Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
A/N: This is terribly, awfully overdue, but happy birthday, NiightKiitten17! I hope you like it!
To those of you who have no idea what I'm talking about, this fic was meant to be published years ago (think 2017) as a birthday gift for NiightKiitten17, but I'm the slowest writer in the world so it's only coming now. I asked her for a prompt and she gave me an amazing one that is included in this chapter (it's the part in bold).
It'll be a short story–likely four chapters long–that will be updated every Sunday as I still have some things to iron out (as I said, slowest writer in the world).
This is my very first time-travel fic as well, so yay! (And for those of you who are wondering, I'm planning on updating Tie Your Heart soon, likely by the beginning of next month, so it's coming).
Enjoy the ride! Comments are very much appreciated, as usual :)
He could smell it. The change in the air. Sure, others could feel the now slight chill in the evening air, see the leaves beginning to change around their edges... but he was the only one that could smell autumn coming. It caused his heart to quicken, his breathing to become ragged. Not because he longed for the cooler weather, the vibrant foliage... no... The sudden change in his physical being was because of her. Because autumn brought her, and it was her he longed for.
It had started out as an accident. One of those rare occurrences in which being in a certain place and time incurred in unforeseen, staggering consequences.
But the reason it continued... well, that was another matter entirely, was it not?
Crisp, almost crackling air like the sea of coppery leaves awaited her beyond the castle's walls. It hissed against the concrete, wailing spirals mourning the lack of sun. But she faced the autumnal gales regardless, strands of her hair whipping against her face as the first drops of rain carried with the wind. She grasped the book in her arms harder, shoulders hunching over it, and picked up her pace. Hogwarts: A History once mentioned, in a minuscule printed footnote, a closed-off garden, buried underneath the castle somewhere in the West Wing, and if her calculations were correct the entrance would be right...
Burgundy and yellow-colored vines crept up and around the door, leaving but a patch of dark wood visible. A beetle readjusted itself atop the foliage as Hermione pushed the blanketed plant away, just enough to find the door's handle set. Iron further chilled her fingers when she grasped and twisted it, pushing as thicker raindrops caught in her robe and hair, and dribbled from the leaves onto her face. The door remained unmoved. Hermione hugged the book harder and, in a bout of Muggle instinct, rammed her shoulder into the wood.
There was a millimetric budge. She pushed the air off her lungs, readjusted the ivy again, and steeled herself for a second attempt.
As her left shoulder collided against the door, its hinges rattled and snapped. And Hermione's stomach hovered unhitched inside her as she traveled mid-air, falling along with the door as they hit the ground and slid over the three stone steps. Her body rolled beyond it, covering more inches over the stone floor until the hollow thud of her skull marked her entrance's finale.
"Merlin's bleeding pants! Are you alright?" The half curse, half question echoed through the walls of both the room and her brain.
She never answered. Acute pain irradiated on one side of her forehead – from her hairline down to the bone ridge beneath her eyebrow, where it proceeded to make its exceedingly low opinion of her plan known. And before she knew it she was moving again as strong, hot hands pulled her from the ground into a sitting position. In less time than she could properly count, she was stripped of her damp robe and enveloped with another, a much larger one still retaining its warmth.
A mix of herbal and floral scents invaded her nostrils as she drew in a short breath. There was indeed a garden. But someone else had already found it and she had just made an utter fool of herself before whoever it was by landing headfirst into it. As if people didn't tease her enough for several other reasons.
When her vision settled, it did so on a rather familiar face, framed by dirty blond hair and the faintest trace of equally colored stubble. Hermione blinked. The eyes... a ring of sand trapped by a sea of green stared straight into her soul, an unusual combination she had seen in one person only. But everything else about him was wrong. He was too young, his face unmarred by scars, shoulders unburdened by grief and war. He was handsome. Entrancing, even.
Perhaps her brain was far more addled by her fall than she had imagined.
She led a hand to her forehead, whether to assess the damage or check for a fever she wasn't quite sure. It slid with much too ease, her fingertips left with a slick, wet sensation even though the skin they touched shot needles of pain through her nerve-endings. She broke her gaze with the familiarly strange – or strangely familiar? She didn't rightly know at this point – boy and lowered her hand. The inspection of her fingertips drew a second set of eyes.
"You're bleeding. I'll take you to Madam Pomfrey right away."
Fairly muscular arms were already supporting her back and the underside of her knees when she spoke, "Don't."
The boy froze, his breath now the only thing brushing against her skin. She couldn't recall a reasonable explanation, but something about his instant rigidness made her regret her harsh denial. At such a close distance, the unmistakable scent of chocolate mint mingled with a much-too-aloof-not-to-be-hurt tone when the boy spoke - proof enough for her brain, in its current state, to confirm her suspicions, "I was trying to help. You need mediwitching care."
"I'm afraid I'll need something far stronger," she caught his gaze once again, "Because I know you, Remus J. Lupin."
The next thing she knew, her eyes had slid closed.
Before the girl collapsed, Remus' arm was once again at her back. He cushioned her head with his hand, her wild hair soft against his palm as he gently lowered her to the ground. He took in her injuries–her clothes had kept her from more harm, but it didn't take specialized knowledge of healing to gather that a head injury coupled with loss of consciousness was worrisome. Remus searched the ground around them as if guidance would pop up from their surroundings, but there were just her book – which seemed to be in even poorer condition than its owner, what, with its tousled pages and broken spine – and the garden itself.
Remus grabbed the robe he'd divested her of and checked the embroidered crest.
And yet he didn't recognize her. She wasn't new, no one older than eleven-year-olds had been submitted to the Sorting Ceremony this year. Although he couldn't claim to be close to every member of his House, certainly he would have remembered her? They seemed close enough in age for their paths to have crossed at some point. Either from passing each other in the Common Room or watching a Quidditch game, perhaps, not to mention the Library. It was the first week of school, for Merlin's sake, and the witch was already reading Numerical Charts and Probability: A Progressive Approach. It was far from being considered light reading–the content too advanced, even for O.W.L.-level, and the reason he knew this was because the volume had made it onto his reading list as well. The most bizarre reason not to let her die popped into his mind: she was bound to be intelligent–the conversations the two of them could have...
He shook his head. Was he going bonkers?
He had to act–fast–before he lost more of his faculties to mental haze or shock. He ought to gather her in his arms and carry her to the Hospital Wing, yet something about the way she had refused to be taken to the Infirmary had him hesitate. He couldn't leave her there–bloody and unconscious on the ground–but whatever fueled her reluctance to go to Madam Pomfrey could be justified. It had, after all, taken him a long time to overcome his fear of white, sterile rooms when all his memories of them were of excruciating pain- an agony he wouldn't understand came from the transformations instead of the mediwitching care until years later.
So he did the only thing that came to mind, "Amra, I need your help! Come, please!"
In a blink, a house-elf sprung into existence before him. She was wringing her hands in preparation to speak when her gray eyes grew even larger than normal at the sight of the girl.
"Master Lupin killed a missy," The elf flattened her little ears, swiveling her head around as if startled by her own words. Before he could react to it, slim fingers had closed around the girl's ankle. "Amra hides the body."
"No! Amra, she's not dead. And I didn't hurt her."
The little elf let out a huge breath, causing her body to appear smaller still, and dropped the girl's ankle unceremoniously. Remus flinched at the possible addition to her already considerable wounds. "Ooh, Amra's glad, young master, that I haven'ts to hide her then, no."
The young wizard led two fingers to his temple, "Could you just… get me a healing potion from Madam Pomfrey's stock, please, Amra?"
The elf was gone and back in seconds, half a dozen vials in her arms as she returned. "Here you are, Master Lupin," she deposited her findings on the softer, grass-covered ground of the garden, sparing the unconscious girl another glance before turning back to him. "If a person asks, Amra says there's NO dead missy in the gardens."
Remus stared at the place the small elf had just disappeared from. A huff escaped his lips. How she had kept his lycanthropy secret all these years, it was anyone's guess.
Once he had gently doctored the girl's forehead using the appropriate potion – being a werewolf had its advantages when it came to properly identifying them, even if it made brewing itself unbearable – her last sentence before passing out started ringing in his mind.
Because I know you, Remus J. Lupin...