hastily thrown-together cucumber sandwiches for her but not themselves.  

Her dad took a long sip and thought.  The Grangers… Garniers … were never put off by taking time to think in conversation.  “I think it may be perfect.  Hermione was upset she wouldn’t get to learn swordplay at the place around the way, but I’m sure we’ll find something here.  And… well, just look at them.  I don’t know if children are meant to be too much indoors, but mark my word, she’ll be up a tree, but she’ll be there with a book.”  He took another long sip, looking at Sirius howl in mock anguish and then crawl into the grass in pursuit of the scattering toddlers.  “I think Henley will be more one for sport, but I don’t know yet about Harry. There’s something… old-souled about him, for all his spontaneity, isn’t there?”

Hermione concentrated on spreading lemon curd on her scone, unwilling to let her mind ramble about that .  “Em, I think he’ll be very bright, and very good.  I think he’s got the makings of a real hero.  I do hope you keep finding good opportunities to volunteer up here. I know Hermione gets impatient sometimes, but I think such a thing - especially something helping people - would be good for the boys especially.

Her mum nodded thoughtfully.  “I concur.” She glanced mischievously at her husband, and then at her erstwhile daughter.  “So tell me, Hermione the elder, when are you going to take that wisdom of yours and that fine young man there and have some children of your own?  Not that there’s a hurry - we were, what, almost 15 years older when we started!  But I’m very eager to meet the little scallywags.”

Hermione felt her face burning through to the shells of her ears as her dad grinned and looked at her just as curiously.  “Oh, believe me, I’ll take your future entertainment into all due consideration in planning my marriage and eventual childbearing, Mum, Dad…” she joked.  

(But not really.)

Henry (her dad) shook his head, looking out at Sirius fondly.  “Well, when you get to it, I think you’ll have a good partner for it.  We can hardly keep up - been thinking of getting a dog to run them weary, now we’re here.  Something tells me, young man like that, your kids will have all the play they could ever want.  Your only trouble will be getting any of them to stop for supper and bedtime.”

Rose (her mother) thwapped Henry chiddingly (but not hard) on the shoulder, causing him to curl away from her in mock affront.  “You know better, you.  That man’s more than capable of… well… living right up to his name when need be.  Hermione, love, we really couldn’t be happier for you.”

Hermione’s eyes narrowed, gazing off at the antics in the field, as she sipped.  “Yes.  Yes.  You’re not at all wrong.  If we weren’t so young, well.”  She looked back at Rose and Henry, shrugging with a sheepish smile.  “I don’t know.  I think a long engagement is right for us now, though.  We’ve only just started.  We’ll see what the next couple years bring.  I hate to rush into things - but I have to say I’ve seldom been more grateful for anything than I have been for Sirius since I met him.”

Rose shrugged, affecting regal magnanimity.  “As long as we get godchildren of our very own eventually, we suppose you may enjoy your twenties.  A little.”  

Hermione scoffed.  “Yeah, yeah, yeah.”  She couldn’t help a little smirk as her eyes drifted back to the children and Sirius.  Remus, Severus, Albus, and Arabella were all sitting at a picnic table out under an enormous old oak, apparently being either lectured or told some highly energetic story by Alastor.  They’d all rushed about, seeing to the setup of the boys’ rooms, all this morning - and also sat around talking about some specific touchstone memories to plant that would go off when each Rose and Henry first opened a certain cabinet, say, or touched a certain shelf.  Hermione had no idea how they’d have done it without Arabella’s imagination - she’d been quite taken with the boys and had a way of picturing things that had never happened that ended up forming the backbone of most of what they ultimately left.  

Now, everyone sat, guzzling water, eating, and enjoying the bright late afternoon sun.  Everyone, at least, but Sirius and the children.

Then, just as Alastor was miming something that actually looked rather like a swordfight, little Hermione lunged at Alastor out of the long grass, grabbing onto his calf with a roar.  

Remus and Severus were standing in a flash, each reaching into a pocket or a sleeve, but to the elder Hermione’s great surprise, Moody howled like an aggrieved pirate before reaching down to swing the little girl up and around, laughing and saying she’d gotten him good.  

“I like that eye!” Hermione heard her precociously verbal tiny self say.  “Why it hide?”

Moody roared with laughter, even as the elder Hermione tensed and the younger men looked at each other in shock.  “Because it’s magic, that’s why, you little scamp!  Can’t be showing off my magic eye to just anyone, now, can I?”

They both laughed and went off to hunt for Sirius and the boys, lecture or story forgotten as Remus and Severus sat down.  Albus reached over to pat Severus’s arm companionably and seemed to take up the mantle of old man storyteller easily in the Auror’s wake.  

Hermione took a breath she hadn’t realized she’d held, looking back at her folks with a smile.  Her father and mother were squinting, though, and looking a little concerned.

At some point, the others had decided Hermione’s resemblance to her family was too striking to be ignored and planted it that she was a cousin.  Now, looking at Rose and Henry - and she was already sort of beginning to accept them by those names, though it grieved her - she was glad to have an extra ounce of familiarity.

“Are you… worried about something?  With Hermione?” she asked cautiously.

Her parents seemed to shake themselves free of a mutual sort of reverie, their smiles a little forced as they looked back at her.  “Sometimes… well, it’s just old family superstition, really,” her mother said.  “But sometimes we wonder if she has access to a whole world we can’t begin to understand, you know?  I suppose maybe being a parent is always like that.  But… how can you hope to guide your child into a life you know you can hardly begin to comprehend?   What if everything’s so different for her that nothing we can give her, teach her, arm her with will be relevant to it.”

Hermione blinked, picking up her mother’s strawberry-patterned cup.  She couldn’t remember a time when there’d been a full set instead of just one of them, hadn’t known there ever had been, until today.  Had she broken them all in some fit of accidental magic?  Had she scared them?

She thought of plots and schemes she’d painstakingly concocted these last two weeks, of the French cousins the Longbottoms would be, of all the neat, subtle things she’d worked out.  Of the International Statute of Secrecy… and of these people, not much older than herself, that she was already asking a lot of, had foisted a lot on, trying to do their best with changes she’d chosen for them.  Of how unutterably much, how irrevocably she loved and was grateful for them.  And she felt a bit of recklessness coming on.

“Well…” she started, putting down her cup.  “What if I told you I knew, without a doubt, that everything you will do as parents will help them?  Not that you’ll be perfect - but that you’ll be better than good, that you’ll make a tremendous positive impact, create a place of safety from which they can spread their wings?  That you’ll teach them good habits and support their little idiosyncrasies even when they don’t align with your own, take them hiking and to other countries to vacation - that you’ll always put them first and they’ll realize it and be...  and be just so unutterably grateful, one day?”

She glanced up.  They were both looking at her a little curiously.  

After a moment, though, Henry gave a little snort. “If you happen to have such an assurance sitting around, yeah, we’d take that.”

Hermione smiled, shrugging slightly as she extended her hand over the wilted rose floating in a bowl in the middle of the table.  “I may, yeah.  And also this.”

When she pulled her hand back, the rose looked new - a trick she’d learned that made her a bit sleepy, about six months ago, from a wood nymph in her Department of Mysteries project. Her mother, who seemed to put together what had happened more quickly, gasped - but her eyes were wide with delight rather than fear.  

Hermione was so exceptionally relieved to see it, and let it show in her eyes.

After a moment, she said.  “Trying to divine the future is a losing battle - I can’t tell you exactly how your lives will unfold, and neither could anyone else.  But let’s just say I have a strong, evidence-based theory that you’re going to be bloody brilliant .  And,” she paused, briefly making eye contact with each of them, her dad now blinking in something suspiciously like awe.  “Should something beyond your ken come along, please just know you’re not alone, and not without help.  I… wouldn’t talk about it widely.  But send a letter my way, and I’ll be here quick as I can, or I’ll call - alright?  I’ll try to get you a number where you can reach me, too.”

Her mother seized her hand, giving it a firm squeeze.  “Bless you, Hermione.  And thank you.”

Chapter Text

Book 4: Old School, New Intrigues

Chapter Text

NOVEMBER 18, 1981 - MRS. PUDDYFOOT’S, HOGSMEADE

“Have you thought about introducing some of the theory to students younger?  I mean, I wish I’d been able to improvise spells earlier - never have an owl handy when I need opera glasses but I transfigure loads now, and I understand how all the rote spells work better now I have a sort of intuitive grasp.”

Minerva glanced at Hermione over the teapot she was pouring from, just inside of the shop front windows.  “Hermione, you are welcome to teach however you feel will be most efficacious, and when I can stop jumping at loud noises and finding reasons to hyperventilate at the transformation of a hat, I’ll pick up from where you left off.  But I wonder if perhaps the intuitive grasp you developed was not in large part derived from the great quantity of rote spells you initially learned.  If you want my advice, I wouldn’t overestimate the ability of an average third year to grasp the abstract.”

Hermione shrugged, glad at least that this difference in opinion felt considerably more like the ones she was accustomed to occasionally having with her old mentor than most in this timeline.  “I’ll think of it.  Maybe I could have an experimental class, if the students and parents signed on, that could go through a slightly modified curriculum - we could compare their OWL scores, see what seems to work best.”

Minerva shrugged.  “If you have the energy to save the world and develop better pedagogy, goodness knows I’ll not stand in your way.  I encourage you to get the hang of things as they have been first , though.  I suspect you’ll already have a great deal on your plate, even with Alice signing on later in the year.”

Hermione smiled a little at that.  If all went well, as soon as the Death Eaters still at large and plotting the torture of the Longbottoms were apprehended, Alice would come on to the newly re-formed Transfiguration Department.  Minerva was still serving as director in absentia - she’d held the title for ages, but since it had been so long since the school had had more than one teacher per subject, it hadn’t meant much until recently.

But as Hermione considered that, she frowned.  “Alice is definitely capable, and it’s all very neat, but maybe a sentient magical creature with a talent for transfiguring would be in better alignment with our goals.  I’m sure Alice fits somewhere, but are we just taking the path of least resistance?”

Minerva rolled her eyes.  “Tell me, Hermione, does that little boy, Neville, grow up a little on the short side, only to one day come out beguiling and charming, with a devilish bit of a twinkle in his eye?”

Hermione sat back, blinking.  “What?”

Minerva smirked into the distance, her face knowing and atypically catlike, for all that part of her usually stayed within its fur.  “Leprechaun blood, Hermione.  A few generations back, and fairly unnoticeable on the ladies of the bloodline, but Alice has it.  I knew her father, you see.  And if there’s a magical creature that knows transfiguration, it’s those blasted little beggars.  They pass that it on quite strong, too.”

Hermione knit her brow.  “Neville didn’t seem to.  He was terrified of everything but Herbology, for the longest time.”

“If you’d given him another couple years, I suspect you might have been surprised.  And I’m sure the family knows it.  Maybe they’ll talk about it, if your scheme to build tolerance from education out works.”  Minerva started to gather up her books, parcelling out several stacks of notes to Hermione.  “It’s dreadfully common.  If you don’t think the Blacks and Malfoys have mixed with Veela, you haven’t got eyes.  I suspect you know about our Filius’ goblin heritage - and don’t get me started on some of the other families.  Our prejudices invite scrutiny to which virtually no entrenched magical family could hold up.  Sometimes I think Muggleborns are all that keeps us mostly human - and I’m not the first to think it, either,” she trailed off, looking at Hermione curiously. 

 “Anyway,” she continued, after a pause.  “Elphinstone’s baking for tonight, and I’ve promised I’ll help, so I’m away.  But we have more to discuss - tomorrow, perhaps?”

Hermione nodded, happy to be finding her new professional feet - and the rhythm she so counted on with her once and perhaps future friend.  “If for any reason I can’t, I’ll owl you.”

The two women parted ways, leaving Hermione to pick up the tab - it was her turn - and wander home, to the castle.

As Hermione approached the gate, though, who but Severus should appear emerging from the leafless trees with a basket over one arm and a foraging knife in his other hand.  

Chapter Text

Despite the pretext - and a rather full haul or Wiggentree bark, nettles, and fragrant wild ginger root - Severus had clearly been lying in wait, within view of the path Hermione would have to take to return to the castle.  She wondered if Minerva had told him they’d be meeting - and even if she might be sympathetic to his cause.

Well.  They’d probably have had to talk today, anyway.  She had been avoiding being caught alone with him - and Remus, for that matter - this entire week so far.  

She’d even managed to deflect several somehow less-perilous overtures from Sirius, who felt like safety but smiled like some Fae prince from story, tempting her off to dance and feast in his kingdom under a hill.  She watched from across the room the other day as he’d taken a slow bite of an apple.  At the time, their new colleague, Healer Burbage, had wandered to a mid-sentence halt in the course of trying to set up a checkup for him, clearly unable to tear her eyes away from the juice threatening to drip from his full lower lip.  And he’d intended that.  Hermione knew she was only a single careless step away from waking up 100 years later, wondering where her ambitions had gone, all her memories solely of him.

But. Well.  One of them had finally snared her.

“Severus,” she said with a rather brusque nod (despite the fact that he looked so… in his element here, but without all the misery, somehow).

“Ms. Granger,” he said, falling into step beside her. 

She sighed and stopped, turning to him.  “Ms. Granger, again?  Really?”

He stopped too, and when he turned, looked down at her with such uncharacteristic uncertainty - so foreign on his face - that she had an instant of fear his features would float off in the pale pool of his visage and rearrange themselves like a Picasso, so little did they cohere without a more familiar expression. 

But then he spoke.  “What I did… I…”

He stalled a long moment, looking down at his feet.

Hermione crossed her arms, waiting.  “Yes, Severus?”

“It was wrong!” he exploded.  It wasn’t that he yelled, it was that he intoned such anguish.  That his shoulders fell, and his hands fitfully raked through his hair in frustration.  “I’m no better than where I’ve come from, no better than I’ve ever been.  I thought… I thought I’d learned so much, but I lashed out at you so ruinously worse than I ever did at Lily, because you left yourself so open to me, which I should have... which I do value more than words could possibly ever hope to say.  I cannot, cannot tell you how very sorry and ashamed I am.  I would never… I would never importune you again, never assume any intimacy, only... if we’re to attend this blasted party together, I must owl my reply today , with the number and names in my party - and it is also exceedingly late to see the event’s obligatory tailor, in London.”

She had a persistent sense, after that outburst, that he should be panting, but instead he stood so very quiet and still.  How much of his life, she wondered, had been spent hiding?

She sighed.  “Severus, I gave you my forgiveness, and more.  Have you forgotten?”

He blanched, which she would not have thought possible.  “I will never, ever forget, Ms. Granger.  Should I live to see three hundred, I will not, but I… I cannot fail to apologize further.  We must work together, for the Order and for Hogwarts, and I must know if and how I can atone, how I can show you how deeply and sincerely sorry I am.”

She looked at him a moment before she spoke.  “Start by calling me Hermione, you idiot.  Let’s go.”

KNOCKTURN ALLEY, LONDON

Severus hesitated a moment before he offered her his arm.  They had landed just inside the Knockturn Alley. She looked around as she reached to take it, her eyes lingering on the display windows of Borgin and Burkes.  Then she paused to quickly spell all her clothing black and started rummaging in her pocket.  “Wait a moment.  You want me to look the part, I should probably… ah!”

Hermione grabbed an improbably large mirror from her pocket, charmed it to the alley wall,  then summoned her seldom-used cosmetics kit from the same bottomless well, unzipping the pencil pouch she’d assembled it in and rummaging through.  “So Severus.  What manner of date does one typically bring to this sort of event?”

He wrinkled his nose, looking aside evasively.  “Not one like you .”

She huffed in exasperation.  “Alright, well.  Wives?”

He shook his head, now-immaculate hair a shining curtain.  “Paramours.  Trophies.  Submissives.  More... exotic humanoid creatures.  Attractive, ambitious teenagers willing to sacrifice much to reach the halls of power.”  He made a moue of distaste.  “Too many young Slytherins who may be of age but haven’t sat their NEWTs yet.  Hired companions of a certain lofty class.  Occasionally, a very exquisitely beautiful Muggle, usually under the Imperius Curse. And - mostly but not only ladies.” 

Hermione made a face as she pulled out her mascara.  “My face will be known soon, but no one will remember me as a classmate.  Dumbledore had thought I should feign having been taught by private tutors if I had to, but attempt to remain closed to questions.”

Severus looked thoughtful.  “A young heiress from a family of inflated self-importance might adopt a false name for a time of rummaging about to see what society had to offer and go a bit feral for a time after the untimely demise of her guardians.  To have no known house affiliation could make you a subject of interest.  Also, while some families privately educate their heirs still, they are predominantly eccentric Irish druids or inbred and paranoid, typically line-of-succession royals in obscurity who have inherited the gift.  You could be elusive about which you were.  You don’t sound Irish, but you don’t look or act inbred.  It might… intrigue.”

“So a cloistered little pureblood girl with some unusual claim to power on her Rumspringa.  Hmmm.”  Hermione thought a moment, adding a second, exorbitant layer to her eyelashes, then started to unbutton her top several buttons .  

Severus appeared to be concentrating on his composure, but he sounded slightly winded when he replied.  “I’m not certain… dear goodness, that’s… that’s very red .”

She liked him with a flush.

Hermione blotted her lipstick then liberally lined her eyes in black before applying shimmering metallic gold shadow to her lids and letting her hair down, bending over to flip it over her head and ruck it up into a wild, tousled mane.  “I’ll be fine.  I will need, however, to think of what to do to cover my arm.  Is whoever this tailor is discreet?”

Severus snorted. “He spends his time, between enforcing costuming themes for events like this, designing imaginative lingerie for purebloods and their conquests. Were he not, he’d be dead.”

She glanced at him as she tucked mirror and makeup away, satisfied.  “Seen some interesting lingerie, Severus?”

He couldn’t meet her eyes.  “This is not the first of these events I have been to, nor will it be the first… unusual social circumstance my decisions have forced me into.”

She stepped into the space he was gazing off into as she tucked her bag away, waving cheerily to some passing hags. “Yes, well, we’ll try to continue your reclamation from unloving sexual depravity at some later point, but for now I’m done.  How do I look?”

He looked at her, his cheeks reddening slightly.  “I … I don’t like seeing you like this.”

She cocked an eyebrow at him.  “How do I look, Severus?”

He looked at his feet, then up at her.  “Like you hunger.  Like them.”

She looked at him for a long moment, until he started almost involuntarily to lean toward her, then snarled and snapped her teeth at him before he could get too near.

He looked down, turning away as if to leave, and she grabbed him by the elbow, sighing and feeling like a raging jackass.  “That was... a bad joke.  Forgive me.  Let’s go?”

He shook his head.  “You do not understand.  If I bring you, we will be expected… that is, it will be required, as a test of your…”  he trailed off.

Hermione sighed.  “Severus, I have a notion of what may be expected.  We may need to spend some time… becoming reacquainted under less dramatic circumstances to establish some ground rules in the time we have between now and Friday evening.  During which time you will exhibit perfect obedience to my every whim and superb listening skills,” she said, some steel ringing in her last few words. 

He looked at her with wariness and some degree of shock. “Surely you don’t mean-”

“-I do. To rip the plaster off.  Because if we can’t alone we can’t in company.  And because that’s not the memory I want of you.”  She shrugged, then started walking toward the mouth of the alley.  “And because… look, d’you think it’s any easier for me, typically, to establish a witty dialogue with a new acquaintance than it is for you? ”

He followed her slowly.  “I… cannot believe that this could possibly be alright with you.  Surely you don’t have to come, I can tell... “

She shook her head decisively, silencing him.  “ No.   I don’t know what I might see that could be of use, can’t begin to tell you what to look for, and she’s expecting me and will not trust you . I don’t think the Malfoys will be having many more of these parties in any event, soon - Lucius is going to have to keep a lower profile and pretend to fly among the angels for a long, long time. My going ensures the best outcome.  And…”  She shivered slightly, fingering her last fastened button.  “Look, I’m cold.  Let’s just go?”

Severus offered his arm again, but how he held it and his gait were both somehow detached, mechanical, as they stepped out into Diagon Alley.  “If I had not seen your blood I’d think it ice.”

Hermione let her eyes drift closed as she walked.  She didn’t speak for a moment.  “It’s not.  And that’s… what do you suppose you make people think runs in your veins?”

He rubbed at his eyes.  “I can’t sodding do this, Hermione.  I don’t even deserve to touch you.”

She opened her eyes and studied him a long moment as they walked.  “If you don’t want to touch me, I would never make you. I’m sorry if my … my determination to Gryffindor through all has crossed a line.”

Severus gritted his teeth, speaking fast and low, his fists clenching.  “Hermione, of course I want to touch you.  I’m roiling with it.  And with how, so quickly, I could feel so much.  With whether anything I ever felt toward Lily could have been real if I could so quickly and completely fall face first into this abyss of… you .  Ever since you barged through propriety and into my damned shower you’ve held me by my neck over a cliff’s edge.  I think… I think half of what drove me the other night was some misbegotten attempt at self-defense because what I feel for you?  It terrifies me.”

Hermione looked at him, her eyes troubled, for several long, silent seconds, before she smiled softly, shaking her head.  “I have never, ever heard you speak so many words unless you were raking little Gryffindors over the coals, telling them how hopelessly obtuse they were in the face of the mystic art and science of potion making.”

He looked up at her, a little wounded.  She clucked, darting forward to give him a peck on the lips, then rubbing the red of her lipstick away from his mouth with a few swipes of her thumb while he goggled at her.  “I will manage to find the key to the vault that holds whatever I feel for you, and I will tell you what it contains when I know - but not in the street, not before this erand is done.  We have work to do - then maybe some takeaway, and only then the rest - if we’re even still conscious.”

TWILFIT AND TATTINGS, DIAGON ALLEY, LONDON

Hermione glanced around, curious but doing her level best to affect both boredom and the ability to buy anything up to and including the shop and the people in it if she wanted.  She’d never set foot into Twilfitt and Tattings before - much less the less-known special stocks.

She looked at an animated mannequin wearing something gauzy and rather feline, complete with jeweled collar and twitching tail that… Huh.  Must be harder to clean with all that fur attached, she thought.  I wonder if it detaches...

Her thoughts were interrupted by a softly cleared throat.

She looked down to the source.  It was only her second time meeting a dwarf.  The first had been when Lockhart - lord but I need to add him to my list, too - had shoved one into a cupid costume and sent it about Hogwarts distributing valentines her second year.  This one was quite different - and did not look so hard up he’d be peddling his services so cheap anytime soon.

The dwarf was handsome and broadly muscled, and dressed simply but richly - and also, rather thematically.  He looked a bit like a rakish corsair of old, with a white shirt that billowed but also hinted at muscles beneath, complete with frothing cuffs and a neckline that bared an expansive V of bulging pectorals. His black suede trousers disappeared into knee-high black kid boots.  His beard and mustache were short and neat, his eyes deep blue, and his hair golden, long, and lustrous.  The torque that adorned his neck was two inches thick (and pure gold if she was any judge), and the top of his head was level with her bra line.

Which he seemed to appreciate for a moment before he glanced up at Snape.  “Have you developed good taste, lad?  About time someone did.”  He shook his head.  “My dear lady, thank you for making this ordeal less dreary.  You may call me Baca.”

Crystal flute of champagne in hand, Hermione surveyed the mannequins arrayed in the various options for guests of the party.  Minor changes were permitted, of course, but a pervasive theme of Greek antiquity, though with miniskirts and the option of one exposed breast, was somewhat oppressive in its… unimaginative indecency.

Baca sensed her distaste and stepped away from Severus, who had simply muttered he’d defer to the tailor’s judgement after curling his lip at the various togas arrayed for men.  

“I can see the feisty one is displeased.  I would be disappointed were she not.  Perhaps you can imbue this Lucius Malfoy with some aesthetic discernment.  I am bound, alas, to labor to his specifications.”

Hermione glanced at him sidewise.  “The theme I discern.  I wonder, however, if I might persuade you to make some alterations in my case, to make things… interesting.”  She turned to face him, gesturing at the options in a desultory fashion.  “The fact is that I am not and never will be cheap .  These are.  Don’t protest -” she said, cutting off his imminent interjection.  “I understand that these were likely the lowest common denominators of tens of more interesting possibilities you unsuccessfully put forward.  I wonder, though, especially in light of the fact that this will be my debut into local Wizarding society, you might be amenable to a slight deviation - fully reimbursed, of course - for my dear Sevy and I.  You can naturally also produce us costumes to the host’s specifications - and donate them to a needy brothel , if it pleases you.  Consider what I propose a custom order with a tight deadline.”

She knew she had him. Merlin, Sirius is rubbing off on me , she thought, slowly biting into a strawberry before demurely sipping her champagne, watching Baca struggle with his warring ambitions.  She did not think she was rousing his ardor per se - just showing him that she could show his true talents to good and conspicuous advantage. 

Still, he made a show of hesitating before he spoke.  “The lady presents a most… compelling argument.”

HOGWARTS SCHOOL OF WITCHCRAFT & WIZARDRY

Hermione had ducked into the WC in the little curry place to vanish the makeup from her face, but she could never quite get all the mascara to go.  She shrugged, liking it better in its half-life anyway, and washed her hands before rejoining Severus outside - delighted to see he held a steaming bag redolent with searing spices under his scowl.

He held out his arm, again, and she took it, walking with him into the dark alley beside the restaurant as something seemed to bubble in him, just underneath speech.  

He Apparated them into a fire with a twist, causing her to gasp as he gritted out “Snape at Hogwarts” and dusted powder over them, sending them spinning through to his quarters.  She tripped, but he caught her, helping her to his solitary chair before he conjured another one and set about clearing books off the small table.

She looked up at him.  “Got something to say to me?”

He looked down his nose at her with scorn.  “ Sevy ?”

She pulled the half-bottle of champagne Baca had insisted she take from her pocket, trying valiantly not to laugh as she also pulled out two pilfered flutes.  

His eyes widened before narrowing again in indictment.  “Theft.  Seduction .  What exactly have I gotten myself into?  Is any inch of you genuine, or who I took you to be?”

She focused on pouring the champagne.  “I committed to the role.  I… am surprised to say I found it rather fun.”

He snorted and threw himself down into his chair, spelling table settings into place and thrusting her vindaloo at her.  “I thought you were going to be going home with that blasted tailor.”

Hermione heaped rice and chicken onto her plate, shaking her head at Severus’s mild chana masala. “Jealous, are you?”

He glared at her as he moodily chewed his first bite, only speaking after he swallowed.  “Exquisitely.”

Her eyebrows quirked up.  “Honest, at least.”

He glowered around his naan.  

She ate thoughtfully for several quiet moments, watching the furiousness with which he chewed, studying his downcast eyes.  “Severus, I’m still working on making myself mine again.  I can’t be yours.  No more than I can be Sirius’s or Remus’s.”

His head shot up, his eyes fiery despite their black.  “Then it’s true.  You’re … bedding them both.”

She shook her head.  “I have slept with Sirius, and Remus has made his interest known.”

He put his fork down and just looked at her.  She couldn’t tell if he was angry or in despair, and she doubted he could, either.

She sighed.  “I am being honest and I’m not being coy.  I don’t want to hurt you.  I… care about you.”

He shook his head, standing up and pacing the room once before leaning in its doorway.  “I do not understand you.”

She massaged the bridge of her nose and thought.  “You don’t.  Do you need to?”

He darted a glance back at her, folding his arms before answering quietly.  “I want to.”

She shrugged.  “It comes with a high probability of getting less than you think you want right now and an ironclad obligation to communicate thoroughly and well if things turn passionate again.”

Anything ,” he breathed, taking a step toward her around the table.  

She shook her head emphatically.  “No.  Don’t you anything me, Severus Sebastien Snape!  I do not consent to abetting you in your meteoric descent into some crater from which you can’t or do not plan to emerge.  A resilient man who knows his own worth - and mine - I have time for.  One who also wishes to find some love for himself rather than burying himself under unworthy pining for another.”

He took a step back.  “I don’t know how,” he said softly.

She shrugged.  “You think I do?  Do you at least want to?”

He ran his palm down his face, looking tired.  “Yes.”

She swept her gaze over his half-defeated posture.  “Would you like me to stay with you, tonight?”

His eyes leapt to hers.  “ Yes.”

“Good,” she said, kicking her shoes off under the table and shrugging out of her cardigan.

He stepped back involuntarily as she stood and she paused, looking at him.  “It’s warm in here.  Is this alright?”

He nodded warily.  She sighed and approached him slowly.  “Severus, I’m going to be wearing less on Friday.”

He nodded again, his eyes closing.  

She stopped right in front of him.  “I’d like you to open your eyes.  Will you do that please, and look at me?”

He did.  He looked at her… like an ache that lodged in her own heart.

She bit her lip.  “I was going to sit with you and interrogate you about a book, but now… if it is really alright with you, I think I’m going to hold you.  I’d like to touch you. Does that sound alright?”

His chest began to heave with deep, quick breaths, but he nodded faintly. 

She watched him a moment.  “Are you panicking?”

“Not,” he said, “unusually.”

She pulled him into a hug, standing on her toes on the toes of his shoes and putting her arms around his neck.  “I won’t hurt you.”

His breath came faster, even as his arms, hesitantly, settled around her waist.

She breathed the herbal scent of his hair and the ginger and turmeric that had melted into the general scent of him, holding him and waiting until his breath began to slow, his arms relaxing into something more… comfortable.  She felt the moment his neck untensed, his nose settling with a long inhalation amid her hair.

Only then did she speak.  “Severus, have you had a passionate encounter that wasn’t violent or coercive, ever?”

His breath hitched.  “In the bath, with you, was close.  And… one other time, maybe.” He was quiet a long moment before he added.  “The first.”

She nodded into his shoulder, moulding herself incrementally more closely to him.  “Tell me about it?”

He drew in a deep breath, his shoulders sagging.  “I… there was a stream in the woods near where the old mill used to be, and I sat there sometimes, even after… after everything had gone wrong with Lily.  She didn’t even come home most of the summers, anymore.  I was there, one night and… well.  I was surprised, we hadn’t spoken in years, and never kindly, but there she was.  I was… I was sixteen , and lonely, trying to determine if I could or should ignore the overtures of the Death Eaters, and she was determined and she just... pulled off her dress.  There was nothing under it.  I’d never seen… well.”

He took another long breath before continuing.  “She undid my pants and pushed me back, then she lay down with me and kissed me, and pulled me on top of her.  Into her.  I’d barely gotten my hands around the handfuls of her breasts before I came.  I still didn’t believe it was really happening.

“But then…”  He hesitated, shifting his weight between his feet.  “She started dressing again, pulling the leaves from her hair, and telling me things.  How that was sorted, then, how I’d sort everything out and she’d transfer to finish at Hogwarts with me, and we’d live in some… fairy castle with our brood of magical babies and never want for a thing.”

Hermione blinked into the front of his robes, tensing slightly.  “You lost your virginity to Petunia Evans?

He nodded weakly. “I didn’t mean to.  It just, happened.  She was so angry when I told her I couldn’t change how magical she was, that no one could .  I was too shocked to even be unkind about it, which… I might have been otherwise.  I was an ass then, and I know it, now.”

She looked up at him, finding his eyes. “Severus, that was definitely still coercive.”

He blinked down at her.  “...oh.”

She nodded gently.  “May I undress you?  And myself? I promise not to make you live in a fairy castle with any sort of brood.  I would like to touch you because I want to bring you pleasure, and to please myself, and I want us to be able to heal.  Is that alright?”

“Yes,” he nodded then looked at her, clearly marshalling words for a long moment before he spoke again.  “I’d even… I’d even consider the fairy castle, for you.” he said.  Then, his palm settling lightly on her stomach.  “Even the brood.”

She shuddered - she didn’t know if she’d ever want kids (she wanted to want them, but the world would have to be different, and so would she, first).  She did not intend to be impregnated.  But there was an intimacy in what he’d said, somehow, that moved her.  “Let’s… not count on that, shall we?”

She looked up at him and he was looking down at her.  

“May I kiss you?” he asked, quietly.

She nodded, glad he was learning.  “You may.”

His lips pressed hers like a hesitant question.  She pressed his back with a firm yes , opening her mouth under his to draw him in.  

A little whine unspooled in the back of his throat as his tongue dipped into her, twinging with her own.  His arms tightened around her, pulling her flush against him and grabbing fistfuls of her shirt at her waist as his tongue skimmed the fronts of her teeth. Then, moaning into her mouth, he tasted deeper again, lifting her up and sitting her on the table as he did, plates and glasses pushed to the floor with little clinks and larger shatters.

They were both panting when they finally disengaged their mouths with several lingering pecks, looking at each other.  Her eyes were drawn down to the most insistent evidence of his interest, a jutting swell distending the front of his trousers.  Then, she looked back up to met his gaze.  “ You can undress me, if you’d like.”

He nodded, dragging her shirt over her head and gasping softly at the sight of her in her white lace bra.  His hands hovered at her sides as she sat looking at him, her arms still up where her sleeves had dragged them, over her head.  She smiled.  “There’s a catch in the front, between my breasts.  Do you see it?”

He glanced down then back to her eyes.  She slowly lowered her hands and undid it herself, slowly, so he could see.  Then, she fastened it again and picked up his hands, pulling them to it.  “Now you try.”

He fumbled twice, then undid the latch.  Slowly, he peeled the fabric from her skin and let the straps fall down her shoulders and off, over her arms, as he beheld her.  She waited, patient, as his hands lifted, but he stopped short.  “May I touch you?” he asked, his voice deep and soft.

She nodded.  “Well done.”

She sat back, planting the heels of her hands on the table behind her as his cupped palms came up beneath her breasts, lifting then gently grasping, fondling them, rough thumbs skimming lightly over the tips of her nipples. 

She shuddered and arched her back, pressing into his touch.  Slowly, he grasped her more firmly, kneading at her, taking one of her tight pink buds between thumb and forefinger and lightly pinching.  She tossed her head back with a moan, thrusting her chest toward him and exposing the length of her neck.  His breath seemed to drag in and out of him as he grasped her more tightly still, his eyes darting back up to hers.  “And… may I kiss you?”

She nodded, her lips parted and eyes half-closed.  A shiver shot through him as he bent to lick around the circumference of one quivering mound, spiraling inward until his lips closed over the pinnacle, his tongue spiraling still, as it had done within her mouth before it withdrew for a slow, hard suck.

She cried out, her hands slipping where they braced behind her as she fisted them.

He attended equally to her other side, eyes darting to meet hers, which were looking down at him as he worked. Eyes still locked, he kissed up her neck until he found her mouth with his again, his hands closing on her hips, pulling her to the table’s edge to bring her closer to him.  

As they kissed, chaos and fire seeping in where hesitation and wariness had started, she moved her hands down rows of buttons, freeing him of robes, then undoing his shirt and finally the placket of his trousers before she pulled back, breathless.  “Take them off for me?” she asked, voice abrading the word off with a whine of impatience.  

His eyes didn’t leave hers as he pulled off his shirt, then let his trousers fall from his hips and kicked them aside, pausing also to toe off his socks. 

Her glance darted down to his pants.  “Those, too.”

He obeyed, then stood before her quivering and naked in the cool subterranean air.  

She bit her lip as her eyes smoothed down over him, caressing every curve, every angle, every scar with their attention.  He stood under her scrutiny, watching her pupils dilate, her teeth worrying her lower lip.  She wore only her own knee-length skirt - and knickers, he presumed - now.  

“Would you like me with my skirt on, or off?” she seemed to purr, pushing him backward and hopping down from the table to fish a moment under the skirt, letting her knickers drop to her ankles then stepping out of them, toward him.

His breath went ragged, his erect length twitching, attentive to her voice and the pictures it painted. “May I take it off you?” he breathed.

She turned, showing him the button and zip down the back.

He pulled her toward him gently by the waistband, shuddering as the weave of the wool brushed the sensitive tip of him, then hooked a finger over the garment’s edge, using the other hand to slip button through button hole then slowly drag the zipper down.  He let go, letting it fall and pool around her feet.

He didn’t move but his fingers lingered at the very terminus of her back, infinitesimally stroking the skin beneath where the button had been as his gaze sank lower.

She glanced at him over her shoulder, catching him at it.  “Would you like to look at me, Severus?”

“Yes,” he rasped, looking up at her eyes hungrily.  

After a moment, she nodded, then turned and picked up his hand, tugging him toward and then through the bedroom door.  Where she paused, surprised.

“You’ve a new bed,” she said, taking in the less ornate posts, the lighter finish, the more neutral, gray curtains.

Behind her, he hovered in the doorway, hesitant.  “I… burned the last.”

She looked back at him, turning.  “Would you like to look at me in it?”

He stumbled as if weak at the knees but then swept her up, lifting her by her hips again and tossing her gently onto it.  “Sweet Circe, yes,” he murmured, crawling up after her as she lay down on her back. “I may touch, as I look - may I kiss you?”

She considered a moment, then nodded.

He picked up her hand and started with the tip of every finger.

By the time he reached her left forearm, he was lying on his side, facing her as she lay on hers.  He gasped in horror, tears forming in his eyes as he realized there was a word carved there, then back to her face.  She shrugged, and he held her gaze a long moment before kissing every letter, the salt of his tears drying white on her skin.  “I will brew something to rid you of this if it is the last thing I do,” he whispered against her wrist, eyes flicking to meet hers again.  

She smiled down at him wearily.  “I hadn’t realized you hadn’t noticed it said that. Don’t promise anything.  It was a cursed silver knife.  Something Bellatrix had.”

Fury darkened his expression, but he fought it down with a sharp shake of his head, then bent to kiss the inside of her elbow lingeringly, the tips of his fingers gentle as they held her arm up to his mouth from below.

Hermione stretched through a full-body shiver, which he added to a meticulous set of mental notes that seemed now to eclipse all others, before moving on.

It seemed to take either moments or centuries, but at length, he had explored and tasted everything inch of her, down to the outer curves of her hips and up from her toes to the middles of her inner thighs, where he paused, looking up at her.  “May I continue?” he asked, gazing up at her from where her thigh hitched over his shoulder, his lips brushing her skin as he spoke.

Squirming slightly in anticipation, she nodded, and he smoothed his hands up the outsides of her hips as he bent to kiss up the inside of first one, then the other of her thighs, watching her eyes as he went.  Then, after a pause, he swept his hands under her buttocks shuddering as his fingers encompassed each and gentle squeezed.  

The wanton little mewl, the roll of her hips made his eyes flutter closed, and he had to pause to gather himself before he could proceed with the control he needed to show her he was capable of.  

“And… here?” he asked, his breath warm on her center but his lips not touching - yet.

She nodded, angling herself up to meet him and rolling her shoulder blades down into the coverlet.  

He bent to part her lower lips with a long, slow lick, moaning into her as the taste of her dissolved across his tongue, and then repeating, delving deeper, then again.  He felt her tight threshold and, looking up to her eyes pushed into her. Her eyes screwed tightly shut and she grabbed fistfuls of the blanket, breathing, “Yes.”

He lingered a moment, plumbing her to the depth he could, then swept forward, his lips closing on a small, pulsing swell.  Above, Hermione slammed her fists down onto the mattress, drawing her lower lip between her teeth. 

He drew her between his teeth and she squeaked, “gently!” - so he replaced teeth with lips and lapped at her, then sucked, then lapped again, settling ultimately into a rhythm that set her trembling all over, her thighs vibrating where they rested over his neck.  “More… pressure…” she gritted out - and he obeyed, sucking harder, pushing down on her with every lick until she started to almost sing an enduring, high note, which lowered, loudened until her hips suddenly jerked in his grasp and she cried out - in ecstasy unmarred by pain, her back arching convulsively, her hips thrusting against his persistent mouth as he saw her through until she limpened, shuddering, and brought her hands down to tangle them in his hair, her eyes sloe and fathomless.  

He crawled up the length of her and fell on his side beside her, watching her watch him, seeing her eyes traipse over the wet mess of his mouth and chin and looking around for something to wipe it with.

When she rolled to kiss him and licked him clean, he groaned.  “Oh, gods and demons, Hermione ,” his voice tore, before again closing his lips over hers.

They tangled thus a long moment, his body taut and hers relaxed, replete, before she pulled back slightly.  “Now, shall I look at you?” she asked, brushing her fingertips over his.  

His eyes widened as something lower than his gut wrenched and jerked at the mental image of her looking at him with her lips pressed to his inner thigh, and he adamantly shook his head.  “I think I’d die.  Not now.  Not yet.  I… I need…” he licked his lips, searching her face.  

She smiled, startling him by hitching her thigh around his hip.  “If not that...  would you like to slake that throbbing thing you’ve been enduring inside me?”

Shuddering, he nodded.  She draped her arms around his neck.  “Then do.  In any position you like, within reason.  How would you like me?”

He took a moment to marshall his ability to speak.  “On top of you.  Your legs… around me.  Kissing you.”

She smiled. “I would like that.”

When he rolled onto her between her thighs, she brought her legs up around his hips, hooking her ankles together as he reached down to touch her, find her, then guide himself to her.  His eyes flickered to hers for confirmation that this was still what she wanted, needing to know that she did, terrified of transgressing, disbelieving a little, still, that she could want this , want him.

She nodded slightly and he let himself sink, slow, into the silken wet heat of her with a jagged moan.  Her own in answer trailed into a whimper. When he pulled back, he looked down at her, still unable to believe this was happening.  “Yes,” she whispered, and he thrust forward again.

And then… with his every thrust, she just started telling him.

“Yes… yes, Severus, oh, Merlin, yes , please, mm, Severus, yes, Godric , yes, like that, now harder, Severus, fuck me hard! Yes!  Yes!  Yes!”

He was dimly aware of his own inarticulate roar in response as he slammed into her, the embrace of her legs slipping over his ass with each thrust in the slick of her and sweat, then they tightened, her legs beginning to shake again, and he slammed into her harder, reaching down between them to circle his fingertips around the same throbbing bud, and then... 

“Severus!” she screamed, arching up into him convulsively as she clenched around his pistoning cock, burying himself in her again, then again, and again, as he lost all rhythm and just madly dashed himself upon rocks that were her like the ocean trying to reclaim the land, until while she still writhed under, pulsed around him, he lifted his head and screamed feeling his climax burn through him as he poured into her, feeling as if his soul feld into her while his toes pushed against the footboard until she had to push down from the headboard to keep from being dashed into it, still crying “yes, Severus, yes!”

And when he was empty but somehow also full, every muscle just gave out, and he fell on her, slipping over their commingled sweat on her skin, burrowing his face into the joint between her shoulder and neck and shuddering, shivering through what felt a thousand years of sweet ending, bathed in himself frothing in the liquid crux of her, the most sacred potion he might ever stir.

Her arms flopped languorous around him as she bent her head to kiss his brow.  

It was a long time before he could move.   He never wanted his softening cock to slip out of her.

But eventually, he lifted himself on his elbows over her, looking down to search for regrets, for pain, because it couldn’t possibly have been like that, it was too… it was too right for anything to do with him.

But when she blinked her sleepy eyes open and looked at him, the warmth of her smile just undid him.  He kissed her then and she met him in it, sated and happy… in his bed.

And then her eyes fluttered closed and she pulled him back to rest his head on her shoulder as she fell asleep, with him still held within.

Chapter Text

NOVEMBER 19, 1981

Hermione, who had no idea how she’d turned out to be that guy who sneaks around from bed to bed at night, was glad she knew where all the secret passages were.  Including the ones Dumbledore had jovially told her about which lead to the hall where she lived branching off the Head’s Tower.  There were three - and the one from the dungeons was actually a sort of elevator… if you could deal with the ghoul who often inhabited it.

Even she was nowhere to be seen this very, very early morning, though.  

She’d left Severus a note, of course.  She reread what she’d written again in her head as she leaned into the rickety little car’s corner, rubbing her temples.  She really, really had enjoyed last night.  But it always felt as if one wrong word, one cause for doubt, and everything would tumble down around Severus.  He was good, and it was good to find and draw that goodness out of him and try to help him see it, to bask in it with him, to enjoy him at his best - which she had to admit was very, very enjoyable indeed.  But it was exhausting - exhausting - to constantly feel like his equanimity could topple off the knife’s edge if she made a wrong step. She knew she couldn’t change anyone, especially him - but she wanted him, cared for him, and wanted to open a door through which he could see that he could change himself , or even just realize all the good that was already there within him.

“I must be positively mad,” she told a spider peering at her from its web in the far corner conversationally.  “Here’s hoping following one’s heart isn’t a positively stupid thing to have learned from Harry.”

The spider peered at her a long moment, then continued to test the strands of its fortress.

She sighed and waited for the door to open.

When she slid shut the concealed door between the elevator and the hall, Hermione let out a long sigh.  Then, she took off her jacket, fishing the beaded bag from the inner pocket, and trundled toward the promise of her bed.  

She was looking forward to seeing her bed.  Just hers.  For sleeping .  

Only when she approached the deep doorway…

“Remus?!” she squeaked, incredulous.

For sitting against her closed door, looking tired with his elbows on his knees and his head in his hands, was none other than Mr. Moony himself.

He looked up at her wanly, his eyes dull and … more mournful hound than wolf.  

She sputtered and then drew herself up.  Well, drew herself up while continuing to sputter.  

“This… my… what are you doing here?!” she got out.

His eyes closed slowly, sadly, as he took a breath.  “Ah.  Well.  Sorry.  I’d come to talk to you - I know we need to, before the weekend - and thought I’d just… wait.  I shouldn’t have camped out.  I didn’t know you were planning to be out late, and then when it became clear that you were, I was torn between worry and what Sirius informs me is my stubborn tendency to mope, and I found it hard to move.  But… you seem alright, this time.  And…” he did sniff more deeply, now, “...and you seem not to have had to be bathed, daubed, and dosed with myriad healing potions, and not to have been fearful or full of adrenaline.  I just… well, I knew you weren’t with Sirius, and I knew I shouldn’t go looking for Severus, because the last time made me very afraid to think what the wolf might do if you… you were… were together again.”

She stood still a moment and then took a step toward him.  He shrank back, scooting a little farther onto the arch.  “Em.  I do still think we should talk, but it would be much, much easier for me - and I’m very, very sorry to have to ask - if you could do the thing with all the soaps and perfumes and such first.”  

When he blinked at her, his mien still hunched and unthreatening and sad, she could see that he was nonetheless fighting back yellow flecks as they surfaced in his eyes.

She stepped back again, and he visibly relaxed.  She sighed.  “I didn’t realize you’d known the other day.  Or even about Sirius, really.”

He furrowed a single brow at her as if he were mildly disappointed she wasn’t cleverer than that.  

She canted her head in exasperation at him as if to say you can lecture me about being clever when you stop prodding boundaries you’ve no right to, you puffy-tailed sulker.

He immediately looked chastened, like a dog bopped on the nose.

She said,  “Yeah, I know boundaries aren’t really a fluffy puppy thing. Thanks for never actually prodding your nose anywhere inappropriate, I suppose.”

The yellow rose in his eyes, and the wolf looked out as if to say, oh, but I will, someday.

She threw up her hands and shoed him, slow and reluctant out of her path before she skirted around him as widely as possible, leaving her door open as she crossed her rooms to the bathroom to turn the tap on in the tub.  She poured half a bottle of lemon bath salts in, then, tapping her foot and thinking, summoned her relatively fresh stash of wolfsbane from where it hung drying behind her desk and chucked it in, too.

“Ooof,” she heard, the murmur muffled and coming from her study.

She paused in taking off her shirt and shrugged before speaking at her normal volume, knowing he’d be able to hear her over the loud tumult of falling water.  “Look, you’re the one who doesn’t want to smell sex on me.”

There was a conspicuous silence, which she noticed only about five seconds in, preoccupied with continuing to undress. Naked and suddenly suspicious, she rolled her eyes.  “Other people sex,” she clarified.

“...Sex with Sirius isn’t awful ,” he mumbled glumly.  

She shook her head.  “You had your chance with him.”

Suddenly he sounded closer - in the bedroom.  “Yes, well, it’s been pointed out to me repeatedly that I’m a bit of an idiot.”  

She had just put a foot into the tub, wishing she’d used bubbles. The water was, but for the floating sprigs of wolfsbane, quite clear. Nonetheless, in she went.

“Remus.  I know I implicitly invited you in to talk, but… oh.  Well.  Oh dear.”

A beautifully-boned face peeked at her around the door frame.

Glumness was gone.  Remus’s eyes had gone from mostly green to green-tinged yellow as he stepped in from the side and stretched to his full height, arms reaching above his head in the doorway.  Then he slouched in it, hanging off the carved stone lintel as his purer and purer golden gaze licked over her. “I’m also not a fluffy puppy,” he smirked, meeting her eyes again.

She crossed her arms over her chest and pulled up her knees, crossing her ankles.  “No, actually, you’re a bit of an ass.”

He shrugged, clearly unphased.  “Only when sufficiently motivated to put my fluffier side in his cage.”

“That’s a shame,” she retorted.  “He’s the one I’d like to pet.

The smirk deepened into a wolfish grin.  He didn’t even have to say he knew she was lying.

“I meant that,” she groused, slumping against the back of the tub mutinously.  

Remus shrugged.  “Not… entirely,” he allowed, taking a step forward and then another.

She gulped as he knelt beside the tub, looking at her from too close with those unsettling eyes.

So quickly she almost couldn’t track the moment, he reached across her to grab her flannel from its hook, then her bottle of body wash, which he started to pour on the cloth.  She realized he must have dragged the flannel through the water, wetting it, only because it dripped and there was a small ripple in the water.

“Do you know, Hermione, that wolves can go weeks without eating?  Before they gorge ?” he asked lightly before he gestured to ask if she’d give him her arm.  And, for some reason, leaving the other firmly in place across her breasts, she did.

He started with each of her fingertips, lathering them gently, before working down.  Belatedly remembering his question, she shook her head.  She had the irrepressible sense that looking away, showing fear, or flinching would be a very bad idea.  

“That wolves can hear sounds from up to ten miles away in the open?” he asked, lingering over the inside of her elbow.  She realized with a mix of awe and horror that he was following exactly where Severus had kissed her.  And then she shook her head as he rolled up his sleeves and lifted up her other arm, the tainted water turning his skin a stinging pink - though he registered no discomfort.  

She forgot to cover herself again.  

Several minutes later, as he finished gently conditioning her hair he continued “Wolves can also smell what they desire from almost two miles away.” 

He pulled the correct unlabeled bottles of shampoo and conditioner, she thought with a strange sense of detachment, and left them in for precisely the correct duration.

He continued to work silently, gently, dispassionately even as his arms reddened while he gently cleansed her back, then her stomach and her breasts. 

Then he lifted the first of her feet from the water.  “They can survive very cold temperatures, wolves.  Long past water has turned to ice.”

She nodded slowly, watching him.  “That I did know.”

He nodded to acknowledge it as he pulled her leg straight up, loitering over the back of her knee.  Then, the other leg. “Wolves are very patient.”

The cloth followed his hand down, caressing the insides of her thighs - where he stopped, looking at her eyes.  “The puppy learns these things to understand the wolf. He tells them to me - to himself.”

She didn’t speak, but he continued to look at her, his arm still and submerged.  When she realized he was waiting for something, she blinked, and when her eyes opened again, he was right in front of her, his lips brushing hers as he spoke, their noses pressed together.  “And do you know something else, Hermione?”

She shook her head microscopically, her nose rubbing against his.  

He smiled against her lips.  “The puppy - whatever lies he tells himself - is me. There is no magic line dividing us, as in your poor, marked child, and any boundary he pretends is fruitlessly constructed.  And he, I …  am not a simple animal . Not even a noble one.  Not even a wolf.”

And then he was gone so fast she couldn’t see it happen  - but he let her hear him moving through her bedroom. “It’s my turn , woman, and you want me. No commitment runs athwart us. I will take nothing from you - I am no savage and my heart is rooted deep - but I also will not wait forever.  This is the last time I will border on trespass to rouse you from your reticence. Come to me when you have dressed, and however I apologize, understand that it will not be because I have not told you the truth .”

Chapter Text

Hermione knocked on Remus’ door around 5:30 AM - about an hour and a half later.  Her hair was still damp, but any ceremony there ever may have been to stand on seemed moot at this point.  

She heard a rather tired sounding “It’s open” from within and entered.

His head was pillowed on his arms, which were folded on a tidy blotter on his desk.  His entirely green eyes looked up at her from over his blistered-but-already-healing forearms, but otherwise he stayed put.  

She sat sideways in one of the upholstered armchairs across from him, her back against one armrest and her legs over the other, looking at him.

There was silence for a long moment.

“So,” she eventually said.  “I take it you were reading psychology at Oxford to learn more about Dissociative Identity Disorder?”

He blinked, lifting his head a couple inches.  “Huh.  That’s a much better name than Multiple Personality Disorder.  Is that what we’ll call it?”

She nodded.  He shrugged.  “Seemed worth a try.”

She nodded more enthusiastically, smiling slightly.  “Absolutely.  It was a stroke of unusual brilliance to look outside magical medicine, and I think one that was on to something potentially helpful.  But have you also spoken to a mind healer?”

He slumped back down, despondent. “How could I?  Not even allowed in St. Mungo’s under current law.  And Britain and Ireland are unusually lenient with my kind, as such things go.”

She looked up at the ceiling, tracing with marvel the smooth curves that made the vault.  “Yes, well.  You weren’t wrong that I wanted one here for you .”

He sat up.

She didn’t, letting the gold recede in his eyes as she continued to focus her attention on the stone above her. “You should know that it’s possible for you to cope with your warring impulses better, but that I think in my future, you mostly did that by restricting the wolf, or whatever you call it, until it lost its voice and only emerged during a potionless change, overridden by the frenzy of the hunt.  And I think that did violence to you - all of you.  Sapped your courage, your verve, in ways I don’t think were natural. Made you less bestial than man is meant to be.  Robbed the color from your cheeks and the roll from your gait.”

He cocked his head.  “Well, that sounds just delightful ,” he grumbled sarcastically.

She nodded, swinging her legs around to the floor and sitting up.  “And dangerous, too.  That the wolf is a lot of where you keep your will to survive and your ability to react to danger.  You definitely lost access to your capabilities as a demi-being, which I’ve never seen you use unless you’re in that sort of blended, ferocious state you fall into when the wolf’s awake.  It doesn’t surface much, if at all , in my time.”

He studied her.  She studied him back.

Eventually she broke the silence. “I didn’t realize it was strange until I started to work more with the werewolf community.  Especially the kids.  They’re uninhibited - zip around all over everything, having great fun.  Don’t draw the lines adults mostly constrained themselves within as a polite fiction, a way to integrate without standing out.  Have more conscious control over eye color but around the full moon. But I’ve seen you duel, Remus, and you were brilliant , but no more so than any other exceptionally capable wizard.  You’d beaten parts of yourself entirely into submission.  Or… well.  I think someone else did, when you were still a child yourself.  Which tracks, doesn’t it, with what you know about the Muggle psychological ailment?”

He frowned.  He didn’t need to speak.  She knew what his father had been like. And 4 year olds enjoy learning how fast they can run, as a rule.

She swallowed before she continued, her voice growing smaller.  “But at any rate, under the thrall of that solution... you died .  And I was the one who found you.”

He went perfectly still.  

“It was in the final battle.” she closed her eyes and tried to describe it without picturing it, not wanting to flash back again.  “Your … your partner died, too.  Also brilliant, but clumsy.  Back to back with you.  You both had so much to live for. And it was wrong.  It should never have happened.  It was a gratuitous cruelty in an already heartrending history.  It was… a blow to the tender heart of young Hermione Granger ,” she said, her tone bitter over her own name, “who… had long been very fond of you.” 

She heard him shift in his seat - so, so slightly - but she heard it.

She opened her eyes to look at him.  “Did you know I was helping to raise your son?  He was mine, every-other weekend.”

Remus sat back, stunned.  “I… something about you smelled like mine.”

She shrugged.  “Yeah, well.  Your life is worth fighting for, and one of the reasons I hope mine is more than illusory, here, is to help you win that fight.  So will you come to see Charity with me?”

He started to speak, then hesitated, searching for words.  “Hermione, it’s not just something that I can, overnight, muster the -”

“-What if I give you a little puppy treat?  Will you cut the Prufrocking and introspection and come with me, then?” she cut him off.

He blinked, as if trying to figure out if he’d been insulted. “What, you brought me chocolate or something? That’s not only a little demeaning, it’s hardly commensurate to the enormity of -”

In an instant, she was crouching in front of him on his desk, standing on his previously tidy blotter, the twist of her booted toes ripping the paper.  Her eyes were glowing gold as she looked down into his.

He reeled back in shock and horror, the back of his chair colliding with his own built-in bookshelves.  She stayed still and watched him.

“Sirius,” she finally remarked, “has the most remarkable little book. Whoever wrote it was so encyclopedic in their approach to collecting any spell that might be of interest for a particular goal that they gave absolutely no consideration whatsoever to what else the spells within might be used for.  It might actually be the most dangerous book I’ve ever known - save one. And you , Remus, shedded on my doorstep while you sat there and fumed and pined and worried all night.  The hair of a werewolf was the last component necessary for a potion to gain one’s traits for an hour - keyed to the appropriate moon cycle.”

He blinked up at her.  “I’ve heard of that spell.  That’s blood magic!”

She shrugged, lifting her hair behind her ear to reveal a tiny pink scratch along her hairline.  “It’s a very small scar, and with your healing, the cut’s already knit up nicely.”

He looked up at her as if he couldn’t decide whether he was shocked, revolted, or amazed - but she heard his heart quickening, and could smell both fear and… joy rising off himself.

She was on her feet near the door in an instant.  “C’mon, you idiot.  This is your treat.  Let’s go run around like supernatural nutters in the forest.”

He sputtered.  “I … Hermione, I can’t catch you like that.”

She shrugged.  “Not with that attitude - and I don’t have long. I’ll be weak and tired when it’s over - surely you don’t want me stuck out there alone like that? You don’t think I’d do this without a secondary goal of some stubborn and ill-advised sort, do you? I suggest you hurry up and try .  Who knows?  Maybe the thing I aim to do is you.

Then the door was ajar, and she was gone. 

About one hour and fifteen minutes later, something blurred into the office and suddenly the two armchairs across from Charity Burbage’s new desk were occupied.  It happened just as she was arriving for the day.  One of her visitors was a blearily blinking Hermione Granger - cradled by armrests rather than sitting properly upright.  The other was an aggrieved and aggravated Remus Lupin - eyes only slightly gold-flecked and one suede elbow patch hanging half off his tweed robes - which were a lovely and otherwise well-maintained symphony of interwoven shades of green.  

Charity glanced between them, blinking in surprise but immediately donning a very professional and solicitous smile.  Hermione and Dumbledore had each briefed her - over some good giggle water in the former’s case - and she’d had some notion of what she might expect from this meeting.  Indeed, the importance and unusualness of the work were part of the miracle of having gotten this position, to her. 

“Healer Burbage,” Remus began while Hermione snuggled down into the plush armrests and looked around sleepily.  “I believe our colleague Ms. Granger needs an intervention.  She’s been excessively foolhardy and I can’t imagine she had any reasonable expectation of surviving her own antics this morning." The muscles of his jaw flexed as he attempted to gather himself. "I recovered her when she was in the course of collapsing from exhaustion in the wake of having single-handedly wrecked havoc on an enormous colony of Acromantula - did you know they’d become a seriously entrenched invasive species in the Forbidden Forest?!” He shook his head, returning to the point.  “When I managed to reach her, she was zipping about under spell-induced speed, cackling maniacally as she somehow vanished scores upon scores of egg sacs and many of the colony’s more diminutive, brown-”

“-Female,” Hermione interjected, her eyes now closed, voice rasping, a beatific smile on her lips.

Remus shook his head, letting out a hiss of exasperation, “I was going to say, in all likelihood female members of the settlement.”  Charity opened a notebook, unobtrusively starting to take notes while Remus slumped back, pressing his fingertips to his temples and closing his eyes.  “There was an insanely large male charging after her who spoke English and was promising he’d kill her in new and gruesome ways at every step.  I imagine we’ll have to ward them into a confined space somehow. now, to keep the students safe.”

 Hermione, who was acting almost drunk, started to wave her hands about airily, as though conducting an imaginary symphony.  “Back to Boooooorrrrrrrneo, tra la la la la! Farewell ye hairy jackasses, your eight feet treadth too neeeeeear… something something victory let's quaff some butter beeeer...”

Remus cut a look over at her, then looked at Charity, who was still writing, as if to say, Do you see what I have to put up with from her?

Charity nodded, tucking away her quill, and looked up at him, her chin poised propped on the backs of her hands.  “And how did Hermione’s actions make you feel , Remus?”

Remus huffed, folding his arms.  “Like we need to keep her safe from ruddy well self-destructing, that’s how!  There was no reason for her to believe it probable that anyone could have rescued her from that entirely unprovoked mess - granted the arachnid horde shouldn't be here in the first place, but taking on a colony of over a thousand alone and without so much as informing others was … was sheer hubris! When I scooped her up, she was sinking to her knees, completely depleted of magic and surrounded by those chittering nightmares , and they were closing in from all sides -” he ground to a halt with a shiver, pulling Hermione's chair closer to his and beginning to fuss over checking her for injuries with medical diagnostic charms. “Next time I see a Bogart,” he muttered as he fussed, “I'm certain it will have a nightmarish new form. The entire thing was… was unhinged .”

Charity nodded thoughtfully.  “It’s very difficult, feeling protective of those we love when they don’t seem to hold their own safety as dear as we do, isn’t it?”  She shook her head sadly.  “You know, I bet you’ve had some difficulties before - how’d you solve them then?  Do you tend to connect in times of tension best through, oh, a project undertaken together?  A shared meal?  A touch of intercourse, perhaps?”

Both the people across her desk were suddenly staring at Charity - heads up, eyes quizzical.  

She only held the expression of sincere professional inquiry for another few seconds before she cracked, spinning in her chair and chortling.  “Sorry - sorry.  Em, you know, I hadn’t known she’d planned to go quite that far to get you here, but - welcome, Remus!  You’re going to have to spend some time on that side of the desk before you can learn much, my worthy apprentice.” She shook her head, still laughing as both her guests’ faces reddened.  “Oh, and congratulations on catching her while motivated predominantly by compassion!  Now, let’s get Hermione off to take a nap somewhere - I imagine she could have a kip in the infirmary, so Poppy can monitor for ill effects from whatever spell she’s done - but we, Remus, have some extraordinary work to do together - starting with some assessment spells, never fear, not dialectical therapy.  Oh, I’m so looking forward to digging in!”

Chapter Text

NOVEMBER 20, 1981

Hermione gave up reviewing her lesson plans at noon - she’d done as much as she could, really, and she’d become far too jumpy to continue being productive.  

Besides, the long black box on her bed had become far too distracting.  

So she’d bathed.  In a fit of either history or irony, she’d smoothed her skin with oils liberally sprinkled with crumbled gold leaf and scented with labdanum and rose, cinnamon and styrax, marjoram and anise.  She changed the balance here and there so that her hand would be spiced and her thighs, sweet and darker. She charmed the sheen and slickness of it to stay and worked some into her hair, too, darkening and defining her curls before threading the locks from around her face through large, golden beads that held her hair back from her temples.  She kohled her eyes emphatically, almost passing Greek to Egyptian.She scrubbed her lips with sugar and dressed them with charmed honey, shining, thick, and durable.  Finally, she spelled her irises a silvery gray, then went to dress.

Baka had done well.

The chiton he’d made her was full length, and made of diaphanously-thin, unicorn-white silk.  It was tawdry despite its simplicity in the sun, but when she closed her curtains, it rippled over her, unstained by the fixed oil and revealing just more than the silhouette of her naked body beneath by candlelight. The red velvet martial cloak he’d made her was edged and lined with gold and fastened below her collarbones with a heavy clasp of gilt snakes biting each other’s necks, a nod to the shield-cloak Aegis.  Lastly, she laced golden sandals up her calves, secured seemingly seamless hammered gold gauntlets around her forearms, and put on her Corinthian helm - gold topped with a high, blood-red plume.  

She stuck the helm to her head with a charm.  She knew she’d forget it was there and it’d fall off at the most embarrassing moment possible otherwise.  

Then, sliding her true wand into hiding up a gauntlet, she used it with a wave of her hand to transfigure a spare into a spear to finish the costume.  

(The spare was unicorn and vine, comparable in length and appearance, but just not hers the same way.  Still, ever since breaking Harry’s, and then having to use Bellatrix’s, she had made a point of carrying several and stashing more in strategic locations.)

Then, noting she had an hour before she had to leave, she looked in the mirror.

It was perfect .  

It was too perfect.

She was an avenging virgin on her way to an orgy .  What she needed was a hero to take up her endeavor.  

With a twist of her lips, she cast the Patronus and waited for the knock.

It took just slightly longer than she’d anticipated - and he didn’t knock. Instead, he hissed into the door.  “Of course I’m up!  Do you think me a toddler, napping before dinner?”

She opened the door.

His eyes went wide, raking down her body then back to her eyes. “Command me, my goddess!” he finally murmured, pushing into the room and closing the door behind him.

She smirked, walking backward and beckoning him after her.  “Worship me.”

His white teeth sparkled, a hand pressed to his heart.  “Take your throne, then, o my queen.  I’ll to my knees at your feet.  Always a divine favor indeed to sip from the wine-dark sea.”

She half-snorted as he pushed her onto the bench at the foot of her bed and knelt between her knees, rucking up her skirt and smiling wickedly before disappearing under it.

“Oh, wisdom, let me know you!” he crooned into her thigh.

She batted gently at his now-veiled head halfheartedly.  “Keep using your lips to speak rather than drink me up and you’ll also need to break out the rosy fingers of dawn, you swineherd.”

He shook with laughter even as he shoved her thighs wide and sank nose and mouth into her like a man eager to drown.

Forty five minutes later, her lips were swollen, her hair mussed, and hand-shaped disturbances marred the artfully speckled flecks of gold along the skin of her hips and ankles. 

With a shudder, she let him slowly slip from her and threw her leg back over his torso to dismount while he eased his hips down to the mattress and stretched.  Then she stumbled over to the mirror.

Sweat commingled with oil.  Her nipples were clearly outlined beneath the silk in their titillated state.  Her eyes were dark and full of satisfaction. She was even walking differently. She was perfectly, gorgeously mussed and looked like an avatar of feminine power - and war.

“Oh, my swineherd ,” she purred, looking back at him over her shoulder as he smirked at her over his glistening shoulder, nude on her bed and lounging on his side in such a way that she could admire every muscle down his back.  He seemed to have picked up her copy of Snow Crash, resuming his place from some earlier point when she hadn’t known he’d been reading it.

She liked seeing her scratches on his back, and feeling him still, wet on her thighs.  These were things that were… just such carnal fucking things that didn’t resonate through her like this with anyone else.  And he knew she’d be gone tonight with Severus, and then as long as the entire weekend with Remus, who’d been near miss after near miss and broke his heart besides.  And that he was still here , not fussing even as his eyes made her not want to go anywhere, that he cheered her toward anything she wanted or needed even to his own detriment,  just burned through her.

He was dangerous.

“Next time you play the grey-eyed goddess, you ought to bridle me, I think,” he mused lightly, turning a page and then glancing back at her again with roguish speculation. “She invented them, you know. And stirrups also present some fascinating possibilities...” 

It was always like he was always either determining exactly what she needed to hear to be whole... or quipping effortlessly while running the complex engineering tests necessary to figure out how he could most egregiously surprise her with his next act of coital athleticism. He never missed a reference but he didn’t exactly show off - at least not with her - or make her feel like she was doing so for just saying whatever occurred to her. 

She blinked at him, her smile fading.  

He blinked back, confusion and concern already dawning on his face.  “Hermione, did I do..?”

She was already shaking her head vigorously.  “No, I… look.  I’m not… I can’t…”  She sighed testily, beyond exasperated with herself.  “ Fuck a truck-driving duck in the muck, stuck, fuck fuck fuck!”

He blinked, sitting up.  “Em, alright.  Can’t decide if that was adorable or disturbing...”

“Don’t ask me now! Just… not now, alright?” Fuming, she threw up her hands in frustration then threw herself at him, knocking him backward across the bed in a furious storm of kisses.  Which… he didn’t seem to mind, but also clearly knew wasn’t the entire conversation even as she started to work rapidly down his chest.  

“Are you sure we shouldn’t talk with our voices rather than our very, very impressive throats and various other oral talents, Promachos?” He blinked down, shivering, as she ignored him.  “Alright, I admit, I forgot to explicitly laud your unequaled tongue, only I know that you…” he moaned and his head fell back, his bed arching up from the mattress spasmodically.  “ That wasn’t fair,” he whined, breathless, “not fair , you demoness .  Sweet Circe, please do it again.”

When he woke she was gone and his throat was still raw from the most exquisite sort of yelling. 

He couldn’t bring himself to move until he’d closed his eyes to replay it all in his head. 

She’d left a note, though:

GOOD. DOWN.  STAY.

please. - H

Chapter Text

MALFOY MANOR

Severus had been casting concerned and somewhat petulant looks at her since she’d run up to him, breathless, just beyond the edge of the Apparition ward’s extension into the Forbidden Forest, even obscured as she was by the voluminous and concealing black overcloak she wore over her costume.

But after they doffed their cloaks, he gasped and almost seemed to stumble.

There must be actual unicorn hair in the silk, he thought - not much, because it was subtle, but nothing else would glow in such a way.  Still, it was her affected dishabille that arrested him.  

He hadn’t seen her rise from his bed - she left always while he slept - but he’d imagined it looking something like this.  He would not pry - it could just be… a very, very inspired costume.  One that all but dripped with recent ravishing - she, the aggressor.  It was the most provocative thing he had ever seen.

He wondered who’d dressed her in it, and why it hadn’t been him.

( And? he thought.  She is not bound to me. And if I cannot treat each moment we are together as the gift it is, I will absolutely lose her. Can’t it be enough?)

He gathered himself and took her hand, preparing himself to lead her to be introduced to their hosts.

Lucius Malfoy. 

Of course he’d fashion himself as Zeus , she thought, keeping her walls tight to her mind and her face knowing.

He was too thin for it, too pale and unbearded, but he didn’t look bad.  The silvery toga that richly wound around him looked like it could be twitched off at the slightest whim, appropriately, and he cradled crackling lightning between his hands, smirking and dripping entitlement and power as he stood to greet the guests.

The manor itself was entirely transformed - though it had an air of illusory vagueness about it.  The space was large, open, and seemed to be a rough-hewn grotto with few interior walls and many slopes and curves.  Mist flowed over rough stone floors and little mossy bowers and steaming pools were situated around and about in plain view for some of the more shameless guests to disport themselves together - and for others to merely sit and talk.  All around the walls, though, were crystalline enclosures through which couples (and less conventional numbers) engaging in all manner of the obscene and the illicit where they could be seen only in silhouette. 

Ahead of them in line waited a pudgy little man, richly caped in purple velvet, with a dazed and absent-looking Veela on his arm.  Hermione wouldn’t let herself shudder.  Even in her own day, it still wasn’t technically illegal to use an Unforgivable Curse on a magical being.  Pure Veela weren’t even allowed wands, for all they intermarried with wizards and often shared similar capabilities.

The realization that many might marry under Imperius made her blood run cold - and so she stood still a moment too long after the couple moved on, leaving Severus to have to tug her along to the front of the queue.

“Well, and what have we here… some most fascinating disruption of the dress code, I see!  But I must say, you did it to glorious effect, Severus.”

Hermione pulled herself together fast at the sound of Malfoy’s voice, standing a little closer to Severus but by no means behind him, and affecting a sort of affluent boredom with the proceedings as she gave a cursory look around.

Severus, who was dressed as Hector in Trojan battle regalia, doffed his own Corinthian helm, white-plumed, with a slight nod of greeting.  “I find it difficult to deny this one anything, I’m afraid,” he grumbled with real sincerity.

Lucius’s eyes pivoted then to Hermione, sweeping her up and down with growing interest.  “Well, then, perhaps Daddy will have to teach his daughter a lesson sometime this evening, for being so defiant.”

Hermione looked back at him, radiating boredom and ambivalence in a way that seemed to discomfit him, by the way he took half a step back.  “... However ,” he said, now taking in her face more specifically, as if trying to catalog her, “I’m afraid I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting the mysterious lady behind the act of rebellion.”  He swept an ornate bow which nevertheless didn’t much lower him.  “Welcome.  I’m Lucius Malfoy, host of this little revel, though tonight you may call me Zeus, or any other little endearment that you may desire.  And you are…?”

She nodded brusquely, extending her hand.  “Granger - Hermione Granger. You may call me Athena, or any of her cults’ stylings, I suppose.”

He cocked his head and took her hand, continuing to regard her with fascination.  “I haven’t heard of your family.  And isn’t Athena rather famously a virgin?”

She smiled.  “I’ll tell them that’s working, then - but please do not believe I am telling you who I truly am with that name. As to virginity, are not all daughters so in their dearest daddies’ eyes?”  She rolled hers, shaking her head. “Seems to me a goddess of wisdom would do a fair bit of knowing others, and being known herself.”

Malfoy shrugged, lifting her hand to his lips with a smirk.  “Severus, you’ve never had luck before.  You’ll have to tell me at which temple you sacrificed to summon this wonder.”

Severus huffed.  “ Un likely.”

Hermione forced herself to smirk slightly at Lucius, who had not exactly yet kissed nor relinquished her hand.  “And are you by yourself at the helm of this fete, then? Has Hera left you all alone?”

Lucius shook his head, tickling the pads of her fingers with his own.  “No, no, my dear - this is a party about how we shall prevail , and there are better goddesses to enshrine to that end.”

At that moment, a woman clad in a long but gauzy chiton not unlike her own, but slit up to the thigh on both sides, stepped up beside Lucius Malfoy.  Her feet (which were long and pale and perfect, of course) were bare and her breasts pressed rather more against the cloth containing them than did Hermione’s own, and her head was topped with a crown of laurels.  Perhaps most stunningly, however, two large, animated, angelic wings swooped from her upper back.

Well, most stunning until one saw her face, at any rate.

“Now here’s a less odd couple,” Hermione murmured, tugging her fingers away from Lucius to kneel before Narcissa Malfoy and pick up her hand to kiss it.  “At your service, sweet Victory.  Won’t you show me your domain?  I’d demonstrate my gratitude for your distinctive contribution to this little soiree.”

As she knelt there, brushing her thumb over Narcissa’s knuckles and looking up at her, it occurred to her that this was unplanned and entirely mad - but also that she’d done it all before thinking better of it, almost unable to help it.  

Sirius is such trouble he’s even rubbing off on me! she thought, fuming, to herself, even as she stared at his cousin.  

Both the men, separated across the diagonal by their linked hands, were watching with a mixture of chagrin and very male fascination as this exchange played out. 

Narcissa was in full high nose mode, glancing at Hermione down that sculpted feature with convincing indifference - but her wings trembled slightly.  “But of course.  Please, do come right this way.”

Severus began to move as if to object, but then just shrugged, looking at Lucius and realizing no further guests awaited greeting at this time.  “It seems, Apomyius , that you’re catching flies with your mouth.  Let’s leave Nike and Athena to their rendezvous while we go and find some hapless satyr to pour us some wine.  

Before Hermione could rise, he had stepped around her and was leading Lucius away.

Leaving her with Narcissa.

Chapter Text

Narcissa seized two flutes of champagne from a passing server - who was, indeed, a satyr - and paused a moment to thrust one into Hermione’s hand before continuing to tug her through the crowd.  

“You’re meant to be giving me a tour,” Hermione mumbled, almost tripping as she jogged a step to keep up. 

“You want to loiter to gawk?” Narcissa tossed her white-blonde hair back, not turning.  

Hermione lengthened her stride as she glanced around, shrugging....  

...And seeing no fewer than three wizards availing themselves of a single… she appeared to be a Fairy who’d been Engorgio ’d to human size, her all-black eyes blinking, her proportions somehow jarring in their exaggeration at this scale.  Her vein-marked, clear wings were beating frantically to her sides and she was struggling to free her wrists from the wizard straddling her neck.  Some manner of device at the corners of her mouth was keeping her from biting down, and her kicks kept missing the two other wizards, who were laughing as they… 

Hermione made herself look away.  Maybe the Imperius ’d Veela was actually better off for it. 

By the time she looked back at Narcissa, it was to see her feathered wings folded so tightly they trembled and hear her hissing in disgust.

“I’ve seen it, all of it, far too much of it, too many times.  And besides,” she growled, darting a suspicious look back at Hermione, “I very highly doubt anyone incapable of understanding the expected consequences of their own wordplay is subtle enough to be of any use to me past an evening’s diversion.”

“If they scare you, shame you, or fluster you, smile. Let them think they’re rather cute in their childish antics.”

Hermione remembered the words from a world to which there was no return.  And she willed down a flush and  smiled fondly at her host - as if she were tiny Harry figuring out how to flip a page - and shrugged.  “If there are other things you’d like to show me, I’ll divert you, but one mustn’t presume. You had the out of simply giving me a tour.”

Narcissa paused and spared her a slightly approving look before turning her head this way and that as if scouting their way forward while she spoke.  “After such droll pastimes as that ,” she said, waving her hand to the side vaguely before starting forward again, “I doubt the ministrations of another witch will break me.”

Hermione followed the gesture and blinked, taking in the woman bent nude beneath a dull-eyed centaur. 

By the time Hermione had torn her widened eyes away, Narcissa was dragging her into one of the crystal enclosures, this one unique for being covered by an additional spray of quartz that protruded from a wall to make a sort of roof.

“Sorry,” Narcissa whispered, looking around to ascertain no one else was here before downing her champagne with a wrinkle of her nose.  “Even for me, it’s not safe to wander at these things without Lucius.  I didn’t want us to be… importuned by another guest.  And even here, we will be watched,” 

Hermione already heard a wolf whistle from outside, and glanced around quickly.  There was a large, low bed in the space, with drawers tucked under it and no linens but for a single covering sheet - mercifully clean.  The back wall of the space was brightly lit - doubtless to project their shadows all the more clearly to the outside.

“We’re… to perform, then?” Hermione asked, struggling to keep her tone neutral.

Narcissa shrugged, then grabbed Hermione’s champagne and downed it too before tapping both glasses with her wand - which it seemed she was allowed to carry openly - and refilling them, thrusting one at Hermione.  “If we don’t, it’ll be interpreted as a sign that we’re open to more... company .  If you’re insufficiently theatrical, I suggest you drink up.”

Hermione blinked, already in the process of downing her own glass for a second time.  “I’m not- It’s just- You’re, but-”

Realizing that a sneer was creeping back onto Narcissa’s face, swiftly moving in to cover hopelessness, Hermione growled in frustration at her inability to articulate and pushed the blonde’s back into the outer crystal wall.  She shook her head as she stepped up to follow.  “I just haven’t any practice to speak of, is all,” she whispered in exasperation before she stepped into Draco’s mother’s  space and kissed her.

And… found her tongue pleasant with the tang of champagne and something more difficult to define, so continued kissing her, chasing the elusive spice that teased her tongue with its mystery.

The whistles outside their little butterfly jar changed in tone and were joined with some applause when Hermione finally pulled back an inch, panting as her chest pressed into Narcissa’s, heaving breath for heaving breath.  

Those ice-gray - or were they blue? - eyes were incredibly close, and darker, she noticed, around the edges of their magnificent irises.  And the lips were bruised red, now.

“I… wouldn’t have guessed… that…” Narcissa got out between breaths.  Her hands had tangled in Hermione’s hair at some point, Hermione realized, unselfconsciously reaching down to hitch a long, slender leg around her own hip.  

“What’s that?” Hermione murmured, considering the blue-veined white curves of the other woman’s neck with her lower lip between her teeth.  

Narcissa shook her head slightly, sending the scent of her hair billowing around them.  “Don’t seem unpracticed,” she said, throwing the other leg up and grasping Hermione’s hips with her surprisingly strong thighs.

Hermione forgot necks and rubbed her nose in the little indentation betwixt Narcissa’s clavicles.  “Thanks.  I learn quickly.”

Narcissa pushed Hermione’s face down into her cleavage, which she well knew to be peerless, then smirked at the brunettes’s shuddering kisses and licks. “Good.  Because I teach impatiently.  Suck - harder - harder - there .”  She threw her head back noticing idly that her wings had spread behind her.  “How will you help me, other than leaving me little lovebites to remember you by, Miss Phoenix?”

Hermione groaned, shoving Narcissa’s chiton off her shoulders and yanking it down her arms and chest to droop around her waist.  “Bigger lovebites,” she breathed, nosing a soft curve. 

Narcissa shrugged, glancing down coyly.  “For the moment I find that’s adequately compelling, for some reason”  She pointed primly at her right nipple.  “Start here.”

Hermione readily and enthusiastically obliged, tongue flicking and cheeks hollowed as she pulled at the pebbled flesh, though Narcissa’s ‘ for some reason’ kept nagging at the back of her mind.  Narcissa egged her on to the point of biting down quite hard before her back spasmed and arched and she gave a little, breathy cry, exceptionally tense, before sagging back against the crystal and looking sleepily down at the awestruck Hermione, who was watching her.

“Just… just from that?” Hermione asked, torn between pride and the sheer unfairness of it.

Narcissa smirked.  “Just like that - though it’s been a long, long time.”

Hermione blinked. “I didn’t know that was possible.  Also, how the hell did we go from sniping to fucking so fast?

Narcissa let her feet down to the floor and then unceremoniously pushed the brunette down onto the bed.  “I haven’t begun to fuck.  But I’ve also noticed the strange velocity,” she mused, climbing up over Hermione.  “Isn’t there something we’re supposed to be talking about?”

Hermione blinked up, taking a moment to remember how to think as the other woman’s weight pressed over her.  “Em… yes, I think there may have been.”

Narcissa grinned impishly and reached over Hermione’s head to seize a pillow - then unceremoniously ripped it open, spreading tiny downy white feathers everywhere.  Hermione sputtered, blinking them clear of her eyes and trying to unstick them from her wet lips.  “I’m sure it can wait.  But I want you privately,” the blonde said, shooting a little unspoken spell into the mess of feathers.  Which immediately formed into the silhouette of two women grappling in ways that would make Sappho blush.

Hermione goggled as one seemed to wrap its thighs around the other’s neck and brace its arms on the ceiling, trying to remember words.  

Then, she shrank into a swirl of nothing only to pop into existence again - somewhere darker, in a bed, with Narcissa falling down on top of her with a little chuckle before tearing at the cloth of her gauzy dress.  “Fuck,” Hermione said as teeth clamped down on her nipple, setting her writhing with heat and pain.  

Narcissa parted the curtain of her hair between them with a sweep of her arm to look up at her, smirking.  “Yes, let’s.”

Hermione wriggled and mewled as the other woman’s hot mouth started to work down her stomach.  “ Fuck , no, something’s wrong… got to talk about how to extr- ooooh, oh fuck fuck fuck,” she trailed as Narcissa started to yank up her skirt impatiently.  “God, you do that and we’ll never… fuck,” she bit her lip hard enough to draw blood, copper rich on her tongue, “ fuck , Narcissa, stop, you’ve, we’ve, fuck fuck FUCK please stop gods!”

The blonde glanced up, looking harassed, from where she had her teeth sunk into the flesh of Hermione’s inner thigh. 

Hermione panted, looking down.  “That was a hell of a charm.  And… the hell, there was … oh, shit, I have an antidote, I thought… but to his own wife?”  

Whimpering in reluctance, Hermione extracted herself from under the protesting Narcissa and pulled two small ampules from under one bracer, thinking a moment before pulling both corks at once with her teeth and tossing both back, and then surging forward to kiss her strange bedfellow firmly, swirling the potion on both their tongues.  

When they pulled back slightly, breasts sticking together with sweat and spit, the edge was somewhat off the urgency.

They looked at each other in befuddlement for a moment from very, very near.  And then they both started to swear and reassemble themselves.  

“That wretch told me he would never drug the wine again, Malfoy garbage, I cannot believe I didn’t insist on touring the continent before getting engaged, that utter insect…”

“There…. There was love potion… in the … in the champagne… em… right… Draco!  Draco!  And damn, you’re good with a charm, I’ve never seen anything like that feather thing…”

Once they were both approximately covered, they slumped, seated with their backs against diagonal bedposts, and looked at each other.  

Finally Hermione spoke.  “Look, I send the right spell and Aurors swarm this place, allegedly on your intelligence, and Lucius and anyone here who’s engaged in similar nonconsensual violation will have a hell of a time pleading they were Imperius ’d.  Narcissa Malfoy, brave heiress and protective mother, becomes a hero - and possibly a member of the Hogwarts Charms’ faculty, come to think of it. Lucius, however, goes to jail.  Can you deal with that?”

Narcissa looked at her for a long moment.  “I don’t want him in forever.  I have to hope without that influence, he might find a human within himself somewhere to be a real father, or a real husband.”

Hermione pursed her lips.  “He could get you both killed.”

Narcissa arched a brow imperiously.  “If I’m seen as doing this for anything less than my family’s well being, that could get me killed, too.  And I’m fond of him.  Sometimes.”

Hermione felt unjustly mutinous at that, but pushed it aside.  “We’ll think of something, then.  But we’ll need to search the house.  There’s something very dangerous here.  And your sister…”

Narcissa closed her eyes, a flicker of true sadness in her hunching shoulders as she shook her head.  “Bella may be irredeemable.  The things she’s willingly done for - with - the Dark Lord give me nightmares.  I don’t know that the damage is repairable.  I don’t know that she wouldn’t have become a Dark Lady, had no Lord presented himself, either.  I only have one sister, and she’s blasted from my family tree.”

Hermione hesitated, then stayed on her corner - but wanted to hold this strange other again.

Instead, she straightened, shaking her head.  “Right, then.  Things will happen quickly.  Are you ready?”

Narcissa took a deep breath and nodded.

Then, Hermione sent her Patronus .  

And very soon after… all hell broke loose.

Chapter Text

Sirius burst into the bedroom, wand aloft, stride predatory. Hermione and Narcissa jumped, then each gave him their own disbelieving look.

He immediately relaxed, throwing his head back and barking out a laugh.  “Oh, of course you’re both here.”  

Then, he sat down on the edge of the bed and tweaked his cousin’s nose before she could smack his hand away.  “Let’s go get the little fellow, then,” he said, flashing his Auror badge.  “I used a kin-tracking spell to find you so I could bring you in for a statement.”  Then, he looked over at Hermione, his expression a bit more tired and resigned. “Sorry I couldn’t wait, love - still an Auror, and I asked to be on hand for this.  I don’t have much family I suspect may be redeemable, and I was worried about you.”

Narcissa glanced between them, her eyes narrowing, as Hermione shrugged.  “Later, when you’re done?” she asked.

The Animagus smiled.  “Wild Deatheater Orgies couldn’t keep me away.”  Then, he turned to Narcissa.  “Do you still always keep a bag packed, Cissy?  Want to pack some more?  I fully expect you’ll be able to return and live in this ghastly exercise in genteel masculine compensation, but it might take a while to lift curses and search, first.”

As the two of them started to talk and wander into the closet, keeping up a patter of familial ribbing, Hermione almost tripped over an Apparating house elf.

“Dobby!” she squeaked, falling to her knees and hugging him fiercely.

“Em, miss… miss, I is… I is carrying… oh, please , miss, you is making me blush, you is!”

Hermione pulled back, smiling, and saw that a very, very young Dobby was red around his long nose and his bat-like ears, and had also brought the tiny, blonde heir of the house along with him in a sort of backpack-like baby-wearing device.  Tiny Draco looked startled as the yells and bangs in the hall outside got louder, and was beginning to fuss.  

Hermione tsked and asked, “May I pick him up?  He’s so cute at this age.  

Narcissa poked her head out of the closet as Dobby backed away, anxious.  “She may, elf.”  And then she was gone again. 

So, with Dobby’s careful assistance, Hermione picked Draco up out of the little carrier and looked him over.

He was wearing just the most adorable , immaculate little lavender jumpsuit with a soft white cardigan.  Overcome with goddamn hormones, she started cooing and kissed his tiny, upturned nose.  “Whosa snobby baby?  You is!  Yousa whittle pureblood menace in the making, you!  Has anything less than a silver spoon ever touched this itty bitty pouty mouth?  Oh!  I think it hasn’t, sir!  No, I do not think so!  Not for itty bitty Draco!”

Draco blinked at her in precocious perplexity.  “Mummy?  Where is my Mummy?  Who you?”

Hermione blinked, all the more delighted.  “And he’s so verbal , too!  Oh my goodness!”

She unceremoniously undid a few snaps and blew raspberries on his belly button.  He didn’t last half a second in indignations before squealing with laughter.

When Hermione went up, it sounded like elephants were fighting in the hall and Sirius and Narcissa were both looking at her with soft smiles.  Also, Dobby looked confused and like he didn’t know where to go.

Hermione looked back at Draco.  “Here’s your Mummy and your cousin Sirius now!”

Draco blinked wide eyes.  “ Naughty cousin Sirius?”

Hermione nodded.  “The naughtiest.  How do you know about naughtiness, though?”

Draco thought for a moment.  “I throw things everywhere and use crayons on walls.”

Hermione nodded seriously.  “I bet he does too.  You’re going to be great friends.”

Narcissa raised a brow haughtily and Sirius, again, laughed.  Hermione gave Draco a parting hug and did up his snaps again before offering him to his mother.  

“Alright, then,” she muttered, standing and brushing herself off.  “Sirius, I presume you’re going to take them in to the DMLE and keep them from those who would mistreat them for association,” she paused to smile at his nod, “so I’ll ask now: Narcissa, may I please have this house elf?”

Narcissa shrugged.  “That one?  He’s young - years of work left to train him and ideas above his station, but if you’re certain…”

Hermione nodded adamantly.  Narcissa summoned a piece of paper - which looked altogether too much like a deed - and a quill, quickly scribbling on it and handing it to Hermione, who folded it and stuck it under a bracer. Then looked down at Dobby.

“Dobby, let’s talk later - I’m afraid I have a few very difficult days coming - but would you please wait for me at Hogwarts?  The castle’s elves can give you things to help with if you need and find you a place to stay with good company.  I think you may soon find Sirius and Narcissa there, too, if you’re bored when I’m occupied.”

Dobby, who looked vaguely nauseated with shock, nodded, glancing up at her.  “Dobby will make every effort, that is, Dobby will absolutely be the bestest elf, miss, Dobby will not fail you, Dobby will tremble, tremble before your displeasure, miss, and-”

“-No trembling, Dobby!”  Hermione sighed, sinking back to her knees.  “I will never punish you, not ever.  If we can find a way to do it that would be safe and agreeable for you, I’d like to make you free. If you’d like to continue to work for me, I’d like to pay you for it, too.”

Dobby stood very still, looking as if he expected this to be some sort of joke. 

Hermione shook her head.  “I’m absolutely serious.  I think you’d be a very good friend, if you’d like that - and I think we may both think a little differently than most.”

With a sudden, loud burst of tears and a nod, he disappeared.  

Hermione got back up again and noticed the quizzical grey stares she was facing.  “It’s a long story,” she grumbled, waving them away.  “Narcissa can Apparate within the Manor.  Get to someplace near the border of the grounds where no one else is likely to be trying to escape, and go, will you?  You both have serious House Elf prejudices to overcome, but you’re so damn cute I’m willing to take you to school later.” She motioned them away impatiently.  “Scoot.”

With another crack, the three members of the House of Black disappeared, too.  

And then, with a deep breath, Hermione walked toward the clamor of the fight going on in the hall outside.

Chapter Text

She no sooner stepped out than saw Lucius sprinting by, casting vicious hexes over his shoulder.  From the cover of the deep doorway, she hit him with an Impedimenta from an unexpected angle, and colliding with it with a thud, he went down, nose bloody.  

She mimed a discreet tip of her helm to Moody and then walked back toward the bulk of the noise.  

When she exited the hall into the illusory grotto, screams, yells, and curses were flying everywhere.  And that was hardly all of it.  

Ducking away from a red stream of searing magic, she dove into one of the small crystal chambers - only to find the same fairy she’d seen being gang raped earlier tied down beneath the panting thrusts of a greying Death Eater she recognized as a Mulciber - likely the one who’d died before the second war but who had been a school contemporary of Riddle’s and a lieutenant in the first.  As the spells rebounded and exploded all around, even cracking the crystals around them, he just laughed, seeming more aroused the thicker the violence got.  

Hermione’s lips curled back from her teeth in fury and disgust, and she waved her wand-concealing bracer at him.  “ Depulso!” she spat, sending him crashing into the crystal wall with a crunch before hurrying to stoop before his victim, whose squirming was feebler than it had been, and assessing her injuries.  

To her revulsion, they seemed to be substantial but internal - but for her torn, gossamer wings.  She made what she hoped was a recognizable soothing sound, then said, “I’m going to give you something to heal you, then end the enlargement charm on you.  There are open windows outside this room, or you could dart out a door - you should be well enough to fly, or you could wait near the front door and I’ll make sure to let you out later.  Look… I hope… I think you can understand me,” she said, looking down at the struggling fairy, still tied.  “Do you want me to give you an abortifacient as well as the Wiggenweld Potion?  These bastards almost certainly were trying to get a child on you so they could steal it and claim it was theirs later.”

Stilling a moment before really looking at Hermione, the fairy nodded her head.

Grimly, Hermione summoned her little beaded bag from the pocket of her cloak near the entryway, and poured the necessary potions past sharp teeth and down the fairy’s bruised throat.  She waited a minute, dashing around to hold the right edges of torn wing membranes together so they didn’t heal wrong as the potions worked, then finally cast a quick Finite , letting the fairy shrink clear of her bonds and, mercifully, flit away.

Then, standing, she found herself rather angry.

As she walked through the party, she spelled her white robes red, making herself recognizable and reflecting her mood as her spare-wand-concealing spear whirled in one hand and the bracer containing her true wand moved with the other arm.  

A step, and Cornelius Fudge fell under a full-body bind, his pants still not entirely fastened and his hands stuck at his belt.  

Another, and Alecto Carrow, still bouncing astride an Imperius-struck male siren in a shallow pool while dueling two Aurors, lifted off her victim and hung upside down in mid-air by a well-placed Levicorpus .  

Another, and through the entry of another crystal alcove, Yaxley was frozen by one Immobulus an instant before a second spell stilled a young Gilderoy Lockhart in the act of fellating him.  

With her next step, over the already-prone form of some unknown Death Eater, she wondered if Lockhart would still win all those Witch Weekly awards for his smile.

With a snarl of menace, and her next step, she blasted a young Delores Umbridge out of the corner in which she was trying, it seemed, to finish a carnal transaction with an Imperiused Muggle man.  She'd used a Confringo, and didn't bother to help dear Delores put the fire in her hair out as she ran screaming away. She did, however, pause to drop a shield amulet of her own devising around the dazed man’s neck and break the bitch’s thick, foul wand.

With the next step she ducked under a sickly green light and fired her own flurry of hexes back at Antonin Dolohov, who at least had the courtesy of having his trousers on, then kneed him in the groin as he attempted to rally before breaking his wand and casting Incarcerous on him. Let him try and catch me off guard in the Department of Mysteries now, she thought as she moved on. 

Four other unknowns and Walden Macnair fell fighting as she worked toward the front hall, where most of the Aurors were grouped behind cover.  

She sidestepped to yank Pansy Parkinson’s mother from under the Imperius-struck centaur in another crystal alcove, hissing in disgust before immobilizing her and hemming a moment before she elected not to shield but rather to free the stallion with a Finite.   He blinked in alarm, bucking as he wheeled about, and she leaned her spear against the wall and raised her hands in surrender.  “My name’s Hermione.  I’m very sorry to meet you like this.  I removed the curse the dark wizards and witches in this place held you with rather than using human magic to protect you while it kept you calm.  I didn’t think you’d want it to continue polluting your own magic until the fight was safely over.  Are you hurt?”

The centaur sneered down at her.  “You mean to tell me you weren’t a part of this little pony-riding club?”

Hermione shook her head adamantly.  “I was not.  Not that I’m opposed to magical peoples mixing - just that I believe firmly in consent.  I am sorry for how your will and body were violated here today.  You should be aware this isn’t the first witch I saw you with - and that others may have been trying to use you to … improve their inbred stock.  I’m sorry - I don’t really know what can be done to call that back now.”

The centaur pranced in agitation, then glowered down at her and seized one of her raised hands, looking over her palm swiftly - only to let it go as if burned and look at her face again, more carefully.  “Hermione, you say?”

She nodded, a little unnerved.  “Yes.  I’m a member of the Order of the Phoenix.  I came here to try to help the cause against Voldemort.  I… I suppose I teach, now, at Hogwarts.”  

She hated how she rambled when people made her uncomfortable.  

The centaur nodded.  “Very well.”  And then he loped away.  

She emerged from the crystal chamber in time to see him take a soaring leap over two rows of fighting Aurors and the various bits of furniture they’d turned into a stronghold, so awed she didn’t get her shield up in time when none other than Fenrir Greyback charged her.  

She yelped as he dragged her by the neck into another damn alcove.  “Those were allies of mine, little human,” he growled as he threw her down on the bed, next to a young Muggle or Muggleborn girl, perhaps 17, who was shaking and crying and covered with bloody bites. 

She propped herself up on her elbows, spitting out a mouthful of blood from their earlier collision.  “ You are human too , you fleabitten mongrel,” she hissed, casting a flurry of curses that only burned or bruised him one tenth as much as they ought to have as he stood leering over her.  

“I, missy, am all wolf.  You may be a little overripe for me, but oh ho!  You’ll know it, too, before I’m done with you.” 

As he leaned down, licking his chops lasciviously as he reached for her knees, she fumbled a Wolfsbane bomb - made two years ago in preparation for this very eventuality - up from out of her beaded bag and smashed it into his face, heedless of the slivers of silvered glass that slices her own hand as he howled and backed away, clawing at his eyes as smoke rose from his skin.  Wincing as she brushed shards from her lap and pulled the largest of them from her palm before she nodded to the injured girl.  “I don’t know how long he’ll be incapacitated.  Can you come with me?”

Shaking, the girl nodded, stumbling to her feet.

Hermione summoned her spear from where she’d forgotten it and fought like a demon with the wounded young woman close behind her.  She stabbed Greyback in the side and the shoulder and kicked his ribs in before casting about her with a veritable corona of hexes, downing at least ten unknown Death Eaters, Rowle, and Goyle.  Maybe, she thought grimly, Gregory might turn out better without daddy in the picture.

Ducking into the last alcove, she blasted Travers off a confunded Veela, then finally walked up to the Aurors, who were standing now as they blasted away at the last few outliers of the largely depleted crowd. 

“Who in the fae fucking forest are you?” growled Rufus Scrimgeour, vibrating with fury to have been upstaged at his own raid.  

“... and do you have plans for next Friday night?” murmured the deep voice of a young Kingsley Shacklebolt.

Hermione blinked in surprise at the second, and then looked back at the first.  “I’m a colleague of your employee Sirius Black’s at Hogwarts.  I accompanied still another colleague here tonight but thought I might as well help when it became evident the direction things were going.”

Then, Dumbledore ex machina , the Hogwarts Headmaster stepped up and patted the irate Scrimgeour’s shoulder.  “There, well done, now, Rufus.” Then he looked up, as if surprised, and took Hermione’s wounded hand gently in his own, “Well done, Professor Granger - it looks as if your help was invaluable to the Department of Magical Law Enforcement.  I myself will be the first to nominate you for a well-deserved Order of Merlin.”

More important than that, for her, was that when he let go of her hand, all the glass was gone and the cuts were healed.  With a nod and a ragged breath as the adrenaline ebbed, she guided the frightened girl behind her into Albus’ care.  She saw immediately that he recognized her.  

“Oh, oh dear.  Violet, let’s get you to St. Mungos.  I am so very, very sorry - but I will make certain you receive the best of care.  Or… hmm… would you rather go to the infirmary, my dear? I assure you that both remain options to you - it is not a full moon.”

Hermione felt drained as she watched the girl collapse into the headmaster’s arms and be whisked away.  She didn’t know if the Anti-Apparition Ward that could hold Dumbledore existed - well, save one, alas.

And then, shaking her head, she started to direct the Aurors to those she’d incapacitated or left for later help along her way.

Chapter Text

NOVEMBER 21, 1981

She only got about twenty feet back down the long, ostentatious hall where she'd incapacitated Lucius before she heard a hiss from an alcove holding a status of Persephone, wrought in rich brown granite looking grief stricken with a bitten pomegranate in her hand, with the powerful, white-carved figure of Hades on his knees before her, menacing and beautiful even as his hands froze in the act of pushing up her skirt, his lips on her thigh.  

She blinked at the incredible work of art a moment before snapping herself out of it and listening.  “ Hermione!” the hiss came again, edged in panic.  

She slid behind the statue, only to be roughly gathered up in Severus’s arms.  “Oh, thank Merlin, I had no idea what had befallen you - Lucius was so smug about drugging all the wine, the insidious little shit…”

Hermione smiled a little at this protective streak from where he’d pressed her face into the embossed leather of his costume armor. “Not to worry, I’m fine - I figured it out before anything too serious went awry.  The wanker might’ve warned his own wife, though.”

Snape shuddered, pulling her closer.  “It was done on purpose.  He suspected that if the Dark Lord showed up tonight, he’d claim the one prize he’d never been able to contrive a way to take before.”

Hermione’s lip curled in disgust.  “Revolting!”

Snape shrugged, pulling back enough to look her over.  “The Dark Lord requires emotional victims.  Imperius would never have worked because of it.  I think he may actually have done it to keep her from pain, but I know he also has a… distasteful yen to watch her with others.  It is something that, given her own way, she would seldom if ever indulge him in.”

Hermione shuddered and leaned back against him.  “How the fuck do you people concoct such broken, horrific cultures in your little cults?  Why?”

Severus was quiet a moment, gently straightening wisps of hair Draco had pulled askew from her carefully contrived coiffure.  “Hermione,” he said finally, his voice sad and gentle, “Some of us were born into horrific, broken little worlds.  Tom Riddle included, from what you’ve shown me of his tragic history.  I don’t imagine he would have turned out… well … whatever his circumstances, but I… as one who was also seduced by his ‘cult,’ as you put it, understand the allure of a world of pain in which you control the inflicting rather than being subject to it, and in which it is a road to power and security, rather than a senseless ailment that can only erode at one’s sanity and safety.”

Hermione was silent a long moment, cursing the tears on her face and the absolute senseless violence that happened to children in the world.  

Finally, she spoke.  “I want to overwrite the pain for you.  To help you see the good and find power in it.  To understand it isn’t some foreign land reserved for others but a state you have every right to.  To help you trust in kindness and be happy.”

He tilted her chin up, smiling sadly.  “And you don’t realize, do you, that you’re already beginning to drag me in that direction, Hermione?  Willing or not, I am pulled by you into warmer places… hmmm… brightening every dark, disreputable corner.”

Slowly, giving her the opportunity to feel his arousal between them and either laugh and pull away or engage with it, he pressed closer.  

She gasped.  “Fuck.  And this is a corner you’d have me brighten, then, is it? I suppose most of the Aurors are gone, now...”

He smirked against her lips as he lowered his own to her mouth.  “Imagine how positively apoplectic Lucius Malfoy would be to know two members of the Order of the Phoenix delivered him to the Aurors and then profaned his home with their coupling?”

She smirked back and threw her arms around his shoulders before jumping up to wrap her legs around his hips, her weight sending him tipping toward the wall so that her back braced against it even as he growled and started to pull cloth out from between them.  “Let’s tell him later, shall we?”

When she peered out of the alcove later, all was quiet. She looked down the hall in both directions before pulling Severus out behind her, still lacing his sword belt back on.  

His mouth fell on her neck hungrily, teeth scraping at her pulse point as his tongue explored her skin.  “I believe,” he whispered, “that Lucius is quite protective of the large desk in his study - it’s just around the -”

“-Stop, you irredeemable incubus,” Hermione swatted at him behind her half-heartedly, smiling.  “You need to learn that, other than in the most glib of ways from time to time, you and me together is never about other people.  I am not your ‘fuck you’ to wave in the face of your rivals and enemies.”

He growled into her neck, hands coming up under her still-raw tits and pinching at her nipples hard enough to draw out a gasp.  “I’m simply finding power through my happiness, you wanton little succubus. Imagine how many more times I could bring you to the brink of oblivion then tease you away this evening, if only you let me touch you.”

She laughed, running and letting him chase her into a new recessed doorway, where they lingered a while as he made a case for himself again.

She stumbled away, making playful motions to fend him off as he stalked after her.  “No more, you villain.  You’ve defiled me enough.”

He growled. “Never enough,” closing on her and seizing her from behind.  He pulled her down with him to their knees and then tore her skirt aside, sliding into her again as if magnetized to it before letting her hands fall to the floor to brace her as he worked. 

MINISTRY OF MAGIC

Hermione’s costume was mended under her voluminous cloak, but her thighs were a sticky mess that chafed as she quietly walked down the hall in the Ministry, towing Severus behind her.  He looked exhausted and hard-used, which she hoped would give some verisimilitude to their pretense.  Then, she sent Moody a Patronus.

He emerged from the lift moments later, his eye whirling.  “Well.  He looks like he’s been through some things.”

Hermione shrugged as Severus smirked, leaning exhausted back against a wall.  “All the better to make it look like no one went easy on him? Maintaining his cover is important.”

Moody shook his head then looked heavenward with both eyes.  “Sweet Helga, preserve me.  Alright!  I’ll send someone along to scrub any … residual anything from the manor that might imply anything other than a good long interrogation left him in this state.  Go take a bath, lass, you smell like a honeymoon. I’ll… I’ll throw some stinksap on this one, or something.”

Hermione gave Moody a kiss on the cheek then headed to the Lobby to Floo home.

Chapter Text

HOGWARTS SCHOOL OF WITCHCRAFT AND WIZARDRY

Hermione was slumped half-asleep in her tub, steeping in murtlap and arnica and willowbark and persian lilac, when she heard the door open, followed by sluggish feet walking in before it closed again.  

“I’m in the bath,” she called, looking around her blearily.  She’d already washed the oil and the lust away and restored her hair to the closest it ever came to normal.  The weariness remained but the little aches and scratches had all gone.  

He stepped into the doorway, smiling lopsidedly.  “I do not think I could tire of this sight. Even if the little twinges of jealousy do make me want to do things to you I suspect we neither of us have the energy for at present, because I know it was someone else who made you sore.”

She blinked up at him, honestly a little surprised.  “I didn’t realize you actually got jealous.”

He smiled softly and sat down on the lidded toilet.  “Of course I do.  But I also understand you need everything you’re taking - and giving - right now.  I’ve been there, if… more selfishly and a lot more chaotically, if I’m honest.  And besides, a well-fucked woman is rather a comely commodity - and I don’t think I’ve lost you yet.”  

Her eyes searched his a long moment in silence, reading his sincerity - and a little resignation- within.

“Will I?” he eventually asked softly.  “Will I lose you, Hermione?”

She barely hesitated before she shook her head and rose, wrapping herself in an enormous towel.  “No.  That’s… that’s why I wanted you to stay, actually.”

His sharp grey eyes were newly searching on hers.  “Is it, then?”

She nodded, shuffling up to him.  “I… look, you’re right, and… honestly, Sirius, it’s lovely to hear you characterize it more charitably, because more often than not, when I look at my life right now, the kindest thing I can typically say about it is that I’m a mess.  But you… you’re here for me at least as much as I’m here for you, more.  You accept me, you can… fuck it, you joke and play with me. I trust you implicitly with things I can’t imagine how long I'd be explaining to any other lover… there are so many things you understand without my ever having to worry that I’ve run ahead of myself, you just… you’re there, beside me, effortlessly keeping pace, never losing me even when I… when I couldn’t find myself if I tried.”  She rubbed at the drips of water trickling down her face from a corner of the towel peevishly, sighing, then furrowed her brow at him.  “Dammit, Sirius.  Do you understand what I’m saying?”

He looked up at her quietly for a moment, sitting back.  “I think you may need to say this one, little vixen.”

She huffed, frightened or exasperated, but knowing he wouldn’t go to pieces over whatever she was inept about - and treasuring that.  “I’m saying… I’m saying that I love you , you idiot. I am absolutely sodding smitten, mad-as-hatters in love with you”

He smiled slightly.  Then, as she watched, the smile grew.  

She shifted her weight from foot to foot on the cool tile.  “It doesn’t make me less of a mess. It doesn’t mean I’ve resolved anything else, or that I’m going to stop making you jealous.”

His smile only continued to grow, transforming his face in hope and happiness and a little bit of smug satisfaction.

She began to feel unnerved.  “Alright, thanks for choosing now to learn how to keep your mouth shut, you ridiculous mutt. Not at all awkward, that.”

He surged up and gathered her in his arms, dragging her feet up off the ground and kissing her soundly.  “You must forgive me for finding you pretty when you squirm, pet.”

She growled into his shoulder, where her face was pressed by his hand stroking the back of her neck. 

He chuckled, petting down her back before starting to rub the towel all over her, drying her more efficiently than the use-it-as-a-blanket technique could.  “ This is an absurd towel, by the way. I didn’t even know they came this huge.  Also, I’m taking you to bed.”

She looked down at him as he bent to dry her feet, hands on her naked hips.  “Oh?”

He glanced up at her, darting a quick kiss to her belly between her navel and the dark thatch of coarse hair below.  “Of course.  We’re going to drive each other mad a fair bit of the time, but we belong to each other now, vixen.  And I suspect that will be the great work of my life - earning and reveling in that.  I know you have more great schemes to launch before long, but wherever you are and whatever trouble you find yourself in, let me at least always be a home to you: safe for going to ground and saying what you can't elsewhere.  For tonight, though…. I promise we’ll only make a little love before I let you rest.”

She narrowed her eyes at him.  He grinned up at her.  

She glowered.

“Yes, Hermione.” he said suddenly, with only the barest edge of a smirk.  “Always, and of course .  Of course I love you , am in love with you.  More than Sheena - ow, fine! - more than music and magic and thunder and sex.  Enough to run away, enough to stand and fight - enough to put down roots or to live hand to mouth, so long as I am with you .  Don’t look at me like you didn’t already know it - you’re far too clever to be such a fool.”

Her eyes filled with unshed tears as her shoulders dropped slightly as she exhaled.  “Thank you.  For what it’s worth, I am absolutely such a fool.  It’s... gotten difficult to believe in good things happening to me.”

He studied her a moment, then stood, picking her up and starting toward her bed in the same motion.  “I’ll help you learn to believe, then. You have your battles, and though they matter to me... you not knowing your worth?  That’s the sort of injustice I won’t stand for.”

And when he climbed under the sheets beside her after tucking her in, she suspected she believed him.

Chapter Text

HOGSMEADE

She tugged at Alice’s jumper.  It fit her, mostly, but the cut, with its little round lace collar and high waist, was unlike anything Hermione would normally wear, and it was as if the shape of it itched somehow.  

Remus bent over the small table to whisper in her ear.  “Stop fretting - Alice never looks so stormy as you when you brood, you’ll blow our cover.”

She stilled and took a breath, grounding herself in the thought of Sirius insisting on helping her dress and covering her with kisses earlier in the afternoon.  

Then, she returned her attention to the Prophet.

“Dark Orgy Ends in a Battle to End the War,” she read across the top of the front page, looking below at a photo of Moody hauling a broken-nosed Lucius Malfoy through his own home, five junior Aurors working to restrain Fenrir Greyback behind them.  Lucius scowled viciously at her before the animation seemed to loop itself, with Lucius getting so close to the camera he obscured the entire frame before emerging again from the far door from the hall with Alastor behind him.  

As their pots of tea arrived with a plate of hot crumpets, butter, and lemon curd, Remus folded aside his own paper to fix her tea as Alice liked it - a little sweet but tolerable for Hermione, who appreciated the novelty of the lavender blossom tisane.  He then liberally spread two crumpets for her before seeing to himself.  

He jumped with the milk pot poised over his tea as her toes skated up his shin.  

“Verisimilitude,” she breathed through a pleasant smile, stroking the tense muscles of his calf with the ball of her foot.  “I’m meant to very much enjoy thanking you like this.”

Remus shook his head, pulling at his own unfamiliar collar, which wasn’t showy but remained far richer than was the norm for his clothing.  “Yes, dearest. Perhaps not to be taken too far, however; I can’t do that as quietly as I gather our man Frank can.”  

She pulled the sole of her foot away from his quivering inner thigh with a shrug, smirking and adjusting her broad-brimmed straw hat.  “Good to know.”

Yellow flashed through his eyes as he bit down somehow defilingly into his crumpet, his eyes locked on hers.

She nibbled at her snack, looking back at the paper.  “I hope Albus’s spell covers that little quirk of yours.”

“He said it would,” he replied hoarsely, loitering over licking his lips clean of butter and lemon curd at the edge of her vision.  

She experienced a little shiver herself, but continued reading to the below the fold headlines as she picked at her breakfast. “2 Promising Undersecretaries Caught with Pants Down, Sacked,” “Handsome Advice Author Tongue-Tied After Caught In Flagrante Delicto,”  and finally, “40 Dark Marks Rounded Up by DMLE - And One, a Hero and a Scholar,” complete with a photo of a harassed looking Severus looking rather dashing in his armor as he exited the Ministry, rolling his eyes as a bevy of raised hands and cameras flew up in front of him - including that of a rather twitterpated-looking Rita Skeeter, whose strangely flushed and wide-eyed face flitted momentarily into frame.  Then, Dumbledore stepped up behind his weary Potions Master and, with a kindly nod, grasped his shoulder and Apparated them both away.

“Isn’t he meant to be keeping a low profile?” Remus asked peevishly, seeing where her eyes lingered.

Hermione shrugged.  “Insofar as he has to be present at Death Eater events, part of their society, and subject to the same sorts of investigation?  Yes.  But part of his value to the Dark is that he purportedly dupes Dumbledore, and if Albus didn’t bail him out, that would make him look suspect, too.”

Remus scrutinized her as she sipped her tea.  “You’re certain he’s true to the Order?  Beyond doubt?”

Hermione smiled a little, then spoke quietly.  “Beyond the shadow of doubt.  In my time, Albus was dying of a slow-acting curse that he couldn’t cure - and asked Severus to murder him to secure his place with Voldemort beyond dispute and save a child’s life.  Severus did even that for the order.  We all hated him - McGonagall dueled him and ran him off campus, he had absolutely no one in whom he could confide, but he was the key to Voldemort’s undoing and he persevered.  A shitty Potions professor, no doubt, but as great a hero as has ever lived to spite us all. I helplessly watched him die, and saw the last memories that exonerated him later.  There is no doubt, Remus.  He’s one of us.”

Remus sniffed.  “I suppose I’ll continue to play Go with him Tuesdays down the pub, then - but I would’ve liked to have seen that duel.”

Hermione just shook her head, laughing. “I’ll decant the memory for you sometime.”

The next page held mugshots of the various Death Eaters captured.  “Hmm,” she said.  “Looks like Scrimgeour caught the one of the Snydes, Rookwood, and a Mr. Lee.  And look, the quite dashing  Shacklebolt got Amycus Carrow, Crabbe, Rosier, and Karkaroff - not bad,” she mused, sipping her tea.  

Remus arched a brow at her from over the Quidditch scores - he was a much quicker reader than she.  “Yes, well.  I couldn’t help but notice that the majority of the captures seemed to have been made by a mysterious heroic civilian who asked to remain anonymous.”

Hermione nodded, looking at the next page.  “Ooo, and Skeeter didn’t like that .  This bit’s rife with rather scathing speculation about a duel-trained whore clad in red.  It seems she may in fact have been a fairy , temporarily charmed to human size and wielding a wand illegally, too.  One fleeing the manor apparently chased Skeeter quite viciously - I knew I liked her.”

Remus shook his head, pouring himself more tea.  “A full grown witch, menaced by a tiny fairy?  That’s rather sad, really.”

Hermione crunched into her second crumpet, chewing and swallowing before she answered.  “Not if that full grown witch is an unregistered beetle Animagus,” she said primly, dabbing at the corners of her mouth with a napkin.  

Remus sat watching her, the sun catching his golden hair as it started to slant into the narrow street.  A fond smile played about his lips.  “That daubing thing, complete with stiff, butter-slathered upper lip, is all you, you know.  Alice giggles and is somehow coy about cleaning up her face when she’s made a mess of herself.”

Hermione arched a brow at him, slipping a toe up under the cuff of one of his trouser-legs in bloody-minded retribution as she smiled sweetly.  “Let’s hope, then, that what’s likely is also what’s true: that none of the four who may be observing are so keen at it or so aware of our personal habits as are you .  I suspect at least three of the four would rather watch me get you off with my foot than scrutinize the faces I make while reading the paper.  Are you quite certain you couldn’t stay quiet?”

He pulled his leg further under his chair, out of her reach, clearing his throat and fighting down a flush.  When he spoke, his voice was quite low.  “Hermione, when we are intimate, even if it should take place during this strange interlude of farce and play-acting, I will not let the first time I come undone for you be on a public street in broad daylight, much less in my pants.”  He sipped his tea, his eyes already on the paper again.  “ I will bloody well howl if I like, and you will come first - preferably a great many times.”

She felt a little dazed as she licked the last bit of sticky lemon spread from her fingertips.  “You… paint quite the picture.  Been considering your composition for a while, haven’t you?”

He shook his head, plunking at least twice what breakfast had cost down on the table (per direction from Frank) and standing.  “Not more than a hundred or three times a day.”  He offered her his hand.  “Shall we, my little wonderland?”

That had been per slightly more blushing instruction, from Alice.  

Hermione took his hand and stood, leaving her napkin on her empty plate as he picked up his rather rakish hat.  “We shall.  Very curious, after all, about this tremendous surprise you have for me,” she said, her voice carrying.

Remus pulled her in to him, grazing her neck with a kiss just below the ear before he whispered.  “Don’t overdo it with the projecting - we’re not meant to know of an audience.  

Hermione squealed as if tickled and pushed him away.  “You cad!  Wait until it’s proper, Longbottom, not in front of Madam Puddifoot’s.”

Remus let his head fall back, eyes rolling as it fell into step with her up the cobbles away from downtown.  “Right.  I forget sometimes that public indecency is your sole privilege, you see.”

She giggled behind a hand, remembering that Alice often did, and glanced at him from beneath her hat brim coyly.  “What’s for dinner, then?  I’m famished.  Is that the surprise?  I remember there being a sweet little bistro here somewhere…”

Remus huffed, stride lengthening to pull her along.  “If I’m forever to be nicknamed Longbottom, even now it’s your name too, you must be Deeptop.  I feed you and feed you and all that happens is your tits get more magnificently vast,” he groused.  “I’d be out of clothes that fit after a week of such decadence - it’s not fair.”

Hermione remembered that Alice had had to write this oft-repeated little not-quarrel down, so embarrassed was she to relate it.  “Well, you certainly don’t seem to mind the fringe benefits, any more than I mind your length in my bottom,” she tried to quip, mostly keeping herself from tripping into laughter-mid-sentence as she imagined the wholesome-seeming couple saying these things.  Apparently Frank and Alice were actually horrendously indecent and forever engaging in foreplay-fighting and creative makeup antics when unhampered by children.

No wonder Frank had wanted to move them away from his mother, she thought, reflecting that, in general, a life guided by a banter-and-screw cycle seemed rather appealing.  

Hermione let her fingers trail down over her own rather modest bosom, glancing at Remus as coyly as she could manage in a little fit of insecurity.  “Do… do you not enjoy watching them bounce?”

Remus turned around, and detecting a note of seriousness in her face, backed her into an alley and groped her thoroughly, hips pressed to her hips so that she could feel his instant response.  “Nonsense.  My wonderland has such pretty tits it’s a wonder I ever permit her to dress.  Perfect,” he growled against her neck, “for fucking her cleavage until I come all over her pretty face.  Need I fuck these pretty, firm titties right here and now to underscore my sincerity?”

Hermione gulped, losing the thread of pretending under his burning yellow-green eyes until the moment broke with the sound of a crash down the alley.

Both their wands were drawn in an instant, their backs pressed together as they assessed the area. This, too, was normal behavior for the Auror couple when startled - especially in during the War. 

They both exhaled when a rangy cat chased down the alley from between some rubbish bins, in hot pursuit of a plump black rat.  

Then Hermione, remembering something, smacked Remus’ bottom and skipped out of the alley, knowing he’d follow.  “I knew it was nothing.  The war’s over, Longbottom, and I want my prezzie.” Then, whispering through her teeth so softly she knew only he could hear.  “Also, ‘titties’ is infantilizing, so kindly refrain from making it sound so bloody hot, or I fear I’ll dither about whether to accept your largesse.”

“Oh,” Remus muttered, “I’ll give it to you, alright,” he growled, reaching out but not quite catching her.  

Hermione, darting ahead, tried to giggle like Alice - who, it was true, devoted a great deal less energy to brooding than she did.  “Hurray! No one’s ever kept anything successfully hidden from me for this long before - the anticipation is delicious, but I want delivery, please!”

Hermione’s stomach clenched as she pasted a smile on and walked backwards up the hill, looking at Remus as her hand unselfconsciously trailed down over her stomach.  Alice was quite good at keeping secrets, by comparison to the others in her life, it seemed.  To the best of her knowledge, no one in Hermione’s own time had ever known that she’d been nearly three months pregnant and harboring a surprise of her own at the time she’d been captured and tortured unto madness.  When she received this confidence, Hermione had remembered the after action report on the Longbottoms’ so-called rescue: the Aurors had finally found their colleagues and fought their Death Eater-captors off, all were indiscriminately gore-spattered. No one had looked too hard at injuries before doling out potions to the victims that would have obscured the signs.  

And Alice, of course, had seldom put two words together again, after.

She wondered if their rescuers had still thought Frank and Alice would come around and be able to choose what testimony to give and what to keep private, when they were found - had they been constrained by concern for the Longbottoms’ dignity? They certainly hadn’t bothered to catalogue evidence or describe exact damage well, but it seemed clear the pregnancy had been lost.  

All the more reason, she resolved grimly, for Alice to be as far as possible (or at least as safe as possible, in the Room of Requirement) from whatever happened this weekend.

As her smile faltered, Remus caught her up, pressing his lips to hers tightly before he picked her up and threw her over his shoulder, leaving her stunned a moment before she kicked her feet and hammered her fists down on his ass a bit histrionically.  “You villain!  Unhand me!”

“Nope!” Remus said with uncharacteristic cheer, even as a spelled scarf swooped over her eyes and stuck there, to all outside appearances blindfolding her (though of course it was spelled so that she could continue to watch his… their rear).  “We’re too close now, can’t risk you figuring it out. You’ll just have to trust me not to befoul your immaculate personage in any way you wouldn’t emphatically approve of in the meantime, Alice darling.”

Chapter Text

“Do you like it, then, Alice?  Oh, please tell me you do - I had to get Gideon and Fabian, gods rest them, and Molly and Arthur and Dedalus to help me restore it - if I’d hired anyone, Gran would’ve cottoned on, and you know she wants us to stay. You’ll note I’ve assiduously made over anything that might ever have been construed as a mother-in-law apartment and turned it into something entirely unsuitable.  You’ve separate transfiguration and alchemy labs.  And everything else... the elves picked everything they wanted for the kitchens - Mimsy and Boro and Grover will be joining us here, you know, and there are greenhouses, miles of them, and an old romanesque bath house complete with an unusually friendly Bannik…”

Hermione, impressed Remus had committed so much to memory, turned and laid a finger across his lips, looking up at the three-story mansion with its layers of wrapping porches and balconies.  “It’s just perfect!  Stop telling me things - I want to explore and find everything for myself!”

She shivered as his lips curved under the pad of her finger, his tongue darting out to lick before he sucked her into his mouth.  She managed to wrest her hand free with a soft pop of broken suction, then planted her hands on her hips.  “Or do you mean to drag me straight to the bedroom?”

He shrugged.  “That is where Mimsy set the oysters…”

She thrust her hand into his.  “Take me th… no.   You’re crafty, and I’m famished, but I’ll find it - after I look around!” she insisted, tugging her hand free again and stalking out ahead of him.  

With a laugh that distracted from the roving circuit of his searching eyes, he set out after her.

Hermione and Remus made a thorough search of the estate’s foremost outbuildings and the nearest ten or so of its 50 acres.  

Only a few times did he let slip the code to say he’d smelled intruders, and each time in such a way as to indicate that they were already gone - “D’you remember, pet, when you were sitting on my face last night” once and “D’you remember, pet, when you were sitting on my face, oh, 2 or three days ago.”

Hermione only had a sense, sometimes, of something watchful and unfriendly - but couldn’t ever seem to pinpoint why.  Her code, even more embarrassingly, was “Do you know, I can’t quite place what’s made me think of it, but I can’t seem to stop replaying my memory of the last time you used that one rather wicked leather paddle on me - it’s like I feel it right now, but I couldn’t say why.”

These little interludes dissolved always into the code giver absorbing themself in thoroughly kissing the code receiver around the neck, so that the recipient of both intelligence and affection had a pretext to look around and see what they could see.  

It was probably that the evil arseholes were actually that good, or it might have been that almost any hot-blooded young people would have found trying to act their way through a code of being Frank and Alice alone together distracting, but neither of them could ever detect signs where the other did.  

Then, finally, they arrived back at the house.  

Remus, who to anyone who didn’t know it was him, of course, would have looked exactly like Frank Longbottom, stretched expansively, heaving in a huge breath as they looked up at the beautiful, Victorian double doors.  The house itself resembled little more than a fantastic sort of iced wedding cake, and Hermione fretted and hoped nothing that happened this weekend would spoil it for the Longbottoms.  

She noticed, out of the corner of her eye that Remus was turning his wedding band - a facsimile of Frank’s that held Dumbledore’s look-alike enchantment - a quarter turn to signal the order that they were about to enter the house itself.  Then, swinging his arms as if in a continuation of his earlier pandiculation, he grinned over at her.  “Say, pet, do you remember, when you were sitting on my face not more than twenty minutes ago,” he started, his eyes entirely yellow under the white panama hat.

She gasped and thwacked his forearm with the back of her hand, struggling to make her giggle sound flirtatious rather than hysterical.  “Frank, I’ve done no such thing!”

He shrugged, picking her up and wrapping her legs around his waist so that he could see behind him over his tall, broad shoulder as he held her tight, scanning behind her from under his hat.  “Perhaps I simply imagined it then,” he quipped, following with a whispered, “but I sure as hell haven’t.

She whispered around his earlobe, which was caught between her teeth.  “Turn the ring the other way.  I sense that leather paddle coming down, darling, coming down fast and hard and now.”

He’d barely done it before the stunners hit them - from Disillusioned brooms directly above.

Chapter Text

When Hermione opened her eyes, it was to blink up into the light of a lamp swinging from a rough, unfinished rafter overhead.  She squirmed a little, finding herself bound with more idiosyncratic ropes than those summoned by Incarcerous (so someone had, for some reason, chosen a different sort and gone to the trouble of purchasing and tying them manually).  She also determined that she lay on a dirt floor with a thin, old scattering of straw.  The ceiling was far away - a barn, perhaps?  They’d seen a couple such buildings in the distance, as they walked.

She forgot to continue taking stock of her surroundings for a moment in sheer relief when she heard Remus moan, making the similar ropes that restrained him creak as he tested his bonds.  

She could barely manage to crane her neck far enough to see him, sitting with his back propped against a thick beam that disappeared up into a hay loft. It was then that she noticed that, as he moved, a length of rope that looped around her own throat tightened. She coughed, blinking in surprise - and he stopped, immediately looking over at her and trying to shimmy in her direction.  

“Merlin, Her…mm, ahem…” he coughed, cutting himself off as he glanced around.  “I worried we might have been separated, darling.  Are you alright?”

She squinted in the dimness, and the rope around her neck loosened as she recognized another loop of the same material rather distinctively tied around Remus’s.  “My dear, we seem to have a … a Lover’s Noose strung between us,” she gasped, feeling immediately claustrophobic as her eyes darted around the room.  

At which point she heard a slow clap and a dark, low laugh as Bellatrix Lestrange stepped out of a darkened doorway, her husband Rodolphus close behind her.  In this age, before the ravages of Azkaban, they made a striking couple - and Hermione wondered, not for the first time, why this entire generation of young adults was so pixies-poxed attractive .  

But not for long.  

“The little slip of a witch knows not just the paddle but the noose, then?”  Bellatrix shook her head, looking down at Hermione as she stepped up beside her head.  “I would never have guessed you had it in you, Alice my sweet.  Imagine how scandalized we all were, listening to you as you muddled about the grounds today!  The filth from your mouths made you almost interesting .” 

Hermione darted a glance back at Remus, who was tensed to fight but kept looking back at her, certain he was missing something.  

Hermione shook her head.  “My dove, you must not struggle - if either of us does, it’ll cause the noose on the other to tighten. I saw one, once, in that shop - you know?” She blushed, remembering the day - a long, long time from now - when in fact she had. “It’s… it’s meant to have a point of failure, as a sort of lover’s game, bringing about only enough asphyxia to induce pleasure and typically not double-ended, but linked to one wearer’s own struggling… to… to intensify orgasm, but…”

“...but this one was gifted me by the Dark Lord himself, and is for more serious games, sweet girl - with, as you have guessed, no failure point,” Bellatrix finished, crouching down to look at her face with curiosity.  “Hmmm.  A shame you’re such a goody goody.  I’d have liked another woman who appreciates a firm paddling to add to our bedroom routines, wouldn’t you, Rodolphus?”

“Indeed,” he murmured, running his eyes over Alice’s - Hermione’s - body.  “But our interrogation today need not rely entirely on Crucio for its efficacy, my raven-dark angel.”

Bellatrix’s face lit up in a way that made Hermione flinch.  “You’re absolutely right, my dear!  How shall we begin?”

Rabastan, a somewhat more dashingly dressed Lestrange and Rodolphus’s brother, sauntered into the room.  “I volunteer, whatever it is.  I’m terribly helpful like that.”

Bellatrix sneered, but it resolved in a smile.  “Alright, then.  Have your pick.”

The younger, longer-haired man, urbane and quick to smile in a way that reminded her distantly of Sirius, crouched down beside Hermione, who immediately and unthinkingly rolled to turn her back to him.  “Tch, tch,” he scolded, pulling her firmly back onto her back and seeming to make a thorough inventory of her body with his eyes.  “Well, now.  I see some promise here.” He reached delicately down and quite gently took her left nipple between his thumb and forefinger, through her jumper, before looking back up to her eyes.  “Now, Mrs. Longbottom,” he drawled, easing himself down to sit on the dirt beside her. “Where have the Aurors put Lord Voldemort, our Dark Lord?”

She shivered with terror as she discerned, in his fathomless black eyes, that he did not want her to know.

Still, as Rodolphus had circled slowly around to stand beside Remus, she had to answer.  “I… I don’t know.  We had nothing… to do with it.  Lily… they say Lily Potter…”

He tugged up hard and fast, actually lifting her head and shoulders off the ground and then letting them fall back again, leaving her nipple and breast in agony.  “Now, now,” he said, even as she started to panic through her tears at the noose tightening around her neck as Remus tried to suppress the need to struggle.  “Surely no little mudblood slut, taken unawares, could have vanquished our Lord through, what?  The power of love?” He laughed, and Bellatrix, who had wandered over to survey Remus beside Rodolphus, laughed with him.  

Hermione looked up at Rabastan, feeling her temper begin to rise.  “That’s precisely what she did, you ignorant wretch, not that I expect any of you sociopathic monsters could understand it.  Maybe mummy and daddy didn’t love you - maybe you were too strictly molded into some inbred archetype of blood purity trash - maybe Voldemort scrambled your frontal lobes a little too hard with one of his little Legilimency sessions - but you wouldn’t understand love or its power if it danced naked in front of you wearing nothing but a tea cozy!”

With a little growl, though his smile still seemed sincerely in place, Rabastan backhanded her across the face.  Then again.  

The world wobbled on his axes for her as she tried to recollect herself, not least because the rope had twitched tighter again.  But just as things began to clear, Rabastan was in her face - too close.

“Oh, perhaps I don’t know much of love, little blood-traitor, but I do know about fucking and pleasure - and so do you, it would seem!  And I, at least, know about more than just playing at pain.  I wonder, whatever games you dip into together, if you and your darling husband here really know the first thing about that.  How would you like never to be able to differentiate one from the other, ever again?” he purred, licking across the tightly-closed line of her lips.  “Because I can give that to you, pet .  I can make a lover’s touch burn you so badly you’ll never be able to abide it willingly again.  Please do keep resisting - I’ll be terribly disappointed if I can’t.”

Bellatrix, meanwhile, had sat astride Remus’s lap, where she was examining the musculature of his arms with her hands appreciatively.  “Let’s not put all our stock in that one, ‘Bastan.  This one’s got quite a bit more to him than one would expect. And something wild, dangerous in his eyes.  I won’t be denied my own opportunities to play.”

‘Bastan shrugged, toying gently with Hermione’s other nipple, now, as he looked over at Bellatrix and Remus.  “Do what you will then.”

“Do you know where my Lord and Lover hides, then, Blood Traitor?” she cooed into Remus’s neck.  “No?  Then perhaps, “she said, pointing her wand directly down between them toward his lap, “ Crucio!”

Hermione had only a moment of blind panic to see every muscle in Remus’s body go taut in anguish, to hear him scream, before the rope cut off her blood and air and she passed out.

When Hermione blinked awake, some indeterminate period of time later, she couldn’t decide if she was grateful or despairing to find herself still more or less intact, beside Remus on the dirt barn floor.  

Remus’s breath was ragged, and his eyes were yellow-flecked in pain, but he noticed her waking immediately and kept his voice quite low and calm.  “Thank Godric you’re safe.  I’m so… so terribly sorry,” he murmured, shivering.  

Hermione noticed that his knees were spread wide, as if to take any pressure off the offended area.  She remembered how it felt, but never… never anywhere like that .  “Are you going to be alright?” she whispered.

He nodded, swallowing thickly before he spoke again.  “The time to worry… is when it starts feeling like something other than pain.  That’s when your nerves are becoming permanently damaged, at least without rapid Healer attention.  That, or when you’re numb - which tends to flicker for victims of ongoing Cruciatus torture between numbness and excruciating pain for the rest of their lives.  No one knows why some people go one way, and others, the other.  We… we learned about it, in the Order.”

Hermione nodded slowly.  “And then… decided not to teach more new inductees because the vigilante dread did nothing to make it easier to hold up under torture, I surmise?”

Remus nodded again, his wry smile forced.  “Sorry. You, like me, like to know things, and … it blows my filters to hell.  Goddesses and garden gnomes, I’m sorry I’ve been such a prancing wanker to you lately, Her... Alice .”  

She glanced across the large open space, seeing a doorway into an area with stalls with four shadows apparently arguing in low tones within.  “It’s alright,” she said, finally.  “No one to hear you.  But… you can hear them, yes?”

He nodded, wriggling to rotate himself around the beam to which he was tied until his legs lay out along her torso.  The warmth of him was comforting and she folded toward it as much as she could.  

“Em… Young Barty Crouch, it seems, transfigured some Cornish Pixies into facsimiles of our Death Eater hosts and handed them wands before letting them wander about the grounds.  Actually a brilliant piece of magic, if you’re an agent of chaos who wants shit indiscriminately blown up,” he growled, shaking his head.  “But our allies have been rather distracted trying to contain them, and haven’t made it anywhere close to here yet. The Lestranges, meanwhile, couldn’t make the barn quite Secret without the consent of its owners, but they did everything short of it.  It’s going to take more concentration than Sirius, Dedalus, and Mad-Eye can muster to crack it with little recently-blue fiends they believe to be the Death Eaters they came for firing on them.”

Hermione shook her head, wearily.  “And the others are out there, but staying out of sight, too.”

Remus shrugged.  “That was the plan.  There are a variety of reasons Dumbledore is tied up at the Ministry after that little Soiree, and if Alex, Frank, Narcissa, or Severus were spotted… bad things would likely ensue.”

“I’m still shocked Narcissa got up this morning and decided to be here at all ,” Hermione murmured.  Then she sighed, looking up at him.  “Well.  So much for consummating our little will-they,-won’t-they drama this weekend,” she said, nodding toward his groin.  “I doubt I could so much as put my head in your lap without sending you through the roof.”

Remus gritted his teeth, eyes blazing as he looked down at her.  “I heal fast ,” he ground out.  

She chuckled, nuzzling his shoulder.  “We should rest while we can.  They won’t be bickering forever.”

Remus inhaled deeply.  “At least you still smell sublime.”

She blinked.  “I do?  Here in the dirt, sweating noxious fear from every pore?”

He nodded.  “Like the restricted section and sex and spilled ink.”

She let that soak in a moment. “Huh. I had no idea.”

He shrugged again.  “Outside extreme circumstances, I suspect I wouldn’t have brought it up until the sex had been with me, alas.  But yes. You are exquisite. I could know nothing of your brilliance, your kindness, your bent sense of humor, your courage - and still need to have you simply for the way you smell .”

She shivered a little.  “Let’s not flirt while torture is underway, shall we?”

He smiled, looking strange and free and sad.  “Not flirting, Hermione.  Confessing .  If I die here and you live, I want you to know that it was worth it to me just to have lived to inhale you, to drag the scent of you over my tongue.  If I die here, you need to know I would have found courage for you.  Healed for you.  Gladly died for you, if it comes to it.  Could have loved you recklessly enough to set ballads strumming around the world, had we only the time. ”  

She gulped, looking up into his entirely-green eyes.  “Well, then I have a charge for you, you great romantic idiot.”

“Oh?” he asked.

She nodded.  “Live for me.  If you can’t find it in yourself to do it for yourself, for now, I’ll settle for you doing it for me.  Come out of this whole for me, you moronic moon-eyed twit, and I’ll let you drag your too-sharp nose all over me until you can’t stand the smell of me a moment longer.”

He shook his head.  “Could never happen.”

She winced a little, an accidental brush of their shoulders unexpectedly jarring her bruised breast. “Oh, I don’t know, Remus.  You haven’t even met your wife yet.”

He stilled, looking down at her. “Is that why you keep pushing me away?” he asked softly.

She shrugged.  “That and that you need to make peace with yourself before you can love anyone so much as pine.  But the two of you were both my friends.  And … you were good together.”

He looked into the distance a moment, eyes unfocused.  “And… was she like me, like you are?  Or… is she?  Will she be?”

She thought a long moment, then shook her head.  “Not… really.   But you worked together.”

He shrugged.  “I believe you, but please believe me that, knowing you the little bit I have come to, I cannot imagine any other partner could not help but leave me feeling quite alone and misunderstood in the world.”

Hermione gazed up at him, gnawing her lip.  “Sirius could.  He understands me, and you say you’re like me.  Maybe we could work out a schedule for sharing.”

Remus snorted.  “It’d kill my dad.”

Hermione frowned, glancing down.  “Remus… he already hasn’t got long.  I know you love him, but he’s an abusive ass, and I need you to understand that soon, you may regret not living for what you wanted.”

Remus sucked in a breath, sitting up straighter.  “Shit.”

Hermione cringed, screwing her eyes shut.  “Sorry.  That was incredibly callous of me.   Em, but also, Severus might look good on you if he fancies men.”

“Hermione!” Remus hissed, looking actually rather angry at her.  

She shrugged, squirming away a bit as the rope twitched on her neck.  “It’s true!  But I don’t know that he does.”

Remus groaned.  “Why don’t you just build us all a huge harem to live in, then?  Maybe throw Narcissa in there for giggles - and am I actually to understand that Kingsley sodding Shacklebolt has asked you out?”  He rolled his head from shoulder to shoulder, stretching his neck.  “Honestly, you’re such a little brainbox, between brain and box I’m sure you could figure out how to have us all at once.”

Hermione knit her brow.  “That’s not funny.”

“Who said it was?!” he growled.  “Do I look like I’m having fun?  You make me want to eviscerate someone who you pointed out should be my friend and someone who is my last friend and ought to be my lover every time you waltz past, marinating in their jizz!  I’m not all… all complicated like you, and like Sirius.  I don’t get it.  I mean, I get it, but I don’t get needing it all at once.  Us all at once.”

Hermione shut her eyes, pained.  “I don’t either.  I’ve never been like this, Remus. I’d only honestly ever had good sex a couple times before I wound up here - now . Any one of you is more than I deserve or ever dreamt of having.”

He made a little frustrated noise.  “Wrong!  None of us add up to one miserable fraction of what you deserve, you daft witch.  But all of us still want all of you.  It’s a dreadful tangle and I have no idea how it ends.”

“Me neither,” she sniffled, “And I really am sorry.”

He was quiet a long moment as she wept, tears streaming silently down her face.  “As fate would have it, knowing that you are as confused and uncalculating about it all as, well, me , makes me feel quite the ass for confronting you about it all when we may well die.  And considerably less jealous, because damned if I know how the fuck you resolve all these tensions.”

She sniffled, trying to gather herself.  “With time, I hope.”

And then they realized the yelling in the stalls had stopped, and looked over to see three dark silhouettes in the doorway, watching them.

“Look at that, then,” Rabastan said, amused.  “Just leaving them here like this tortured them, too.”

Bellatrix shrugged, coming over and sinking onto Remus’s lap again, ignoring his flinches.  “Less fun, though.”

Hermione gathered herself and spoke.  “Your Lord is gone, less than living and less than dead, and even if by some miracle one of us could , neither of us would produce him for you even if it cost us our lives. You might be able to barter your escape for our safe return - might - but I think you’d rather turn this into some pyrrhic platform of your devotion, Bellatrix.  Even your sisters - yes, both your sisters - know you’ve gone mad.  So do what you like - much good will it do you - and crash about in that scrambled mind of yours until someone turns the lights out for you.  I only wish it could be me,” she spat.

Bellatrix looked at Hermione a long moment, then, looking bored and disappointed, pointed her wand.  “Crucio!”

And Hermione screamed until everything went black.

Chapter Text

She woke in pain, struggling to breathe, with her knees beneath her and her face pressed into the floor.  

“Oh, just tell us, Frank - be a pet and tell us,” Bellatrix crooned, “and I’ll make the bad men stop.”

Hermione tensed when she realized her skirt had been hitched up and her knickers were gone, and then she heard breathing behind her - two people breathing.  Felt, in fact, warm, humid breath on her bare skin as someone far too close examined her helplessly exposed private places.

“I … please , not her.  I would tell you if I knew anything, can’t you see that?  She’s the brave one.” Hermione heard rustling and movement, but the second she tried to turn her head, her face was pushed hard into the dirt.  Remus, meanwhile, sounded increasingly frantic.  “Hurt me , if you must - maybe she does know something she’d tell you, I know she wouldn’t want to see me hurt - and I’m beyond caring, now, don’t you see?  Please, please, just don’t hurt her.”

And that was when she, with a jolt of panic, felt unwelcome pressure against her exposed thresholds - both - and jerked involuntarily forward with a an jerk of  her knees - only for strange, cold hands to immediately grasp her hips and yank them back hard, stilling them so she could hardly move.  

“Mmm,” Bellatrix said, “Let me just say that the two of them have a great deal of practice coordinating this sort of thing under my direction.  I do so love both to watch and be spoiled, you know.  Are you sure you don’t want to tell us how to reach our Lord, and to free him from your filthy Order’s machinations? I will not, of course, permit you to close your eyes once it begins.”

“Please,” Hermione heard Remus sob, even as she sank the thought of Albania deep in her mind, as hidden behind loops and walls and dead ends as she could, even as cold, sharp-nailed fingers prodded at and spread her, “Please, I don’t know!”

She dimly saw Bellatrix’s shadow on the wall shrug.  “Well, then we might as well soften her up for questioning.  Uh uh - no turning away. Watch now, Mr. Longbottom.  Watch what they do to her.  This is one of my favorite parts.”

Hermione cried out as, without warning, she was roughly, doubly breached.  Both the men behind her - the brothers, she presumed - seemed only to be encouraged by the dry tightness they encountered, pushing hard against her resistance, tearing at her, until one, the one who seemed to have a clammy grip on her shoulders, with a last hard push was buried deep in her burning, torn ass, and moments later the other, pulling at her hips and grunting against her tight refusal, adjusted angles and was able to slip deep into her shuddering, clenched cunt.

She felt her eyes begin to stream again, and managed to look up only to see Remus gaping in horror, his own weeping in full view as Bellatrix grinned over his shoulder, her wand hovering near his temple.  “Ahhh, yes,” she purred.  “It’s her first time, don’t you see? These are the ones I like best.  They always think it could never happen to them, until it does - you can see if all plain as writing on her face.  But it won’t really be real until…”

And as she trailed off, Rodolphus and Rabastan who had stilled in their initial seats of hard-sunk triumph, started to withdraw… then surge into her again.  In moments, they established a counterpoint rhythm, rutting jerkingly in and out of her as their grimey hands wandered, scraping her raw inside as she reflexively tried to push them out.  She whimpered and moaned despite herself, trying to squirm away with little shufflings of her knees even as hands knotted in her hair and obscene moans of pleasure resounded through her from unwelcome mouths pressed into her cringing flesh.

She couldn’t get anywhere, and they continued, laughing.  “Well, well, aren’t you lucky, Mr. Longbottom?” came Rabastan’s voice.  “Salazar, she’s so tight it’s little wonder you only ever seem to talk about getting your end in.  Is this how you like to take her?  Is there some other position she’s even better for? We'll try them all anyway, you know.”

Hermione started to sob in earnest, feeling like the tearing extended into her soul as one cold hand reached around to pinch sharply at her clit in a mockery of care, making her cry out.

Bellatrix, on the other hand, smiled more and more.  “Do you know, Frank, what I do when I want to give the boys a little treat?  Do you?  Tell me now, tell me where he is, and I won’t make you watch.  No?  Then…  Crucio!”

The curse caught Hermione on her naked spine, making anguish zing erratically all over her nervous system as every muscle in her tensed painfully, convulsively, and - 

“Fuck if that isn’t the tightest little hole I’ve ever had.” Rodolphus drawled, slurring in pleasure, a splash of spittle dropping repulsively from his mouth to her back.  “Oh, fuck , Trix, more!”

“Yessssss, you little blood traitor bitch, you will milk my cock for every drop like a good little slut, now, and maybe I’ll slit your throat fast when this is done.  Or maybe I’ll fuck that little mouth of yours, first.  You know what?  Maybe we just keep you for rainy days.  Yesssss. Yes, maybe we off your man there and I’ll marry you, what do you think?  Make me a nice little brood to salvage your family’s blood, let them get fat off that magnificent rack of yours, grow up to get marks of their very own…”

Hermione couldn’t breathe, her nose stuffy and her jaw clenched shut.. It felt like every thrust from behind her was a dull knife’s jab as Bellatrix sustained the spell, the red light crackling into Hermione’s body like Fiendfyre licking up and down her nerves.  Remus was bawling, his eyes never leaving hers.

She slowly, slowly mastered her jaw, opening it, and tried to form a word around her bitten, aching tongue.  Then she tried again , trying to ignore the ungentle ministrations of the Death Eater monsters spearing inside her, of the bitch who carved her arm directing it all.  And finally, she got it, looking Remus in the eye.  “Struggle.” she rasped.  

And, immediately understanding, he did - bringing blessed darkness down on her through the noose that tightened around her neck.  

“Enervate! Fuck, fuck, fuck, we need her memory, dammit.  Enervate , you delicate little blood traitor bitch!”

She blinked awake, groaning, her open mouth pressed to dirt, bleeding tongue lolling.  Body aching, tearing, gyrating. Not enough time had passed.  The Lestrange brothers, it seemed, would just as delightedly keep on raping a corpse, for all she’d almost been one, just now.  

But the nooses were cut away from her and Remus's necks, now, lying in the single area of stark light just under the hanging lamp.  

She tried to concentrate not on the fingernails digging into her soft hips, or the hands clawing into her breasts, but on Remus’s green-yellow eyes.  Not on a grotesque violation but on hope of life.  She saw, though, that Bellatrix was raising her too-familiar knotted wand again.  

It was Rabastan who saved her, absurdly.  “Not yet, Bells.  Fuck, she’s perfect , just like this.  Hell, I really do think I’ll keep this one.”

Bellatrix looked irritated, but lowered her wand away.  “I suppose you can have her, as she’s deigned to survive.  Maybe even to wed, under Imperius or enough well-applied Legilimency.  Good luck with that , though, if we can’t find him . Snivelus certainly won’t do it for you, above it all as he is.”

Hermione shuddered, reaching to remember the deep well of rage in the fairie she helped… it seemed a lifetime ago, but it had only been last night.  

“Moony,” she croaked, flinching from an unwelcome tongue dragging over the back of her neck, feeling herself near the end of the reservoir from which need could draw strength despite trauma, injury, and exhaustion.  “Struggle.”

Remus went still, looking at her in confusion, even as Bellatrix, still astride him, laughed.  “Oooooh no no no, I’ve cut the rope - unless you want to tell me where he is, you’ll get no more relief, you -”

But by then, Remus had torn the ropes that bound his wrists and ankles with a burst of supernatural strength. In the next moment, he hurled a shocked Bellatrix Lestrange against the wall, where she blinked in surprise and, strangely, smiled before losing consciousness as she slid down.

Remus stood, his silhouette shimmering somehow with a distortion of strange magic.  

And then, with a jolt, Hermione's knees wobbled out from under her and slid apart, leaving her on her stomach in the straw and dirt, emptied, bruised, and bleeding, as she shuddered at the screams behind her. Screams that gave way to thick sounds of impact and tearing behind her and a thick, hot splatter on her bare thighs. 

She vaguely registered a roar of anguish as the roof above them exploded, wheeling in enormous chunks up into the sky, followed by a deluge of red sparks.

She saw a blood-drenched avenging angel with a wand in hand over her shoulder, then heard a yell - a young, male voice - as some new person dashed through the door.

And then all went black.

Chapter Text

HOGWARTS SCHOOL OF WITCHCRAFT AND WIZARDRY - NOVEMBER 25, 1981

The first thing she noticed was the breeze.  There was fresh, cool air, redolent of fallen leaves and pine sap and sun. and it was moving over her face. 

It tasted wonderful , she thought, taking another, deeper breath.  

“There, I thought that might help - thank Circe it’s so unseasonably warm today.  Step aside , if you please, Severus - Salazar , if she wakes now, how do you suppose being crowded will make her feel?”

The voice was familiar, low and melodic and authoritative even as a whisper.  It was also nurturing and a little frightened - those two things shattering any similarity it might have had to - 

No.  No .  We aren’t going to go there, not right now.

Another steadying breath, and she tried to open her eyes.  It felt like she had all but forgotten how.

But they cracked a bit, letting sunlight in.  

Everything was bright - oh, thank Godric, it was light , and … and there was a blonde woman batting away a man who kept stepping close to help, and … a blonde man in a chair at the end of the bed, his head resting on folded arms beside her feet, asleep.  And under her hand… her hand fisted in…

“Do I have a dog?” she heard herself ask, hoarse, blinking to focus on the blonde woman.  

Who came close, brushing Hermione’s hair gently out of her face and smiling at her.  “Oh, my dear.  I’m afraid you’ve a veritable pack of them - of us , perhaps - but that one’s Sirius.  He’s been with you like that since we brought you back.”

Hermione blinked.  “Narcissa?” she asked, hearing her own tired disbelief.

Narcissa dashed away a few tears, then conjured herself  chair, pulling it up beside the head of the bed and gently taking Hermione’s hand in both of hers.  “Yes.  I… well, I took your advice on the Charms post.  Draco and I are here, now, and as I also know some midwifery, I’ve been helping Poppy get you well.”  She freed one hand just long enough to drag it across her eyes again.  “Hermione, I’m so, so sorry.  If I’d had any idea…”

Hermione shook her head.  “Frank and Alice… safe?”

Narcissa hesitated a moment and then nodded, mustering a weak smile.  “Well… yes, thanks to you and… and Remus.”

“And… the bastards?”

Narcissa blinked, surprised, then nodded.  “My brother-in-law is dead.  Rabastan was gravely injured, and has lost… much… but may yet survive.  Bellatrix was dosed with the Draught of Living Death, as was Bartemius Crouch, Junior, and both are in Azkaban awaiting trial, for which they may be woken.”

Hermione squinted, still trying to adjust to the light.  “New.”

Narcissa looked puzzled.  “I’m sorry?”

A lower, rougher voice near her feet spoke.  “Using the potion is new, yes.  It was Dumbledore’s idea.”

Green eyes looked mournfully up at her as Remus hesitated, sliding his chair back a bit from the bed… she realized, belatedly, to give her space.  

She was unnerved to feel somewhat comforted by that.

Severus steeped smoothly around him, kneeling across her bed from Narcissa.  “I mixed the Draught myself.  I remember, from your memories, how much grandstanding they did in the original trial, and how much of a call it was to remaining Death Eaters to bide their time and not give up.  Dumbledore is fighting at least to close the trial to the public,  in light of that and what was done to you, and in light of… in light of what would almost certainly come to light about Lupin.”

Hermione closed her eyes, processing and nodding, and then opening them to look around again with improved focus.  She noticed a strange bouquet on her nightstand and looked questioningly at Narcissa, who shrugged.  

“They’re from an Auror with an appreciation for the old-fashioned - garlic flowers, blue hyacinths, white heather… em…white poppy and blue violets.  A rather difficult mix to arrange prettily but a valiant effort has been made.  Basically they convey condolences, respect, apologies, steadfastness, and such stuff.  He’s Sacred 28, which is likely why he’s versed in such things - a Mr. Shacklebolt,” she mused. “Strange I haven’t met him.”

“He’s… really more in Longbottom circles, Narcissa,” said a softer feminine voice - Alice was here, then.  

Narcissa stiffened a moment, then nodded, standing and busying herself with tidying potions and medical whatnots on a rolling cart beside the bed.  

Alice looked down at Hermione with swimming eyes, standing between Remus and Severus.  “I should never, ever have let you go there for me.”

Hermione looked up at her friend, finding it in her to smile.  “Best choice I ever made in my life.  But all the rehearsed smutty-speak was a bit weird.”

Alice made a noise between a laugh and a cry, then fished fruitlessly for a handkerchief.  The large black dog lying along the length of Hermione’s side, meanwhile, sneezed.

Hermione shook her head, looking down at him.  “It wasn’t my smuttyspeak, you mutt,” she murmured, reaching down to scratch his ear and pointedly ignoring how Severus stilled and Remus looked away.  

Then she looked up again at Alice.  “Really,” she said, wishing she had a handkerchief to lend before glaring around.  “Seriously, have none of you a hanky?”  She shook her head as Narcissa, Severus, and Remus all immediately offered theirs - Alice hesitantly took Remus’s, but then only started crying loudly, shouldering past the werewolf to throw herself across Hermione’s feet.

“I’m so sorry,” she wailed, just as Hermione realized with relief that nothing hurt when she was jounced so.  

Hermione frowned. “Alice, I’m serious.  I feel so much better already.  Am I alright, Narcissa?” she asked, turning.  

Narcissa nodded stolidly.  “As well as ever.  Perfect.  I would not accept anything less.  You’ll… you’ll need a new Muggle device or some other form of birth control and anemia relief, which I can help you with in the next few days, but you remain intact and should encounter no further difficulties despite some initial trouble with… well .  But you’re fine now.  But… that’s your body.  Minds are harder.  Oh, and you’re not to teach until the term starts in the New Year - Dumbledore’s away for a Ministry to-do, but has been in here as much as almost anyone else, fretting, and he and Alice have worked out how things will go in the meantime.”

Hermione shrugged.  “I’ll work with Charity,” she said, more breezily than she felt about the subject, attempting not to imagine what that would be like.

Remus looked up again, now standing at the foot of her bed, awkward and oozing guilt.  “Charity has been here reading meditations to you several times a day, casting spells to hasten your ability to compartmentalize.  She didn’t dare do more than give you the space to confront things on your own terms before you woke, though.”

Narcissa hesitated a long moment, then said, “And… those of us who have been through things like what you experienced are here to help you, too.”

Hermione blinked, feeling fully awake, as Sirius, too, held his head up and nodded.  She was suddenly horrified.  “What… both of you?”

Narcissa struggled not to sneer.  “Funny Uncles are a common pureblood family eccentricity, I’m afraid.”

Hermione slumped down, shaking her head.  “Jesus.”

Remus chuckled a little at the Muggleism, and Severus tensed a bit.  Then, a moment later, the Potions Master impulsively snatched up her hand in his.  

Which made her cry out, tugging away, and Sirius and Remus both jump to attention, snarling.

Severus backed away, pale, hands up before him, stricken.  “I… apologize.  I did not… I should have known.  I am sorry, Hermione.  And… and Sirius, Remus.”

The dogs called off, they started, though more warily, to settle again.  Hermione remembered to resume breathing after a minute, then looked back to Alice, who was seated and quiet, shocked into having stopped crying.  

“Look…” Hermione said, “I … am going to have work to do.  But I don’t blame any of you -”  As she petted Sirius, she glanced at Alice then Remus, who was avoiding her eyes, “any of you at all, for what happened.  Merlin’s pants, it sounds like even Bellatrix may have started her long slide to torture as a victim,” she trailed off, watching Narcissa’s shoulders tense, head nodding once, even as she continued to busy herself with the cart.

Hermione pressed back into her pillows - there was a cunningly-arranged mountain of them she somehow knew had to have been Narcissa’s doing holding her up.  

“So,” she said, casting about for another subject.  “Em. Narcissa’s Charming, of course - anything else new?  What of the other posts?” she asked, more than ready to move on.  

Alice smiled, hitching a hip up onto the bed and offering her hand, which Hermione took.  “I’ll be teaching Transfiguration with you - and we moved into the house, but, em, burned the barn down and then threw some fireballs at it for good measure before sinking the earth it stood on to start a koi pond-”

Hermione perked up.  “-A koi pond?  With the great big goldfish?”

Alice nodded, “Exactly, with some water lilies and a moon bridge and some rhododendrons - and a little gazebo for tea.”

Hermione nodded, smiling.  “I like that.”

Alice beamed, “I’m so glad to hear it - and, anyway, it’s got to be the most warded place other than here on the planet, so Draco and Narcissa are living in one of the cottages, actually right near the pond, and Draco is coaxing Neville into using his words more while they chase dragonflies-”

“-and regularly get filthy.” Narcissa cut in, scowling over her shoulder.

“-and get filthy, as is right and proper for small children,” Alice agreed, unbothered.

Narcissa wrinkled her nose, turning to her fellow mother.  “ I never got filthy, and I turned out perfectly.”

A number of faces looked elsewhere a moment, while Alice smiled indulgently.  Hermione reached up to take Narcissa’s hand.  “I’ll find you some dirt you like.  Just give me the chance, and I promise you’ll get on better with it.”

“Oooo, love a little mud, I do, perfect for the skin!” came a cheery, familiar voice as someone new bustled in between Alice and Remus, smiling fondly down at her and offering a hand. “So very very glad to hear you were up, dearie, I hear I have you to thank for my and Arthur’s new positions, and we are ever so pleased and inspired by the curriculum you dreamed up, too!”

Hermione blinked, slipping her hand into the familiar, warm grasp and floundering for words.  “Molly?” she finally came up with. 

The exquisitely curvaceous redhead grinned impishly, giving her hand a merry little squeeze and winking.  “So very pleased to meet you, sweet girl.  You must be very, very brave, doing what you did to protect young Alice and Frank.  Couldn’t possibly be more thrilled to call such a hero a colleague.”  She looked over Hermione, softly pressing the back of a hand to her forehead and, incidentally, giving the patient a hell of a view down her low-cut red dress and a whiff of a rather perfectly simple rose perfume.  Then she stood straight again, leaving Hermione stammering and feeling like she should be apologizing for… something

“Well, you haven’t a fever, I don’t think - not that I’d expect any less, what with Poppy and Narcissa here fussing night and day - but you do look a bit peaky!  Well, then, what’s your favorite food?  Say the word, I’ll cook you anything.  What tempts you, eh, m’dear?”

Hermione couldn’t help her eyes’ momentary downward drift, then shook herself. “Em.  Er.  I love your… em… I’d love some chicken pot pie?   Maybe… maybe chocolate mousse cake?”

The young Molly Weasley’s grin was like a punch in the face with a flashbulb.  “A woman after my own heart.  Well, then! I’ll be back by supper - with plenty to share, too!”

And she sashayed away, every little jiggle of her swaying walk making Hermione’s mouth go dry.

When Molly was out of sight, Hermione looked up, feeling somehow forlorn and confused.  She saw Narcissa glancing wistfully in the direction Molly had gone, too, and Sirius doing likewise and panting, while the others were just looking at them, perplexed.  Well, except for Alice.

“That woman,” Alice sighed, “makes me think that if I ate all the chocolate and pasties I ever wanted, I’d be crowned Aphrodite for my trouble and tumbled all day, every day, by whoever I deigned to bat my eyes at forever after.  Did you see how much... stuff her stuff has?”

“And that waist, ” Hermione was mortified to hear her own voice say.  

Alice nodded vehemently.  “God, yes.  And those tiny wrists and ankles, and that perfect single chin.  It isn’t fair!” she whined, pointing at her own chest (which was likely the only one in the room that could compare).  “All I get is these things, but it’s like a flock of pudgy little cherubs swept down to kiss all the right wiggle into being, to just the exact point beyond which it would no longer be attractive, all over her entire body.  No wonder Arthur’s gotten her pregnant again every second time I see her.”

Hermione swept her hands over her face.  “Well, at least I know I didn’t lose my sex drive to those bastards,” she grumbled, causing Alice to gape with delight and Narcissa to nod sympathetically as all the males in the room looked at her questioningly.  

Then, Narcissa shook herself out of the reverie.  “Alright, alright, visiting time over  I’ll… I’ll send a Patronus around when Molly returns with dinner, get some sort of table transfigured to suit if Hermione’s not up to being ambulatory or fix up one of the private dining rooms if she is.  I’m sure whatever Molly brings will be… will be mouthwatering… and… em… let’s give Professor Granger some time to rest before we all are together again, shall we?”

Narcissa shooed everyone - even Sirius, tail between his legs, out of the Infirmary, closing the door behind them before she sank into a chair at Hermione’s bedside with a tired huff.  

Hermione looked over at her, eyes still wide.  “You want to know what’s awful?”

Narcissa looked up, tired but mustering a little smile.  “What, darling?”

Hermione knew she had self-pity all over her face but couldn’t pull it back.  “I couldn’t tolerate spontaneous touch from Severus, with whom I have been intimate, but I’ve just spent the last ten minutes vividly imagining how glorious it would be to have a roll in the clover with my former mother-in-law.”

Narcissa leaned back, interested.  “Molly?   But… what are you, then, a time traveler?”

Hermione nodded miserably.  “Yes, a time traveler.  It was an accident.” Hermione scratched an itch on her elbow.  “Or, you know, this could be some absurd dream and I’m actually dying right now, which seemed likelier at first, but now I don’t think my imagination’s this good, if I’m honest.”

Narcissa shrugged.  “Time traveler explains a lot.”  

Hermione shrugged, too.

There was a long comfortable moment when neither said anything.  Then Narcissa leaned forward.  “May I… may I give you something that might… get you processing a few things before they have a chance to fester, before I go? It’s unconventional healing, but…”

Hermione cocked her head, considering the strange request a moment before she nodded.  “I guess?”

Narcissa nodded, too, sweeping her hair back behind her shoulders and appearing to steel herself before looking up at Hermione again.  “Em, just… tell me if it hurts and I’ll stop right away, alright?  Only, well, I rather wish, in the first bluff flush of gladness it was over and before I’d built up doubt and dread too far, someone had done it for me.”

Hermione looked at Narcissa quizzically, noticing the pale blonde was slightly flushed.

Then, after a steadying breath, Narcissa leaned forward - slowly, so slowly - then, softly, pressed her lips to Hermione’s in a closed but lingering kiss.

And then she sat up, scrutinized Hermione’s face for signs of panic, and, finding none, nodded, got up, and walked away.  Hermione was left blinking, a bit dazed, but fairly sure there remained life worth being interested in on the far side of the trauma she’d have to work to come to terms with.

Chapter Text

DECEMBER 3, 1981

Severus stood across the cauldron from Hermione, elbows tucked to his sides, his potion making drabbed down considerably in its virtuosity due to his determination not to take up too much space - which had been an ongoing theme of late.

Violet Karasu was standing with Hermione, watching.  It helped that she was in Advanced Potions already, and only had one more year at Hogwarts after this one.  

“Please remember you can’t widely discuss this, Violet - I’m very glad you’re befriending others more fully impacted by lycanthropy and want to help them, but technically the formula is still very much a secret,” Hermione said as she smiled warmly at the younger woman, who was noticeably less anxious and better rested than she’d been just a few days prior. 

Hermione credited Charity’s work with a lot of how well they were both doing - truly, she’d been wasted on Muggle Studies.  Perhaps the Mind Healer’s most important stroke had been establishing ‘Stitch Club,’ a sort of fibercraft-optional, discreet support group for those recovering from past assaults.

Both of them also had other help to lean on.  Hermione, for her part, found that her independently-cultivated ability to defer emotional response to various disasters, practiced and developed during basically her entire life as a witch to date... was both useful to her recovery and gradually being phased out to make way for better mechanisms.  Violet, as a Slytherin of a neutral family who had skirted the worst of the first war, lacked such practice (thank Merlin) - but got her own boost from exploring her new, minor lycanthropic traits, which she seemed very capable of making into a silver lining.

The potion suddenly changed color, snapping Hermione out of her reverie.  “Surprise surprise, Snape strikes again!” Hermione grinned, realizing that Severus was pouring the prescribed liter of honeywater into the cauldron over his silver tablespoon of pulverized Mandrake. “Violet, this is only his second time making this potion, which I have been making for years, but did you see what he just did? I never tried that as a better way to avoid sticky spoons and add both those ingredients simultaneously - you might as well just cross out anything written in the copy of the formula I gave you and replace it with any modifications you see him make.”

Severus looked like he was on the edge of saying something for a moment, but then looked back down at the cauldron, gradually adding, stirring, and adjusting heat.  Violet just furrowed her brow and scribbled furiously.

Hermione occasionally asked Severus about why he was doing something differently, making her own more economical notes where she could learn something from him (which was at virtually every step). Finally, though, they came to a lull where the potion needed to be covered and let sit for at least twenty minutes.

Violet and Hermione sat down on the stools on their side of the brewing table, and Severus busied himself with cleaning up, taking a number of vials and beakers back to a sink in the storage room that sat between the classroom and his quarters.  

Violet bent toward Hermione, speaking quietly.  “You’re sure?  You’re positive I won’t turn, that I don’t need to take this myself?”

Hermione nodded.  “You’re just a little faster, and as you found out when your roommate borrowed your brush last week, your nose is sharper and your temper’s quicker.  There may be other things, but it’s usually just a few little ones - and yours are terribly useful. My friend Bill just liked his steak rarer. Have you managed to sort things out with Celia, by the way?”

Violet shrugged.  “Sort of.  I haven’t… I haven’t wanted to tell everyone what happened, and without context, I think it just looks like I’ve… gone mean or something.”

Hermione nodded, gnawing at her lip.  “But you did tell… Warwick?”

Violet smiled a little, though sadly.  “Yes.  I… that went a lot better than I thought.  His… well.  His mom, I guess, was hurt in the war, you know?  She’s Muggleborn.  After it happened, apparently it was very very bad, and then after things started getting better, she made a point to talk to him about it and about no meaning no and how much it can hurt people when they aren’t listened to about their own bodies.  He wouldn’t touch me for a while, but I asked him to start holding my hand again, and that’s… that’s nice.   He is nice.  I think… I think we’ll be okay.”

Hermione smiled, offering her hand, which Violet squeezed gratefully.  “I’m so glad to hear that, Violet.  I’m… working on my own love life, too.  It doesn’t help how messy it was before all this, but… well,” she chuckled at her own expense, fingers closing around the folded and re-folded slip of paper in her pocket, “I’ve even written out a Plan, sort of.”

Violet arched a brow at her.  “Em… that’s… ambitious?  Can you … I mean, do you know how things are going to happen, with other people and all, enough to be able to do that ahead of time?  

Hermione laughed outright, shaking her head.  “Godric, no.  Maybe I’ll be nearly right, and I can amend it, though.  And… writing it down, feeling like I have a strategy instead of just a great opportunity to stand there with my mouth open and no words coming out… it makes me feel more up to it, you know?”

Violet nodded and looked over at the hearth.  “I write down or sketch my nightmares, when they wake me up, and then I burn them in the morning.  It makes me feel better.”

Hermione shook her head.  “That monster - and I’m talking about a human, and it has nothing to do with the fact he’s a werewolf - has hurt far too many people I care about.  Finding him a sticky end is near the top of my List.”

Violet shivered, then looked at Hermione sidewise.  “So… is the List part of the Plan. or…?”

Hermione waved her hand, shaking her head.  “Oh, separate.  The List’s all in my head, with Voldemort at the top with a bullet.  Predates the Plan by ages and ages.  The List’s been… a little bit on ice to wait for me to work through Plan stuff, though.”

Violet nodded sympathetically.  “That sounds familiar.”

Hermione looked at the barely younger girl - who still was yet a student - and missed what used to be such a tangible feeling that she could just reach out and fix problems.  That feeling had been thin on the ground of late.  Still, though; “We’ll get there together,” Hermione promised.

Violet nodded.  “We will.”  Then she stood up, gathering her books.  “I think I’ll be able to brew another cauldron alongside Professor Snape next month, if we can find someone to use it.”

Hermione nodded.  “I’ve friends among the Aurors who can check a list of others attacked by Greyback.  I’m sure someone out there will find it life-changing, Violet.  Thank you.”

Violet smiled and stood.  “May I?” she asked, standing with open arms.

Gratefully, Hermione nodded and stepped into them, exchanging a tight hug with the girl she’d so rapidly gotten to know.  “Godric, look at you.  Could’ve been a ruddy Gryffindor, you’re so brave.”

Violet snrked .  “And you’re ambitious enough you might’ve made a passable Slytherin.  Good luck, then,” she said, glancing significantly toward the back room (to Hermione’s chagrin) before heading out the door.

Hermione stepped into the storage room behind Severus and closed the door behind her.  She watched as his shoulders stilled a moment, and then he turned the faucet off, pivoting to face her without coming any closer, his face guarded but curious.  

She held out the brightly-wrapped present she’d held behind her back. It had little cats wearing Father Christmas hats all over it.  

He looked at it, then, a bit quizzically, back up at her.  

She shrugged.  “Look, I know it’s early, but I couldn’t wait, alright?  I’ve been… well.”  She thrust it at him.  “Just take it, will you?”

He walked up to her slowly, keeping his eyes on hers and his hands in plain sight, then carefully reached up to take the parcel - his index finger brushing her thumb as the weight transferred.  He frowned immediately as she stilled.  “I’m… I’m sorry - I… didn’t mean to touch you.”

Hermione took a deep breath, then huffed in exasperation, brushing past him to the door to his quarters and stopping in front of it.  “May I?” she asked, her hand on the knob.

After standing quite still a moment, he nodded.  

Hermione banged open the door and threw herself onto the couch in his small sitting room, then paused, sitting up straighter to take in ways the room had changed.  

Scattered around, full of bookmarks and highlights, were heaps of issues of Ms. magazine.  She also spotted copies of Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex and Anaïs Nin’s In Favor of the Sensitive Man - as well as several books on supporting people through grief and recent sexual assault.  

All were covered in notes and inky thumbprints, highlighted in multiple colors, and positively mangled with dog-eared corners and improvised bookmarks.  

As she sat there, speechless, Severus shuffled in, rubbing at the back of his neck, and Artemis zipped by, batting a yellow highlighter across the floor.  

Severus sat in the lone arm chair across from the couch.  

Neither of them spoke.  

Hermione finally found some words, sweeping a hand around to gesture at the new reading.  “So this.”

He nodded.  “This.”

She scratched her head, drawing her feet up out of her shoes and folding them tailor-fashion.  “Did you, em, ask a Muggle Librarian, or…?”

Severus vigorously shook his head.  “Em, no.  No.”  He took a long, shaky breath. “You see, while you and a few others have had… Stitch Club… some of us have also started a … well… a Rare Firewhiskey Tasting Club.”

Hermione blinked, confused.  “You mean the Wednesday night thing?  With the poker-playing sometimes?”

Severus nodded.  “Yes, although it’s led by Healer Burbage, and we’ve met almost every night. Remus is increasingly helpful in facilitating the conversation too.  There’s only some drinking, but very little actual cards.  Mostly there are… books.  And readings and discussion.”

Hermione sat back.  “Hot damn .”

Severus just looked watchful and worried - a new and strange development - so she waved her own remark away.  “And… and all this constitutes readings for the club?”

Severus blinked owlishly, picking up a new-looking copy of Ain't I a Woman? Black Women and Feminism by bell hooks and hugging it to his chest.  “Well, some of it is just related reading - mostly we read articles or single chapters for the group.”

Hermione nodded slowly.  “But you got the whole books.”  

Snape nodded.  “I think most of us did.  My… well.  My mother… has been exceptionally helpful.”

Hermione nodded slowly, mouthing a silent Aaaaaahhhhh.   Eileen Pince was in Stitch Club, Godric bury her despicably deceased husband.  Also, now, as she was running the library, she also took care of all the faculty’s book acquisitions, magical and mundane.  

Snape shrugged, continuing to hold on to his book.  Hermione smiled.  “I won’t take it, you know.”

Snape looked startled for a moment and then nodded, reluctantly putting the book down on the coffee table.

Hermione looked at him, then stood and walked over to him, offering a hand.  “May I help you up?”

He looked up at her, but only while he also crammed as much of himself into the far corner of his chair as possible.  “Are… are you sure?”

She nodded, and after a moment, he hesitantly put his hand just over hers, still not touching her.  With a chuckle, she closed the distance, grasping his hand and then pulling him up.

--Too close.  She had to breath a minute and take half a step back, but when he started to back away, she tightened her grip on his hand.  “Stop that, you.  This helps me.”

He stood very still, face disconcertingly distant from its impassive norms as it twitched in concern.  She wondered if she should give him another book to hug for comfort as she worked on steadying her breathing.  Which, eventually, she succeeded in doing. Then, with a little shuffle, she moved herself back into his space.

The heat, the currents of air disturbed by proximity and the movement of his breath… it felt nice .  It smelled like Severus: potion ingredients and smoke and, lately, tea tree and peppermint oils.

His breathing was hesitant, but slowly, he started to untense and just stand next to her, even looking down at the top of her head as she closed her eyes and just… felt.  

And finally she nodded, reaching up on her toes to kiss his nose before she said, “Thank you,” and left - forgetting to wait for him to open her present.

Hermione knocked, then opened the door into Charity’s office, finding her colleague face down and drooling in her sleep in a pile of paperwork.  Hermione stepped around behind the Mind Healer, delicately rooting around under her collar before then ducking under her chair to pick something up off the carpet at her feet, then moved back to the guest’s side of things and sat down in one of her armchairs there - whereupon she cleared her throat, loudly.  

Charity jumped, sending papers everywhere and, in the course of trying to nudge her glasses up her nose, flipped them up and off, over her head.  

As she gathered her wakefulness around her, she looked guiltily at Hermione, though she attempted to pave it with a professional smile.  “Ah, hello, Hermione!  I was just taking my… my… my nap?”

Charity squinted at a flash of movement, glassesless, and made out that Hermione was spinning a Time Turner from a raised hand.  

Charity swallowed.  

Hermione stood dangled the device just out of Charity’s reach.  “Sometime, ask me about my experiences with time turners - and time travel in general, will you?  And in the meantime, I think … maybe we should move to every-other night - for both groups - and you should give that bauble back. Agreed?”

“Em, oh, silly me, that’s just a repli… wait don’t do that!” she screeched as Hermione started to position it, looped over her wrist, to be operated.

Hermione wagged a finger.  “Also ask me about my experiences with being both really smart and a monumental idiot, alright?”

Hermione put the time turner down and inclined her head, closing the door behind her as she left the office, satisfied.  She seemed to have located her ability to reach in and help people again. 

Chapter Text

DECEMBER 5, 1981

When Remus opened the door, he could smell nothing but the overwhelming stench of the Wolfsbane Potion - and so he was caught off guard by the fact that, this night, Hermione was the one delivering it.  

He started to backpedal into his room as she started to walk in, seeing that fixed thing her jaw did when she would not be argued with.

With a calculating glance, she kept coming, trying to go around one side of him, it seemed, then the other, until… the backs of his knees collided with his favorite chair and he fell down on it, seated - and cornered .  “Dammit,” he swore, glowering at her.  

She thrust the potion into his hands, then gingerly lifted the time turner off from around his neck. She didn’t seem phased when her fingers brushed his skin, even though he shied in expectation of such an inevitability.  

Then, after tucking the Turner in a pocket, she sat in his second-favorite chair, across from him.  “You know the meetings will be every other day now, right?”

He nodded.  

“And that you can continue coming to both?”

He nodded more slowly.  “I… look, I think it was needed, and-”

She nodded even as she cut him off.  “-It may well have been, and I thank you and Charity for losing sleep and other productivity and tempting fate by fiddling with time to make it happen.  But I think we need to work toward something more sustainable, now that the initial binge of feelings and readings has been done.  People also need time - and space - to move through personal courses of action to address their individual recovery needs at their own pace.  Wouldn’t you agree?”

Remus sputtered for a moment, then got a canny glint in his eye, folding his arms over his chest and swiveling his crossed legs away from her.  “You start talking like that, leading me down some primrose path, and I know I’m about to be tricked into something that makes perfect sense but which you haven’t bothered to fully explain to me, and I have to say I don’t find it quite as cute as others do.”

Hermione nodded brusquely.  “Of course you don’t.  You’re too much like me.  You want to understand everything you encounter early and all the way along, and you work hard and generally excel toward that end. You don’t like things festering hidden - even though you can be your own worst enemy by ingeniously self-inflicting problematic secrets and misunderstandings. That’s why - apart from lifting your damnable device - I came to you.”

He squinted at her suspiciously.  She smiled at him with a placidity that could only be there to cover ruthlessness.

“What… exactly… do you want, Hermione?  And why?”

“I want to heal.  With you.  I don’t think either of us can heal without… without continuing the struggle we started together, still together, because it would feel like leaving the other behind. And… when I think about healing, I think about how much I want you, Remus.” She combed her hair back with her hands in frustration, feeling helpless at the sight of his still-furrowed brow. “I rather naively thought we’d have time, before the trap dropped, to see - to explore without it being through a filter of being Frank and Alice a bit, behind closed doors.  I…I’ve wanted you for an embarrassingly long time into my past, and damned if I will let a band of vile Death Eaters wring the pleasure of having you from my future.”

He knew - because he’d read the books on survivor’s guilt, and he’d been talking to Charity to coordinate facilitating the groups, and even seeing another Mind Healer on her recommendation, that what had happened to her was ostensibly not his fault. He knew it reasonably, but he couldn’t feel it and it was basically impossible to feel it - so he said what he kept circling back to instead. “But I couldn’t stop them, Hermione.  I was there, and I couldn’t help you.  How can you even stand to be near me, after how I failed you?”

She sighed and settled back into her chair.  “Alright, let’s deal with those statements, likely in more or less exactly the way we both know they need to be addressed, okay?  Maybe it will be easier if I’m here to argue instead of defenseless as an abstract.”  He nodded.  Then she leaned forward, paralyzing him with the intensity, the sincerity of her eyes.  “You did not rape me, Remus.  You were a victim there, too - including of sexual assault, thanks to Bellatrix. Watching you get hurt - directly and indirectly - continues to be among the hardest parts of it all for me to get over as well.  So suppose you heard me say things I have actually thought, like, ‘damn me, I should be better at wandless, gestureless magic, I should have Incarcerous ’d the lot and then Remus wouldn’t have been tortured, but when I could have shoehorned practice in during those months I lived on the run a couple years back, I mostly moped instead,’ or ‘I wish I’d just shrugged it off, kept a stiff upper lip and kept making wilting remarks at Bellatrix, because then Remus wouldn’t be sunk into a torrent of self-recrimin-”

“-That’s insane!” Remus said, coming out of his seat, tearing at his hair. “Dammit, Hermione, you can’t possibly…  you were so fucking beyond brave, you figured out exactly what need to be done and how to signal me even though-”

Hermione held up a hand and he stopped, sighing and sitting back down again.  “You are, of course, right - and I am, too.” She shook her head. “4 Deatheaters are at fault, and Voldemort is.  Not us.  Also… though I appreciate your pointing out my own role in dropping hints, you did save me, and yourself - as soon as you could have, in a way that no one else could have.  Rabastan is down some… shall we say, salient body parts, Rodolphus is dead, and Bellatrix remains concussed and, per Kingsley-”

Remus leaned forward, scowling “-Are you still in communication with that prattling popinjay Shacklebolt?!”

She gave him a warning glare, “Per Kingsley , Bellatrix paces her cell at Azkaban making scary faces at the Dementors and monologuing about the comparative romantic merits of Lupin versus the Dark Lord, you were so fucking scarily powerful that day -”

“-I’m sorry, is this meant to make me feel better?” he half-yelled, half-whined.

“-maybe? Maybe not, okay, maybe I oughtn’t to have said, but still - you are an effective, potent creature, you took your power back, and I don’t want you to sink in a mire of self-examination and deprecation - something which I know you to be prone to.  Ergo, I want us to stop thinking and avoiding each other so much and try to learn to make love again, together.”

Remus sat back, sucking in a breath, eyes bulging.  

Hermione just … sat back.

They looked at each other for a while.

“And how exactly do you want to do this?”

Hermione held up a small notebook.  “I’ve written a plan.”

Remus arched a brow at her.  “Does it read, insert tab A into slot B, then?”

Hermione scowled.  “No!  Fuck… Yes!  I don’t know!  It was mostly to allay fears and work out my anxiety, dammit!”

Remus got up and started pacing.  “I don’t think you can bloody, I don’t know, plan how two emotionally volatile, traumatized people with complicated histories, predating the actual acute event we’re discussing, are going to be able to fucking touch each other, much less plan how, one day, poof! The slipper fits, I’m up your fanny, and the curtain falls on a carriage trundling off into the sunset!” he yelled.

She stood too, shouting at him.  “Of course I don’t think you can fucking plan it perfectly , I just had to imagine a possible course of action before I-”

“-Before you what?!” he said, rounding on her.

Before I…” she yelled in his face, eyes flashing with rage.

“Yeah, still waiting here, Hermione,” he taunted.

And then, with a snarl, she lunged at him, knocking him into his chair and then both man and seat over to lie on their backs on the floor, with her atop them, straddling his waist, as her lips crushing into his.

After a moment of the wind knocked out of him, he reacted with a guttural groan, plunging his tongue into her mouth as if to taste her throat, letting his arms close roughly around her waist and pull her into him, so tightly he knew it could never be tight enough.  

She nonetheless wedged her hands between them and tore his shirt open, buttons pinching between them and spilling all over the floor, before she hungrily kissed down his neck toward a nipple, biting it as his hands shifted lower under her to gather her buttocks into handfuls and squeeze .  

They both moaned, Hermione boosted off the floor along with Remus as his back arched convulsively.

Remus almost purred, manhandling her ass, pulling it wide then kneading it back together, thrusting his fucking painful hard-on up against the damp seeping through her jeans as he ground her down into him.

With a shudder, she yanked off her shirt, accidentally throwing it into the grate and shrugging when it caught fire, then yanking his hands up to her bare breasts and rolling him on top of her, out of the chair and onto a thick carpet over the stone floor.  

“Fuck the plan.” she breathed, unfastening the front of his trousers.  “Fuck explaining.  I need you.  In me.  Now . Can you?  Please?”

He shuddered at the softness of her under his weight a moment, then knelt to yank her knickers and jeans off in one go, dragging shoes and socks with them before he pushed his own trousers down past his ass, his throbbing erections springing free with every evidence of uncomplicated enthusiasm.  

“Fuck the plan,” he muttered, lowering himself back onto her, reaching down to position himself between her legs.  “Fuck the plan, and fuck the witch.”

And then, surging forward, he thrust into her.  They both screamed.  

“Fuck, Hermione, oh, Godric and Rowena and Helena and fucking Salazar I need you,” he moaned, thrusting again, looping his arms under her shoulders to clutch her to him.  “I need you, I need this , Sweet Circe couldn’t slake this thirst.”

And again.

Hermione writhed to touch as much of him as she could, drumming her heels off the bounce of his impeccable ass impatiently and screaming, “Yes, fuck, Remus, yes , faster, faster, nnmmmmnnph , just like that, yes , yes… yesssss..”

Within a minute, she arched under him, crying out as her face contorted in ecstasy while he continued to hammer into her at a fevered pace, pounding into her as if all his fear was running in hot pursuit, as if he could feel its breath on his neck if he had even an instant to think.

He reached down between them, stroking her clit as if to make it burst into flame and, in another thirty seconds,

“OH FUCK, fuck, fuck fuck fuck yes , Remus, fuck me, fuck me yes,”

He was unslowing, sliding over her through a slippery sheen of commingled sweat, the lycanthropy pouring inhuman strength and speed into his jerking hips, and in another two minutes, 

“Ooooohhh, Godric, Remus, yes, yes, fuck , yes ,” 

And, in another one, an inarticulate cry that almost sounded like a sob, followed by a nod to keep going.

And again (three minutes)

And again (45 seconds)

And again (five minutes)

Then, she glanced down and saw his hips actually blurring , and she felt like… like cream that had gotten whipped, perfect and pained and going numb all at once, and she stroked her hands slowly down his back as his muscles continued to do incredible things she’d need to … at least have a drink for, later, if not a pain potion.  “Kiss me, you magnificent creature,” she murmured, stroking back his hair, feeling the next cataclysm build within her on an edge of pain, “and then come in me.  I need you in me, Remus.  I want to feel you, warming me from within, sticky on my thighs. Let me carry you as a talisman, of things good and wanted and true. I want you, Remus.  Come for me, oh!… please, please…” she begged, the slow strokes of her hands reaching him, slowing him, holding him as his rhythm grew more erratic and the end began with a plaintive whine, stuck in his throat, and crescendoed toward… toward.. 

Remus roared, dropping his broad hands down to grasp her hips as he pumped an offer of life into her, grinding down hard as he spurted hot into her hungry center.  She let her back and shoulders go limps, her arms falling down over her head until, with his third roaring volley, she cried out, “Remus, yes ,” and tensed, arching up and bearing down around him… until they both collapsed into a shuddering heap of sweat and limbs, still barely rocking together.

He started sobbing first, but she wasn’t far behind.