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Years of school pranks had taught very little to Sirius, but a great deal to Remus. Long before the incident with Snape (or incidents, he should say), Remus, if not his friends, had learned to draw the line between what was acceptable and what was not.
He was certainly walking a very fine line now.
He hadn't, however, planned this. Nothing about it had resembled one of his meticulously arranged practical jokes from Hogwarts, boisterous and aimed at his closest friends in particular, or at the Slytherin's in general, with an exception or two to serve as a much-needed distraction and get them all out of trouble. It wasn't to say, nevertheless, that he did not recognize this one. And when he heard the door closing, he'd flinched.
It was no more than a far-fetched coincidence that he turned out to be trapped with Hermione, even though she had been the reason for Remus being there in the first place – the most innocent of culprits, guilty of leaving a striking impression on a werewolf far too battered and old to believe in ideals.
Yet the thoughts of her had proved themselves as lasting and fierce as her principles. He was, after all, even if he would admit to no one else, very much in love with her.
They had often kept each other company in the library, but for most of their time there he would care not to interrupt her. Her brows would furrow in concentration and she would trap her lower lip between her teeth whenever the book proved interesting. At times, she would mumble to herself – a habit she seemed endearingly unaware of.
It had taken him months after the war to convince her to call him Remus. Until she had, not as much as called but written, while paying her parents a visit. And he had almost pictured her scratching Professor several times before managing to relinquish the title; reluctant to part from the deference she always gave authority.
They would exchange birthday and Christmas gifts and write each other letters when apart, and yet, when close, there was always… distance. His words would waver and fail him, and their relationship would always return to their common interest in books and ideas. It was as it was supposed to be, as he was supposed to keep it – as friends and nothing but. And her friendship alone should make him… content.
Love was a feeling he was not entitled to nurture.
Still, once she told him the door wouldn't open – something he already suspected would happen – Remus couldn't bring himself to do the mature thing. The right thing.
No, he would keep her, if only for a few minutes.
And, for a moment, he could have sworn he heard her heart race while he showered. A senseless impression, surely, for which he blamed both the water and his wishful imagination.
He made a quick job out of drying himself, before wrapping the towel she had given him around his waist. Unaware that she (or anyone, for that matter) would end up in that bathroom with him, he hadn't bothered to bring along any clothing, a fact he now regretted.
Hermione would see his scarred body – likely be horrified by it. Or, worse, be reminded of what lay underneath, the very wretched creature that had given him those scars, the ugliest part of him called forth by the moon, as she had witnessed firsthand.
As Remus walked towards the door, he almost reconsidered his earlier decision – perhaps it would be best to just go for his wand underneath his abandoned clothes and undo whatever charm was in place, but something about Hermione's scent had changed, something he couldn't quite determine, and the thought of her leaving felt just short of unbearable loss.
Half-hearted attempt it was.
Hermione huffed as Remus' strength proved just as ineffectual as hers, "I can't believe it… Apparation was of no use, either."
When Remus turned to face her, it became increasingly harder to train her gaze off his chest, and Hermione wished she had something other than the sparse steam in the bathroom to blame for the heated flush rising up her throat and prickling at her cheeks, so much so that the question blurted out of her mouth before her brain could properly consider the consequences, "Do you think— May I— Since we're trapped here, would you mind if I took a bath?"
That certainly gave her reason to blush harder, but a reason nonetheless. And just the threat of self-satisfaction as Remus' posture stiffened and his breath hitched, because it was of some consolation that he wasn't unaffected by her, even if he didn't feel the same.
Yet that sensation withered and died when his jaw clenched and his gaze dropped to the floor. As if preparing to undergo some sort of torture.
Wonderfully done, Hermione.
"I promise not to look," his tone stern as he moved to take her place.
And she almost wanted to tell him it was more than she could say herself, if only it to erase his contrite look.
Hermione came to deeply regret her ill thought-out question. Even as she knotted her hair in a small bun and stepped into the hot, bubble-filled water, anxiety still churned inside her stomach, refusing to subside.
If anything she had made matters worse.
An awkward silence curled inside the room more so than it had before, the absence of shower drops more pronounced now that Remus seemed unwilling to start a conversation. He sat unnaturally still on the closed toilet lid, turned towards the wall in a crumpled position ever since he took her place there.
Nothing remotely clever came to her mind and so Hermione said nothing, sinking further into the tub and leaving the silence undisturbed except for the occasional splash of water or the almost loud pop of bubbles in contrast to the rest of the house.
That is, until footsteps thudded outside and her eyes snapped at the door.
"Did we catch him?" asked one voice as the sounds approached.
Another, almost identical one, replied, "No, too early for dear Ronniekins."
"He did wake up this early one time."
"That's because you charmed your Quidditch bat to follow his head—"
"—Like a Bludger. We should've thought of that."
Hermione barely caught Remus' movement until he had set himself in front of the door.
Alarm broke through Remus' guilt-induced torpor.
He stood, wand in hand, and rushed between Hermione and the arriving twins, shielding her from them as the bathroom door opened – an ironic, belated display of the chivalry he should have showed her since the beginning.
"Oh — Hello, Remus," Fred and George said in unison.
"It could have been worse, I suppose," Fred muttered, his head turning towards his brother.
"We could have locked Mom inside."
"—Or Tonks," Fred added with a wince, before returning his voice to the usual volume and looking at Remus, "Not that we are not abashed—"
"—terribly, terribly mortified—"
"But since you're here—"
"—What'd you think of it?"
Despite himself, a snigger escaped Remus. He had blotched everything up already, why not give them pointers? Particularly if it would keep the pair from spotting Hermione – he could hear the dripping water, even though he had expected her to stay submerged.
"You should consider adding a magical print trigger," Remus gave them a pointed look, before rolling his wand between his fingers, "Along with an Expelliarmus charm."
Even after so many years, it was still odd to see the two perfectly mirrored grins.
Something caught George's eye and he bumped his shoulder against his brother's. And Remus didn't have to look to know what had drawn their attention because Hermione circled him, coming to a stop beside the Weasley's.
A few short strands of her chocolate-colored hair escaped from the bun at the back of her head and clung, wet and curly, to the base of her neck. His lips parted. As his eyes trailed further down, splotches of pink peppered her chest, all the more visible against her white towel, and Remus couldn't keep himself from wondering if it was due to the hot water or her embarrassment, even if a part of his mind argued that it was not for him to wonder. It was not for him to look, either.
"You knew of this?" Hermione asked, the inflection on her voice inquiring, not yet resentful or livid. Oh, that would come later.
Remus was faintly aware of the twins' interjections ("—that is unexpected", "—not at all unpleasant", "—but completely unexpected"), his brain reeling as he tried to focus on Hermione's words, trying to respond through the slight hum of conflicting thoughts and emotions and the twins' continued banter, "I knew they were working on something—"
"Hence the partly open door. But you had your wand," Hermione furrowed her eyebrows once her gaze flitted toward his hand, "this entire time you had your wand."
"—Kiss him already, Hermione."
"—The poor man is suffering."
He glared, then, "Goodbye George, Fred."
The pair made themselves scarce, but there was no plausible explanation to offer Hermione and no words to contradict the twins'. Remus lowered his gaze to the ground, waiting to be met with either her fury or her pity. At this point, he didn't know which one he would prefer.
When she didn't say anything – a worrisome thing from someone who possessed such a lively mind – he chanced her a look.
"You trapped me," her lips curled in a slow-growing smile Remus could not fathom, "Well, not intentionally at first, but still…"
It was safe to say that none of Remus' imagined scenarios could account for her reaction. And he stopped trying to conjure more accurate ones when Hermione leaned forward, balancing herself on the tip of her toes, and brushed her lips against his.
It lasted no more than second and Remus opened eyes he didn't remember closing. A glint settled in Hermione's, one not at all unfamiliar but his inability to recognize it just seemed to prove her mind was much more disciplined than his if she was still capable of clear thought.
And he did not expect it when she took a step back and shut the door between them.
... A challenge.
Remus flicked his wand at the door, only to find her still on the other side, her smile bordering on smug. He stepped forward and she disappeared with a crack.
He Disapparated as well, materializing at the library only to catch just a trace of her as Hermione disappeared once again.
Crack! at the drawing room, followed by another in the attic, and the corridor.
Crackcrackcrack. And then he caught her as she appeared in her own room.
Remus' vision adjusted to the fading darkness, enough to make out Hermione's silhouette. Her chest heaved as she panted, an arm securing her towel in place. He watched as she stepped closer, deliberately, their heavy breaths mingling together, and this time he lowered to meet her lips. They were soft against his, and he almost moaned as Hermione drew back just enough to bite her lower lip.
"FRED AND GEORGE WEASLEY, you will stop this bedlam this minute!"
They stilled. A new wave of her scent wafted as she blushed, engulfing Remus, before Hermione rested her forehead on his chest, laughing.
And he couldn't help the smile tugging at the corner of his lips.
"FRED AND GEORGE WEASLEY, you will stop this bedlam this minute!"
"Stop what bedlam, mother?" George asked, peering at her from the top of the Daily Prophet.
"You're going barmy, woman, we're right here."
Fred nicked an apple from the bowl on the kitchen table and sat back on his chair.
"Well, not this time."
"But we must admit we've been bettered."
"They did find a much funnier game of Apparition, apparently."
Fred took a bite of the fruit, ignoring the confused look on the Weasley matriarch, "Should we warn them? Y'know, before they wake the rest of the house?"
The two wizards pondered the idea.
A/N: And it's over! I hope you enjoyed it!
This is both my first time writing a shorter story AND writing Fred and George. I really hope I didn't mess their dynamic with my inexperience .
Many thanks to:
SereniteRose for reviewing.
To SereniteRose, sln1987, and IreliaLuna for adding the story to their favorites.
And to kk1999, karkarj93, fanfictionfan1990, emmi75, Wish Me Monsters, Thedoctorswif3, Silver Orbed Lioness, Shola2001, Shadow werewolf, SereniteRose, Kmo3321, GraysonSteele, and 16KnightOwls for following the story.
You guys are awesome!
Let me know what you think! :)