AN: Hey everyone! So I decided to do a Christmas fic, but since the holidays (as well as all my school due dates) seem to be coming so fast, this one might drag on into the holidays a little past Christmas. The updating will most likely be kind of sporadic as well. So anyways, this whole story is AU where Tonks doesn't survive, but literally everyone else does (I think...it might change later so we'll just wait and see). The first few chapters will be really fluffy and suitable to all readers, but I'm thinking the later chapters will be of a more mature rating. We'll see how this goes. Enjoy!
Hermione was off work at the Ministry until the new year due to renovations in her department of the Ministry, so she was expecting to have a nice, relaxing Christmas holiday filled with ten-hour marathons of reading every single day—that was, until she found out that Lavender was moving out of the flat that they shared so she could move in with her boyfriend. Hermione knew that she wouldn't be able to afford the rent all by herself, and so there was only one place she could go: 12 Grimmauld Place.
Since after the war ended, Grimmauld Place had become a sort of safe house for anyone who had nowhere else to go. Sirius had decided to lend the house to anyone who needed it since he no longer wanted to have anything to do with it, and so it was a sort of backup plan for anyone in the Order who needed a place to stay. The first couple of years after the war were pretty hectic for everyone looking for a career; the Ministry was in recovery mode, Diagon Alley was still in shambles, and there weren't nearly enough teaching jobs to accommodate every jobless wizard and witch. Hermione had had to live there for a short period of time along with Sirius and Harry while they all searched for employment just after the war ended.
Now, Hermione had nowhere else to go but there. She wondered if there was anyone actually living there currently. Sirius had moved out because, to quote him, "that place gives me the willies…and not in a good way." To everyone's utter discomfort, Sirius' playboy tendencies had multiplied exponentially since the war had ended. One night stands had seemingly become a part of Sirius' daily routine recently—only now he apparently wasn't solely interested in females. Hermione hadn't been surprised in the least.
Hermione packed up her belongings that day so she could move into Grimmauld Place, deciding it was best to get out of the flat as soon as possible. She apparated with her bags onto the front step and decided to knock on the door, not wanting to scare anyone living there. She was just about to open the door herself when no one answered the door, but then was shocked when a sleep-mussed, pyjama-clad Remus Lupin opened the door for her. He seemed to snap awake when he realized who it was.
"Hermione! How are you? I haven't seen you since…since…"
"The Christmas party last year," she supplied helpfully.
"Merlin, has it really been that long? So what are you doing here? Oh, are you moving in?" he asked, noting the suitcase and bags she was carrying.
"Yes—if that's alright with you, that is," she blushed.
"Of course it is! Who would I be to refuse someone in a similar position to mine?" He stepped aside and gestured for her to enter.
Grimmauld Place was still as dark and dreary as Hermione remembered, though maybe slightly cleaner. The portrait of Sirius' mother still hung in the entranceway, though Hermione and Sirius had at long last managed to find a spell to permanently subdue her during her previous stay.
"Is anyone else living here?" she asked Remus as he closed the door.
"No, it's just me."
They were silent for a moment, both searching for something to say. Hermione was the one to break the silence, though it was nothing brilliant.
"I guess I'll just…go unpack my stuff," she muttered awkwardly.
"Yeah…sure thing," he replied, equally as awkward.
Why was it always so hard to talk to someone with whom you used to friends so many years ago? Though on second thought, perhaps they had never really been friends. They had worked together briefly for the Order of the Phoenix a few years after he had taught her at Hogwarts. Would their war strategy conversations count as conversations between friends? They had always been friendly towards one another, but that didn't necessarily mean that they were friends…
Hermione made quick work of unpacking in the room that had been hers last time, at the opposite end of the hall from Remus' room. She decided to spend the rest of the afternoon in her bedroom reading. At about seven o'clock, Hermione received a knock on her door. Remus popped his head in the door.
"I've just made some chicken penne and was wondering if you wanted any," he offered with a friendly smile.
"Oh, that sounds wonderful! Thanks a lot, Prof—ah damn, I mean Remus," she cursed, accidentally returning to her habit of calling him Professor as she had done all those years ago.
Remus laughed, the awkwardness between them slowly but surely diffusing. "It's been how many years, and you're still calling me Professor? Honestly Hermione, that's kind of sad. I was your Professor for a single year and your friend for a decade. My name is Remus, so use it," he chuckled teasingly. So they were friends!
"I'm sorry, Remus, but I can't help but be respectful to adults. It's how I was raised," she replied sassily, sliding a bookmark into the massive volume titled Goblin Rebellions in Europe—17th Century that she had been reading reading.
He barked a laugh. "Hermione, you do realize that you are an adult as well, right?" he pointed out with an eyebrow quirked in amusement as they made their way down the stairs to the kitchen.
"You don't say? I wonder when that happened…" she shot back sarcastically.
Remus handed her a plate, and they both began serving themselves some heavenly-smelling chicken penne with cheesy alfredo sauce. "What I mean to say," he laughed, "is that adults are now your peers, so you don't always need to treat them so formally, especially when you know each other as well as we do. You don't go around calling Sirius 'Mr. Black', so why should you call me 'Professor Lupin'?"
"Perhaps because Sirius was never my Professor" Hermione pointed out with a laugh, seating herself across the table from Remus so they could continue their conversation. Remus chuckled his rumbly chuckle once again, and something about it was very pleasant to Hermione. She liked the sound of his laughter.
"You're never going to admit defeat, are you?" he asked amusedly.
"What else would one expect from a debate between two highly logical Gryffindors?"
Hermione tried a bite of the food, and it warmed her belly with the familiarity of home-cooked meals. She hadn't had one of those in a while, what with her and Lavender both being atrocious cooks. Hermione couldn't stop the groan of bliss from passing through her lips. Remus raised his eyebrows in amusement while shovelling some of his divine food into his own mouth.
"I'm sorry. It's just that this is positively delicious! I'm not great in the kitchen, so I haven't had such high-quality home-cooked meals since the last time I ate at the Weasleys' house, which was months ago."
"Wow, I'm truly shocked by that. I didn't realize that Hermione Granger was actually flawed like the rest of us mere mortals," he teased.
"Oh shut up! I am nowhere near perfect at everything. I'm positively useless when it comes to the arts and athletics," Hermione ranted hotly, tired of people thinking she was a saint or something.
"And you're rubbish at cooking," Remus added drily.
"Yes, that too," she muttered furiously.
They were quiet for a moment before both bursting with laughter. Hermione didn't even know what was so funny, but Remus was laughing hard, which made her laugh harder, making him laugh harder, and so on. It was another moment before either one of them could manage to speak.
"Wait, weren't you top in your potions class, though?" Remus asked bemusedly.
"Yes, I was. What relevance does that have to anything?" she asked defensively, predicting the relentless teasing she would suffer through for it.
"But potions is so much more difficult than cooking! How on earth—?"
"Because potions recipes are specific about every detail. They leave nothing to the imagination. I have scoured bookstores for a cookbook that is specific about everything, and I haven't ever found one. They're all like 'turn the stove on to medium heat' or 'bake for 15-20 minutes'. HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO KNOW HOW LONG IS TOO LONG IF THE INSTRUCTIONS AREN'T SPECIFIC ABOUT IT?!"
Remus was giggling—actually giggling—at Hermione's ranting. She huffed in indignation, crossed her arms, and glared at him with narrowed eyes. That just made him laugh harder.
"I don't see what's so funny about my suffering," she huffed.
"I'm sorry—wait, that's actually a lie. I'm really not sorry at all. This is just too much! You must be the most meticulous person I know, Hermione, and that's saying something because I can be quite meticulous."
"I'm choosing to take that as a compliment" Hermione chuckled, scooping some more penne onto her fork and devouring it hungrily.
Once they had finished dinner, Remus took out a bottle of wine and poured each of them a glass. They continued talking well into the evening, refilling their glasses only every once in a while so as to not get too drunk.
"…and so that's why I need to crash here for a while. I'll start looking for a new flat after Christmas once I've made more money; I'm not getting paid very much right now because of the renovations at work and I'm going to be broke soon enough with all of my last-minute Christmas shopping," Hermione explained.
"Don't worry about it, Hermione. You're welcome to stay here as long as you want. It's nice having some company around here; it gets kind of lonely, especially around the holidays when you're supposed to be surrounded by friends."
"Thanks Remus, I'm glad to have you for company as well. Lavender Brown was never really ideal company for me. The only reason I lived with her was because she keeps her space nice and clean and is often out of the house, making her really easy to live with. So anyways, how long have you been staying here?"
Remus sighed, and Hermione could sense a sort of heaviness in the sigh. She was pretty sure she knew why he was stuck here.
"Much too long. A few months perhaps? No more than three. You know how it is with me; I can never keep an employment at the same place for too long. I've just been having some trouble finding something that I haven't already done. There aren't too many career options in the wizarding world, unfortunately."
Hermione looked at him sadly. "I'm so sorry, Remus. That's awful."
"Don't worry, it's nothing new at this point. This is my life, and I'm making what I can of it" Remus shrugged.
"Maybe you can apply at the Ministry once the renovations are done? We need some more people on the Accidental Magic Reversal Squad, and you're totally qualified. I'm pretty high up in the Ministry and could definitely put in a good word for you," Hermione offered.
"Could you really? That would be wonderful. Thanks a lot, Hermione" Remus smiled gratefully.
They both seemed to get lost in each other's eyes for a moment, both staring deeply at each other. Had Remus always had such beautiful eyes? They were a beautiful deep green colour. Not like Harry's green, but much darker and less noticeable. Beautiful in their own way.
Hermione snapped out of it first, blushing madly. Everything had become awkward again, like they hadn't just spent the last two hours chatting over dinner and wine. Hermione decided it was as good a time as any to excuse herself to bed for the night. Remus wished her a good night and watched as she hurried up the stairs.
Hermione closed her new bedroom door softly behind her and slumped against it. "Well that was awkward as hell," she muttered to herself. What had even happened? They had been having a nice conversation, she offered to help him get a job at the Ministry, and the boom! Awkward again.
Hermione decided not to dwell on it and focus on the positive. She had had a great time hanging with Remus. He was kind, intelligent, brave, he understood her sense of humour, not to mention quite handsome; how on earth was this man still single? Well, Hermione didn't know for sure that he was single, but still, he was quite the catch. As if she suddenly realized what she was thinking, she shook her head and mentally berated herself for thinking of Remus as anything more than friends. He was technically old enough to be her dad. And on top of that—and no matter how much Remus argued it—he was still one of her former professors. Hermione didn't want to go through being attracted to a teacher again…not after the Gilderoy Lockhart thing. She still hadn't forgiven herself for being so naïve.
No, Hermione and Remus were friends and that was it. Perhaps once she got used to that thought she would stop having those awkward moments with him. That would be a bloody miracle, what with all the uncomfortable silences they had had. Did Remus feel them as well? Well, he obviously did because he seemed just as uneasy as she was.
Hermione sat on the window ledge and stared outside. She was still trying to get used to living in London in the winter; she was used to having snow by this time of year because of how much snow Hogwarts received, but she had yet to see any snow in London with only twelve days until Christmas.
An unusually rotund bird landed on a tree across the street. Hermione squinted her eyes to try and identify it. She was surprised to find that it was a partridge, never having seen one this close to London. She smiled, watching the bird arrange its pretty brown feathers.
She knew that things would turn out alright between her and Remus. Maybe they just had to get more comfortable with each other. Hermione resolved to take Remus out to dinner tomorrow night, deciding that the only way to become more comfortable was to spend more time with him. To her surprise, she couldn't wait to hang out with him again.