Hermione had known, even as Ginny was speaking, that Ginny had been the one
to draw the short straw, or pick the wrong side of the coin, or loose at
whatever kinky game of chance the women of the Weasley-Tonks household had most
recently thought up between the two of them.
"It's not that Nymph and I don’t like having you around, luv. Of
course we do. We just think you might be using us as an excuse not to get on
with your life, and that makes us a smidge uncomfortable."
Hermione tugged at one of the strands of hair that had squiggled its way free
of her messy but utilitarian up-do. "Sure."
Ginny wrinkled her nose. "Minny, don't."
Hermione made a face at the nickname, thought up by Nymph in frustration at
there being no cute way to abbreviate Hermione and amusement that it rhymed with
Ginny. "Don't call me that."
"Don’t act like I don’t know you," Ginny bit back.
"Don't pretend like going out on a few dates with the idiots who slobber
on me all day at the office or a couple of drinks with the girls up the hall
will change anything," Hermione sneered in retaliation.
Ginny took a step back, but held up a hand when Hermione began to apologize,
"No, I mean, it was something, at least."
Hermione pressed the heels of her palms against the mottled skin under her
eyes. "Gin. Damnit." There was no apology in the world that could make
up for the last two years, though, so Hermione just stayed still, head down and
shoulders forced nearly to her ears.
"Okay, so maybe not socializing. It's been two years, Min, the
Department's pretty well-established and you're still on everyone's A list. Get
yourself a job you enjoy." There was a thinness to Ginny's voice that
Hermione recognized as a dignified sort of pleading.
The Department, more formally known as The Department for the Protection of
Muggle-Born Magic Adepts had been Hermione's baby, constructed by her a year
before the end of the war over the summer before her final season at Hogwarts.
At the end of her sixth year, Voldemort had managed a strike, killing hundreds
of Muggle-born would-be wizards not old enough to have yet received their school
letters. Recognizing the immense vulnerability of this sect of the Wizarding
population too late, Hermione had worked her hardest to establish the
In the aftermath of the war, when she had succeeded partly out of her status
as hero and partly out of the wave of public sympathy for Muggle-borns that the
massacre had secured, she was left in charge of its set-up. It had been for the
best at first, giving her something to focus on other than her grief, but after
less than a year it became clear that while it was her project, it was hardly
her passion. Still, as head, she dutifully went in to see to its smooth
operation day in and day out, very, "one-foot-in-front-of-the-other,"
as Nymph called it.
Hermione straightened slightly, lifting her hands from her eyes. "And
what happens to the Department without me to defend the purpose behind its
funding, make sure that enough PR is generated on a regular basis to maintain
the public's attention to its importance?"
"Dean won't let anything happen to that office and you damn well know
it." Dean Thomas's ten year-old sister had been one of the children killed.
Hermione couldn't deny the truth in that. "What would I do?"
"What do you want to do?"
Hermione refused to look at Ginny, the answer too immediate in her head. She
lied, "I don't…I suppose I haven't really thought about it."
"Then start, luv." Ginny took hold of Hermione's shoulders and
shook gently. "We don't know how to help anymore."
"I know," Hermione admitted. "You've been the best,
"You're my sister. In every way that matters, at least," Ginny let
the appreciation slide off her without a second of hesitation. "I miss them
too, Min. But I wish I could give you what I have."
"Sanity?" Hermione attempted the joke, however weak.
Ginny gifted her with a small smile, "What lies behind it."
Hippocrates Smethwyck eyed Hermione, "You're far too qualified, Miss
Granger, you must know that."
Hermione kept her expression even. "All of my training was
emergency-based, I have no formal education as far as the medical arts are
"Regardless, you saved countless lives."
Hermione swallowed, trying her best not to grimace at the bite of acid as it
slid reluctantly back down her throat. <I>You didn't kill Harry.
The voice that reminded her of that was never her own. Ginny's, Nymph's,
Charlie's, even Minerva's. Never her own. It would do, though, in a pinch.
"You understand that what I'm proposing is a very specific type of work.
The proposal deals with several points that I've been working on with the
Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures." Hermione
fought to keep the twist of contempt those words always made her feel far from
"Your proposal suggests that you take on a position as Sister to the
most dangerous inhabitants of the Dai Llewellyn Ward."
"It suggests that I work on rehabilitation and socialization of recently
bitten werewolves." Hermione stated plainly.
"Forgive me, Miss Granger, but you are aware that werewolves are still
considered dangerous and are only released if they agree to register so that
they can be tracked. Socialization is rarely ever important, as most kill
themselves rather than face this prospect or that of lifelong
Underneath the ledge of the desk she was sitting on one side of, Hermione
twisted her fingers tightly into her robes, releasing on the count of ten.
"It is precisely either of those ends that I am hoping to help these
Hermione was actually fairly used to people looking at her like she was a few
crumpets short a full tea service, but somehow, it never failed to anger her.
Luckily, her anger over Smethwyck's carefully worded but blithe disregard for an
entire class of his patients was far overriding this more recent irritation.
"You loose nothing by allowing me the chance."
"I risk the life of a war hero. Mungo's reputation hardly needs the
Hermione dropped her voice an octave, something Ron had always said made her
sound like she was channeling demons. He had warned her about using her power
responsibly. "I'm quite certain I can take care of myself, Healer Smethwyck.
After all, I have managed to get this far, have I not?"
The sentiment, when so many others are dead, floated
between them for a minute, heavy and unstable.
Smethwyck cleared his throat. "Yes, well. I suppose if this is what you
want…" He waved his hand negligently. "The pay is less than
Hermione smiled without showing her teeth. "That will be
such a change from the Ministry."
Hermione was too smart not to recognize her own psychoses. She was well aware
that she was nursing a guilt complex but for the most part, completely powerless
to do anything about it.
She often thought that perhaps she had planned too strongly on Ron making it
She had known Harry wouldn't.
The curse that had killed Voldemort was Old Magic. Older, it was believed,
than even Slytherin himself. The book that Hermione had found it in had claimed
that snakes had created the spell themselves; a spell designed to work only on
those who had a connection with snakes. Parselmouths, in contemporary
It is not in the basic nature of snakes to be evil. Cunning, mischievous and
self-defensive, certainly, but evil is a concept mostly unknown amongst the
animal kingdom. Therefore, attempting to force a snake's true nature on a
Parselmouth who has deviated from it wreaks havoc with the Parselmouth's inner
nature, the balance of his soul. This was essentially how the spell worked.
There were two catches to implementing it. As with most ancient spells, this
one took a Wizard of great inner power to augment, but there were quite a few of
those at Hogwarts. This spell, however, had to be implemented by a wizard whose
actions and beliefs ran directly opposite of evil. Also, the wizard to cast the
spell's inner nature would be altered, as he used the good within himself to
separate the evil from his opponent. Inevitably, the spell meant death for the
caster as well as the recipient.
Even if there hadn't been suggestions within the spell that Harry would have
to be the one to cast it -- it was best if cast by a Parselmouth -- there was
the implication behind the Prophecy that Harry was the only one with the ability
to best Voldemort.
Hermione had found the spell fairly early on in her searching, at least after
Snape finally allowed her access to his books on the orders of Dumbledore. She
didn't inform Harry of it until the very end, until she knew there was no other
She never told him about the end result of the spell. He and Ron had believed
until the end that there was a chance they could both live through the final
The night before Hogwarts was taken, Hermione had snuck into the boy's
dormitory, where Seamus, Neville and Dean were well used to looking the other
way when she would climb into Harry's bed to find both her lovers waiting for
her. Aware that things were coming to a head, she had been slowly saying her
goodbyes to Harry, without the aid of words.
Ron she had given strength, but not leave to go. He was supposed to stay with
But Ron had always been the more loyal of the two of them, she supposed. He
had tried to Heal Harry, intuitively, and been sucked into the death pull of the
Magic. They were gone before Hermione could jump on for the ride.
She didn't regret not telling Harry, not making him live a death sentence for
the final months of his life. She had found that she could live with having
killed him, but she doubted she could have survived breaking him. The guilt over
Ron's death clung to her, heavy as mud and twice as dirty.
It couldn’t have been helped, this she knew. Even if Ron had kept quiet,
which would have surprised her, his face would have given it away. Still,
knowledge is power and Hermione instinctually felt that somehow she had acted as
heartless dictator in the whole situation.
She had told the remaining Weasley's, Ginny and her then-new girlfriend
Nymph, and Charlie; hoping that their hatred would be worse than hers, more
painful. Both of them had failed her though, too tired to hate the woman who was
all that was left of Ron and the boy they had adopted as a brother.
She had given up on receiving proper punishment and instead struck out for
suitable penance: to save enough lives to make up for those two. She didn't
foresee an end to the pursuit. Sometimes, every once in a while, it was
reassuring in its infinite nature. Those were the better days.
She may not have known how to fix the guilt complex, but that didn't mean she
wouldn't try. She owed a few people that. Ron and Harry would understand.
That was why she had loved them.
Minerva was prompt, as always, but Hermione had insisted on getting to The
Three Broomsticks early and was now intensely grateful for Nymph's having
invited herself along. Without her there to chatter, Hermione was quite sure her
nerves would have left her stammering and ready to flee by the time Minerva
Instead, Hermione greeted her former professor with a small smile and a
Minerva's lips quirked up, "No, if you don't mind, I think I'll have a
Hermione waved over Rosamerta's nephew, Oren, to whom Rosamerta had left the
bar. She ordered for Minerva and another round for her and Nymph, waiting for
the drinks to actually come before she got down to business.
"I need a favor," she prefaced.
"If it's within my power," Minerva promised.
"I know you're terribly busy, training a new deputy, and all,"
Snape had agreed to fill in as deputy only so long as it took to find a new one.
Eventually the man who had taken over for the now-retired Flitwick had consented
to taking the post, but he had only been on staff for a little over a year and
was still getting used to Hogwarts, let alone its administrative duties.
"Still, I was hoping that you would be willing to take me on for lessons
Minerva took a sip. "When you graduated, your Transfigurations were
quite top of the line. I'm not sure what else you imagine I have to teach
"The one Transfiguration I can't yet do," Hermione supplied.
"Ah," Minerva turned her cup in her hands slowly. "And what,
may I ask, has suddenly attracted you to Animagistry?"
Under the table, Nymph nudged Hermione with a knee in a quick gesture of
support. Hermione began, "It's far from recent, really. I've been
fascinated since third year. In truth, though, the drive to learn it now comes
from my new job."
"I've heard rumors," Minerva admitted.
"I imagined you would. It's no secret down in the ward that Snape
supplies the hospital with its regular batches of Wolfsbane."
"It's a sign of concern that he said anything at all. He very rarely
concerns himself with other people. More so now than ever before."
Hermione, who still remembered too vividly the man whose wit could target the
most vulnerable parts of her without even aiming, merely pursed her lips.
"Kind of him, but as I told Healer Smethwyck, I'm quite capable of taking
care of myself."
"So you have proven."
Hermione let the glance shared by the two other women at the table go. It
would do no good to get angry about it. She owed her pretended ignorance to
Nymph, if not to Minerva. "Will you teach me?"
"Of course I will, it's a good skill to have even when one is not
attempting to become friendly with werewolves. I just can't guarantee regular
Hermione nodded, "I understand completely. I'm not even sure that I can.
The job's hours are unpredictable, at best."
Minerva chuckled, "No doubt."
"Thank you," Hermione reached out to quickly squeeze Minerva's
knuckles. Minerva squeezed back, but let Hermione go at the first sign that she
was ready to withdraw.
The lessons, when they could manage, were held weekly. They could be done
over an early breakfast, early enough that Minerva could make it to the Hall for
Hogwart's scheduled breakfast, or late enough at night that it took several cups
of strong coffee for them both to stay awake for the duration of the lesson.
They were slipped in after staff meetings that ran shorter than expected and
before independent student sessions.
It was as Hermione hurried up the stairs to Minerva's office for one of the
late night meet-ups that she ran into Snape. Not, thankfully, literally.
She was past him, hardly having even registered the tall swish of black
cloth, when he barked, "Miss Granger," and out of pure habit, she
A quick breath later, she turned. "Professor."
He didn't seem to have expected a response, as once they were face to face,
he went silent. Just when she was ready to bid him a good night and carry on, he
spoke up. "As you have the most continuous contact with the lycanthropic
patients at Saint Mungo's, I was wondering if you had noticed any difference in
this month's transformation as to that of last month's?"
Hermione tilted her head. "You changed the Wolfsbane?"
"No, not on its most basic level, at least. It is something of a
continued project of mine, however, its perfection. There are several symptoms
of the transformation I wish to alleviate. I fuss with it when I am stuck on
"I'm sorry, I don’t remember seeing anything. I could ask them. One or
two might even tell me," Hermione's lips twisted in a self-deprecating
grimace. "What would you need to know?"
"If they felt more clearly inside their heads. I once was told that
their awareness of self was constantly present but felt muzzled. I simmered a
Jobberknoll(9) feather in the first stage of the potion's base this time, I
should like to know if it had any affect."
"Of course. I will see what I can find out." Hermione gave a polite
nod and began to head off to Minerva's, already late for their scheduled meeting
"Miss Granger," his voice called once again, this time with less
"Yes, Professor?" She did not turn.
"Perhaps, if I were to owl you my ideas, the next time I got to thinking
about the Wolfsbane-"
Despite the grip on her self-control that Hermione had long pounded into
herself when in his presence, she spun around, cutting him off, "My
expertise is nowhere near yours. I did not continue in the field after my
"Yes, I realize." He paused. "But I have not the disposition
to sit with the subjects as they transform, and your input would be invaluable.
They are often reticent in discussing the change while it is not
To her surprise, Hermione laughed. It was short and mixed with bitterness,
but it was laughter. "No, no they don't. All right, I see your point. Yes,
that would be fine. Just don’t expect an immediate reply. The job and my
sessions with Minerva leave little time for extras and I have family and friends
who still require my attention."
Something in his eyes made her regret verbalizing the last part. He didn't
snap, though, merely nodded, "Of course. Like I said, it is something I use
as a distraction. I will hardly be bothered by a wait."
"Well, then," Hermione took a step backward, "I'm off. Good
His, "Good night, Miss Granger," held the oddest tone of melancholy
to it. She thought it was almost recognizable as loneliness.
"I could bite you," Zev threatened, eyes looking a bit feral even
having resumed his human form. "The potion makes me know what I'm doing,
y'know. I could bite, if I chose to."
Zev Peren was the new kid on the ward. He was nine years old and it was
something of a miracle that his parents had taken him as far as Mungo's to
abandon him. Most bitten children were dropped off at the nearest wooded area at
full moon and left there to die. Still, Hermione couldn't exactly consider him
lucky. "I know."
"Aren't you scared?" Zev demanded. The nine-year old was all big
feet and hands and too-wide eyes, with sandy-blond hair that needed to be cut so
that he wouldn’t have to constantly swipe it out of his field of vision. He
was anything but intimidating.
Still, she almost wished she could tell him she was. It would have meant that
she hadn't already survived things far more scary. It would have given him a
little something to hold onto. Instead, she teased, "Aren't you? If you bit
me, I'd have to stay here all the time."
Zev shrugged. "At least you talk to me."
There were seven werewolves, not including Zev, on the ward. Ranging from
twenty-six to seventy-two, two were women and five were men. One of the women
and two of the men had taken on a pack mentality and banded together, but they
were hesitant to allow any newcomers into the pack. The remaining four had to be
persuaded to interact with anyone, let alone each other. There had been an
eighth, another member of the "quiet cult" as Hermione silently termed
the loners, but he'd killed himself at the previous full moon. She'd been
determinedly not making his death an issue in regards to whether she was doing
anyone any good or not ever since.
"They don't know what to say, Zev."
"I asked Redda if she'd play Exploding Snap the other day and she
totally ignored me."
"Redda's grieving," Hermione explained. She wasn't sure how she
knew this, as Redda wasn't acting any differently than before Lucien's death,
and the two had never much spoken when he was alive, but there were some things
that grieving for over two years lent to a person, and the ability to sense
similar emotions in others was one. "Have you tried Gerard?"
Gerard was the friendliest of the pack-mates, the most likely to argue for
another's entrance. While they were cliquish, the three in the pack were the
most stable in the ward and the people that Hermione worried about the least.
She would have loved to secure a spot there for Zev.
Zev picked at the lint residing on his bed's comforter. "Steven and
Verona scare me."
Hermione suspected without any proof to back it up that the three of them
were sleeping together, which was what cemented their existence as a pack and
precluded the involvement of others. Which meant that Zev shouldn't be a threat
to that. It was a gamble, but one she felt needed to be taken. "I know, me
too. But sometimes you've gotta stand up to what's scaring you if you plan on
getting what you want."
"Easy for you to say. You're a hero. I know, my parents used to talk
about Hermione Granger all the time. Her and Ron Weasley and The Boy Who
Hermione imagined she hated that nickname more than Harry had ever thought
to. Quietly, she said, "We were very scared too, Zev. Voldemort's death was
something we wanted very badly. Almost as badly, I'd imagine, as you want
somebody to play Exploding Snap with."
Zev folded his legs up to his chest and rocked for a bit. "Would you
play a game with me, before you go? I mean, if you don’t have somewhere to
"I have enough time." Hermione stood up and walked to the bed,
careful not to touch him as she sat. Between having been bitten and his
treatment by his parents and the doctors in the aftermath, Zev wasn't much a fan
of physical contact these days. In the three weeks he'd been on the ward, the
only time he'd let Hermione touch him was when he was in the wolf's body.
Zev lit up like a Clabbert(2) infested tree, and he began to deal out the
deck he left on his nightstand at all times. "Great!"
Hermione was pretty sure she would be finding time to play two or three
It was the oddest sensation in a lifetime of being hit by hexes and spells
and even the odd full-out curse. Hermione imagined it was a bit what being
stuffed into a trunk less than half her size would feel like, only blessedly
without pain. Almost as though the trunk had once been her home and whenever she
returned to it, her body found ways to accommodate the smaller habitat.
Everything smelled differently. Minerva's scent was sharper, more
threatening, and she could smell horses, which should have been impossible, as
the only ones kept on the grounds were the Thestrals, and they were let loose in
the Forest when not needed.
Transforming back was harder. Animal-Hermione's thought processes worked
oddly, more jumbled than her normal semi-linear paths of thinking. It took a
while to fully form the return spell satisfactorily and feel the reverse
transformation, like stepping back out of the increasingly comfortable trunk.
"So?" Hermione inquired casually, as if the moment before hadn't
taken months of expert tutelage and practice to achieve.
Oddly, Minerva responded with, "Were you afraid of me?"
"It…the form was. I'm still in there, though."
"You are ready to be registered, then," Minerva pronounced.
"Registered as what? What was I?"
Minerva turned her best enigmatic expression on Hermione. "You couldn't
Hermione ordered the facts available. Something smaller than her,
considerably so, with an innate fear of humans who could smell the dank iron
scent of Thestrals from over a kilometer away. "A horse guardian. I'm a
"Ten points to Gryffindor," Minerva murmured. "Rather
appropriate, don't you think?"
Unwilling to give Minerva the immediate satisfaction of delving into why her
alternate-self would choose this form, Hermione shot back, "Our hair does
have a certain likeness."
"Well, Porlocks are very sweet looking, so in that, yes, I suppose there
is a familiarity between your two forms."
Hermione resisted the call to Transform back, into a body that allowed no
communication between her and this woman who saw everything. "I think,
sometimes, that I trust humans less than the people I work with, shut away from
the world through no fault of their own. They might not trust me or even like
me, but I get them, and it's just more comfortable."
Minerva stepped into Hermione's personal space. Hermione made herself stay
still. Minerva smiled sadly, "I was speaking of your tendency to protect
those weaker than yourself."
Hermione took several careful swallows. "That never goes quite the way I
want it to."
"It saved our world," Minerva reminded her.
"I'm tired of being the heroine." The words were more accepting
than bitter, more resigned than angry. Hermione felt it was long past time when
she deserved to be protected.
Despite all intentions otherwise, Hermione found herself tripping down stairs
that had taken her to her least favorite class for seven terribly short years.
She would have liked Potions, she always thought, after all there were few
magical subjects as well-recorded as the science of potion development and
brewing, but Snape's constant barrage of hate had taken its toll on her and she
had turned from the subject eventually, drawn in by the complexities of
arithmancy, the sublime aspects of Transfigurations and the information she
could glean from Hagrid's rather haphazard lectures and then pursue later on her
own time outside of Care of Magical Creatures.
For all her antipathy, though, she barely had to open her eyes to make it
down the twist of stone steps, under the hissing frieze snakes that Harry had
once confided were merely gossiping like so many other Hogwart's portraits,
through the three structure support arches and into Snape's classroom. He was
there, as she had expected. She knew he supplied both Mungo's and the school
with much of their back-up and emergency potions stores, so it would only have
made sense for him to use his classroom after hours as a brewing spot.
The classroom smelled odd. It was a familiar smell, one that Hermione knew,
yet did not think of as being connected with this place. It took her a few
minutes to place it. "Apple cider?"
He turned. She knew he was aware of her presence or she would not have
spoken. Startling Snape was never a good idea. Luckily, it was hard to sneak up
on him, particularly in the dungeons, where everything and every being reported
anything unusual straight to him. "Harvesting cyanide. It's a pleasant side
Hermione smiled. "Mum always adds a drop of clover honey in."
"I should think that would make it far too sweet," he lifted his
chin in a gesture of arrogance that was ruined by the fact that he was sitting
on a stool, the top of his head just reaching her nose.
"It doesn't," was all she said, unwilling to get into a fight over
something so insignificant. She hadn't come down here to squabble. "Redda
tells me she was able to remember who I was last transformation. That's unusual.
Generally they can remember who they are, but only in the most basic sense, for
instance, they know they're human and that the wolf is just an illusion. They
can rarely remember solid facts though, such as friends, enemies. Zev says he
could remember me too, but I might be a more important presence in his life than
Redda's. The pack says they're more aware of their…friendship while
transformed, something they're grateful enough to send thanks for."
He bent his head down over the cauldron with the simmering drink in it,
avoiding Hermione's pointed appreciation. "I suppose living with a beast
inside of you makes it hard for one to understand the subtler points of
improvement upon a potion."
"No, Professor," Hermione hardened her voice, "I think it is
you who are missing the subtler points. It worked, perhaps not as well as you
were hoping, but well enough for them to see it and be grateful. Might I remind
you, it is they who have to writhe on the ground as their bones break and reform
each month, they who have to spend three nights in a mind that is just barely
their own, they who are kept in a prison because of a condition they no more
sought out than one seeks out a Cruciatus. I believe my message of thanks
deserves a 'you're welcome' to give in return."
Snape brought his eyes up to hers and she prepared herself for an onslaught
of cruelty prepared with an exactitude rarely seen among the most influential of
rhetorists. Instead he bit out, "I should think you would be disappointed
enough in the 'development' to understand why I cannot accept such gratitude at
Hermione played the response back to herself. "I feel rather foolish. I
thought I heard you pay me a compliment."
"Don’t be asinine. When a student is willing to listen, my teaching is
well beyond average. I am intimately aware of the extent to which you are versed
in potion making."
"Your teaching would be extraordinary," Hermione allowed, "if
you bothered to get past your arrogance and bitterness long enough to actually,
Knowing perfectly well when it was time to leave and give her point some room
to breathe, Hermione spun on her heel and strode calmly out of the room,
underneath the arches, past the silent, gaping snakes, and up the too-dark
stairs. She imagined she could hear his angered pants long past the front gates
of Hogwarts, annihilated only by the loud crack of her Disapparating departure.
Healer Smethwyck intercepted Hermione before she was able to reach the ward a
day after the last evening of the full moon. It had been the first time that
Hermione had been able to transform and she had for all three of the nights.
CubZev had been absolutely thrilled at having a pint-sized playmate. The rest of
the wolves hadn't interacted much with her new form, but hadn't actively avoided
it as they had her human one. It was something -- enough that she didn't regret
months of training.
"Ms. Granger," the Healer called, popping his head from his office.
"Can I have a moment?"
Hermione headed into the office, worried. The Healers in the ward hadn't much
interfered with her work, to the extent of neglecting werewolf patients. Then
again, the one time Emmett, another of the loner werewolves, had spoken to her,
he had made it clear that neglect was a regular feature of their sect of the
ward, even before she had shown up. Hermione made it a point to try and fill in
where the care lacked and to confront Sisters about it, but so far, most of her
efforts in that department had been for naught. Once she had walked in the door
of the Healer's office she invited herself to take a seat. "Something on
"You have a new kid. Of sorts."
Hermione frowned. "Of sorts."
"He was brought in this morning, Apparated in while he was unconscious
by a wizarding hermit who lives in a wooded area of the Czech Republic. Heard
this werewolf during the last transformation. Waited until today to bring it in,
smart on his part, since this one obviously hasn't been medicating."
"It would be hard to get Wolfsbane in the woods. Why did the wizard
bring him here? There are at least three major wizarding hospitals closer to
Healer Smethwyck swallowed. "He has a Ministry tattoo."
Hermione closed her eyes, fighting with everything against the bacteria of
hope threatening to infect her whole system. "Has he been ID'ed?"
"We sent the information to the Ministry, but they've yet to
respond." If the Healer saw anything odd in her reaction, he didn't let on.
"I just wanted to let you know, I doubt he'll be anything like the others
in there, he's been out in the world for quite some time since infection."
Hermione nodded without really hearing. It can't be. I won't- Remus.
Remus who had disappeared in the midst of the last battle and never been heard
from again. Remus who couldn’t be found by the best of Aurors and wizards this
world had to offer, not Tonks or Kingsley or even Minerva. Remus, who had been
presumed dead for well over a year now. It couldn't be.
Hermione was glad that her reflexes were so well trained in the art of
getting her from one spot to the next, of moving without actual motivation. Zev
ran up to her once she reached the doorway, stopping just short of actual
contact. Shaking her head just a bit, attempting to get past the shock and
concentrate on the nine year old with scared eyes standing in front of her, she
reached out and pulled him into a hug. Oddly, he came into it willingly,
eagerly. Hermione suspected that Zev's treatment at the hands of the wizarding
world had taught him that he was unworthy to touch, but had not cured him of the
need for physical affection.
It took her a bit to realize that she wasn't shaking, rather, Zev was so
forcefully it felt as though it was originating underneath her skin. "Zev,
shh. Shh. What's wrong?"
Zev shook his head and refused to say anything, even after Hermione bent down
to his level, swept the hair out of his eyes and coaxed, "It's okay, I
Silently, he turned and walked further into the ward, glancing back to make
sure she was following. She was. He made his way into the deepest recesses in
the ward, leaving Hermione at the door of the room they used for those
werewolves who had failed in killing themselves but managed serious damage in
Even at the doorway the room smelled of blood and sickness. The werewolf was
curled up on his side, his back to the door, the covers thrown off of him to
reveal sharp knifing vertebrae, deep self-inflicted slashes everywhere, numerous
scars that Hermione recognized as being unhealed curse hits, and hips so gaunt
as to be dangerous. Hermione crept closer, sensing his fevered heat at a
distance. She walked carefully around the bed, not wanting to have to turn him,
His face was more bone than anything else, scars gracing the area around the
hairline and underneath his right eye. Every aspect of him was whittled, as
though someone had carved him out of wood and kept carving until the figure was
a mere caricature of what it was meant to be. There were more marks than
Hermione had ever thought to see on one person, more signs of survival where it
had perhaps not been wont, or wanted.
It wasn't the face or the body that she remembered, but she remembered it all
the same. When Zev came back to find her sitting on a conjured chair next to the
bed and crying, he took the chance of climbing into her lap. "Minny."
He shook her a little. She'd told him the nickname to make him laugh one day
when he was scared about the pain of transforming. "Minny. What's
She hugged him to her to decrease his worry. "I think I'm just happy,
"But you're crying."
"I know. It's…sometimes people forget how to be happy properly, and
this is all they can manage."
Zev seemed to accept this as he asked, "Why are you happy?"
"He's my friend, Zev. He's my friend, and he's alive."
Zev looked at the man on the bed doubtfully. Hermione gave a watery laugh. It
felt almost as good as the tears.
After a day and a night of bearing constant vigil, Nora showed up, looking
for all the world to be Florence Nightengale On A Mission. She was plump but
with the obvious musculature of someone who believes that using mobilicorpus
over human touch is a copout, and her hair, a decent imitation of Hermione's
except for the strawberry blond tint of it was streaming out of its twisty. Her
eyes, pretty blue and nearly always smiling except when she was angry, were set
in the expectation of an argument. Nora was the only Sister that Hermione
trusted to care for the werewolves while not being watched over, but Hermione
still knew what she was bracing for when she ordered Hermione to go home and get
"I'm staying." Hermione hadn't gone without a fight. A fight
somewhat lacking in luster, as she'd been up for nearly four nights straight
now, with the change being the three nights before Remus had shown up, but
still, a fight.
"No," Nora disagreed, "you're not. I promise I'll floo if
there's any change, but you're going."
"You can't stay with him, you won't know immediately if there's
"I talked with Healer Smethwyck, I've been put off of rotation for today
so that I can sit with him. After all," she lowered her voice to a stage
whisper, "he might be dangerous."
The two women rolled their eyes at that. Hermione leaned over the bed,
kissing Remus's forehead. "I'll be back."
She squeezed Nora's hand. "Thanks."
"None needed. My two baby brothers were under his command on a few of
their Order missions. Anyone who thinks he's less than human can chuff
Hermione savored the curl of warmth in her chest at the sentiment. She nodded
her goodbye and set out, climbing the levels until she could Apparate. With a
bit of concentration and a loud CRACK, Hermione found her way
into the Weasley-Tonks household. "Gin, Nymph!"
"In here, luv."
Hermione followed Ginny's voice to the kitchen, where Nymph was engaged in
her morning task of attempting to scramble eggs without under or overcooking
them. It was something Ginny could do with her eyes shut, but Nymph insisted on
having the skill, regardless of the fact that she couldn't come up with a single
instance in which she might absolutely need it and be sans Ginny.
"Mind if I steal a spot?" Hermione's hand was already on the heated
kettle as she asked, and Ginny merely handed her a cup, never once looking away
from her girlfriend bent over the hob, peering with scrutiny at a mess of bright
"What has you positively chipper this morn, Min?" Nymph stole the
pan off the hob as though one more second would be the difference between egg
perfection and total and utter ruin.
Glancing at the eggs, Hermione was pretty sure it was already past that
point. Hermione opened her mouth and then shut it. "I had this plan to
just, come here and tell you. But now it seems… Yesterday when I went into the
ward, Smethwyck called me into his office and told me we had a new patient. This
one had been infected some time ago and was found, wounded and privation
weakened by a man who lives out in the wilds of Eastern Europe."
Nymph had shoved the eggs onto a plate and made her way to the kitchen table
where Hermione had settled to nurse her tea. "Please tell me you're saying
what I think you're saying. Because if you're not, you're being cruel."
"It's him, Nymph. It's Remus."
Ginny lowered herself into the extra chair at the table. "Holy… How?
Why? Where has he been? Have you told him-"
"He hasn't woken up yet, Gin. He's a mess, much worse than I've ever
seen him, even when he would come back from Order business. I only left because
Nora promised to stay with him and contact me immediately if there was a
"Mungo's has this floo as a secondary contact for you, correct?"
Nymph held out a forkful of eggs to Hermione.
Hermione politely took it into her mouth and even more politely didn't make a
face. "Not quite there, Nymph. And yes."
Nymph poked at the eggs angrily. "Stay here, then, in the guest. You've
the look of the positively knackered, and Gin's roasting a chicken for dinner.
"I'll even stick in a few of those baby potatoes you like," Ginny
Hermione drew in a deep breath and exhaled, trying to get rid of the
momentary pang that Ginny's channeling her mum had caused. "Sugar biscuits
"Oh, please, please." Nymph bounced in her seat.
Ginny grinned, "Only if you decorate."
Hermione buried her head in her arms, remembering the last Nymph biscuit
decorating adventure. Nobody had escaped being decorated. Nymph cackled, and
Ginny chimed, "Sure, sounds lovely."
Hermione Sent her teacup to the sink and herself to bed. She was on the verge
of sleep, that moment between waking and unconscious bliss when Ginny came and
snuggled up next to her. "It would be good, him being alive."
What Hermione heard was things about second chances and hope and life going
on, but she didn't answer, because what Ginny had said was as true as anything
she could come up with as a response. Instead, she burrowed into Ginny's hold
and fell asleep there, relieved that for once, it didn't remind her of being in
anyone else's arms.
Nora's floo, naturally, came just as Nymph had finished face-painting
Hermione's right cheek with pastel-blue icing. Hermione stepped into the
fireplace and walked down the hall of Mungo's removing swaths of the icing with
her finger and disposing of it by way of licking. She felt stupid until Redda
laughed at her as she crossed the open area of the ward to where Remus was being
kept. Then she just gave a guilty smile and a shrug and continued on her way.
Nora met her at the door, squeezed the non-sticky hand in her own, and
exited. "I'm going to leave you two alone."
Which wasn't strictly true, seeing as how someone -- most likely Nora -- had
set up a cot for Zev in the corner of the room and he was curled up, fast asleep
atop it. Still, alone enough.
Hermione sat down in the chair kept warm by Nora. "Remus?" She
asked the question quietly, not brave enough to ask it loudly and risk him not
Remus peeled one eye open. Then, after a long while, the other. "Her-
Hermione grabbed the glass of water from the medicine table and cast a
Cooling Charm on it. She supported his head, careful to touch as little of him
as possible and guided the glass to his lips, allowing the water to seep into
his mouth ever so slowly. He pushed a hand lightly at her wrist when he was done
and she withdrew.
"Hermione," he managed, as she set the glass back on the table.
"Remus," she repeated.
"How…?" He let his eyes wander the room, indicating what he
"You were brought here by a wizard who lived in those woods you were
borrowing for the moon."
Remus let his eyes drop shut. "Tried to…stay away-"
"From everything, evidently." Hermione tried to keep the words
even, untouched by emotion. She knew that the loss of Dumbledore, Sirius and
Harry had eaten away at Remus in ways with which she was intimately familiar.
Remus, who was so very used to being spit upon, abused and abandoned by the
denizens of the wizarding world, only to find family of sorts and then lose it.
But she had still been there. Her and Ginny and Nymph and Charlie and Minerva.
And his deception had given them one more loss to mourn unfairly.
Remus shifted, turning his back to her. "They were the reason I did all
Hermione counted backward from ten. She enacted a Calming Charm. She listed
all the reasons she shouldn't get mad. She retorted, "You're not the only
fucking person who lost everyone, Remus Lupin."
His fury would have been better than his resigned, "I'm sorry for that,
Hermione. But I'm tired of being tied to other people's pain."
Hermione exhaled through her nose, shaking her head sharply. "You know
something, my friend?"
Remus didn't respond, but his breathing hadn't evened out either, and
Hermione knew he was listening. "Too. Bloody. Bad."
Hermione got up and left the room, determined to give him some time to think
"Not fond of giving up, are you?"
Hermione nearly tripped over her own toes at the sound of a voice she'd never
heard before. Slowly, as if sudden movements might cause him to flee, she turned
toward Kieran. "I've only done it once," she explained, "and the
results were less than satisfying."
Kieran was the oldest of the quiet cult. He had turned himself into St.
Mungo's after his wife had died in the war, his file stated his reason for
coming as an "uncertainty as to whether he could safely live out the full
moon without harming those in the immediate vicinity." Kieran never spoke
to anyone, so far as Hermione could tell, although he seemed to harbor a silent,
protective fondness for Redda and the two other loners, Emmett and Ruel.
Kieran had a registry tattoo on his wrist, where all registry tattoos
necessarily went and he reacted perfectly well to the Wolfsbane, so Hermione was
somewhat mystified by his choice to stay at Mungo's, but he didn't talk, so she
respected that and didn't ask.
He laughed at the look Hermione could feel glued to her face. "I can
talk. I just very rarely find myself with things to say."
"But you have something now."
"I read an interesting article in The Prophet this
morning," Kieran told her.
"You should know better than to believe any of that rubbish," she
scolded lightly, as though afraid he would wander off and never finish the
"Truth can be gleaned from even the worst of lies, my dear."
He had a gentle smile and a mischievous quirk in his eyes that sent a pang of
longing for Dumbledore straight through her, robbing her of breath for a second.
"What truth do you suppose you've uncovered?"
"The man in there is Remus Lupin, is it not?"
Hermione was going to kill the leak. It had to be hospital staff. Rita
Skeeter had been accidentally squashed by a startled Muggle some years back and
Hermione had done meticulous research into every member of the
Prophet's staff while setting up The Department. No other
unregistered animagi, Dark Magic experts, or reporters with ghosts in their
pockets. If a reporter found something out, it was through a live and
knowledgeable source. "It is. I was hoping it would be kept quiet longer
than that, but wishes and horses, really."
"Your friendship with him is why you're here in the first place, is it
Hermione narrowed her eyes. "He's…the man who got me started in
thinking about issues of humanity and equality. I suppose in that vein,
"He must have had some influence, to spur you onto regularly pissing off
people that could be rather dangerous in pursuit of Werewolf Equality
Legislation that gets more unlikely year by year."
Hermione ignored the inference. "You didn't find that out from the
"My wife worked for the Ministry, Hermione. Old friends of hers still
keep in touch."
"You've kept silent about all of this until now. What's changed?"
Kieran pursed his lips. "You see us as four and three and one, but in
truth, we are just eight. A pack. No matter how much you care for us, both as
wolves and as humans, you will never understand the basic way in which a pack is
formed. Verbal and physical communication are unnecessary."
"All right," Hermione nodded, "I can see that."
"His presence, if it remains, will change the pack. It will change your
relation to the pack."
"I get that adding a member would alter the pack's chemistry, but I don’t
understand where I fit into all this."
"You are his. If he is one of us, then you are ours."
Hermione brought a hand up to squeeze at a chord on her neck that had
tightened so that she could barely move her head. "I'm not… Look, you
have to know the story. Remus was my teacher, later my friend. Never my
"War warps relationships. Surviving war even more so."
"We both-" Hermione started but found she couldn't tell Kieran what
they had in common. "We learned similar lessons, is all."
"That is a binding of its own."
Suddenly she knew how Remus had felt, lying in that bed, looking up at her.
Cold that started behind her eyes tunneled its way into her knees and she wanted
to run screaming from the threat of family, of pack, of something more to loose.
Instead, she put a hand to her throat, trying to warm it enough that she could
speak. "He'll be staying. At least for a bit."
Kieran began to turn, "Then I suspect we'll be talking again at some
"They tell me you're not eating." Hermione leaned against the
doorframe to Remus's room and waited for an invitation to enter.
Remus didn't look at her. "'They' the other inmates or 'They' the
"Zev and Nora, so half and half really." She gave up on niceties
and crossed the threshold, walking to the side of the bed where she could see
Remus's face. She sat down and held out the plasticware container Ginny had sent
with her. Popping a corner of the lid so that some of the smell would escape,
she told him, "Compliments of Ginny. Think you could manage a bite?"
Hermione had gotten to believing he was going to refuse when he sat up
slowly, trying to position himself comfortably. He finished shifting and held
out his hands, "Well."
Hermione gave the container over. "There's a fork inside."
He opened the container all the way, peering inside with a look of suspicion,
as though the contents might disappear at any moment. "It looks just like
"Her recipe," Hermione confirmed of the rum-spice cake topped with
a sugar glaze into which Remus was beginning to carve. It was far from the
healthiest thing she could have brought, but watching his fingers curve around
the fork reminded her of the exaggerated animated skeletons of children's
Halloween fare, and she didn't care about proper nutrients so much as
"Zev sneaks in here at night," Remus fit the words in between
chews, "to sleep."
"Let him, all right?" She added for good measure,
"He was left here?"
Hermione fought a smile at the way Remus was licking his lips, trying to
swipe up every last bit of the sugar glaze. "Yes. Some months ago."
"Who's paying for his stay?"
Hermione glanced away. "This is a bit hush hush, just so you know, but
Charlie and I 'reappropriated' some of the DoMC's funds to take care of it. It's
working for the moment, but I haven't a clue what to do if more show up. It's
one of the measures I'm working on. I'm drafting an Act. It's not half so
radical as I would prefer, but spoonful of sugar, as my mum used to say. There
would still be registry, but full-paying jobs, equal housing rights, the right
to carry wands, and protection and schooling for abandoned werecubs. Something,
at any rate."
Chasing the remaining crumbs with the fork, Remus inquired, "And how
many enemies have you made for yourself with this little crusade?"
"I prefer not to count," Hermione admitted. "I'm a hard one to
attack publicly, given majority sentiment at the moment, so I keep note of whose
toes I've stepped on and make sure that I wear sturdy enough shoes to protect my
"What do they think of all this?" Remus inclined
his head toward the door leading into the larger ward.
"They're not a collective, they think different things. Zev has a case
of hero worship, and Kieran and Redda, so far as I can tell, both think rather
fondly of me as a quixotic little fool. Ruel abhors me, tried to bite me on the
first three moons that I stayed with them in my human form. Gerard kept him off
and now he mostly just ignores me. Gerard, Steven and Verona think I'm crazy,
but otherwise don't seem to mind me. Emmett's afraid of taking a stance against
Ruel or Redda and so he treats me with thinly veiled disdain."
"I think you've inherited a bit of Harry's saviour complex," Remus
Hermione remembered warning Harry off of just such behavior, the crushing
knowledge that she had been right and that those who were still alive would have
to live with that, but all she said was, "I haven't learned to give up the
things that he left me just yet."
It left her open, they both knew it, but Remus didn't pursue it. Corner by
corner he resealed the container, now empty except for the fork. "Tell
Ginny thank you."
She took the container from his hands. "I will." She moved to the
door, practically out in the hall when she asked, "You'll eat?"
Hermione hadn't been innately optimistic since she'd watched her lovers and a
good majority of her friends die. But against all odds, Remus was sitting up in
the bed behind her, alive and relatively whole. She decided to think that maybe
was half way to yes.
What was left of the door to the ward was scattered across the hall, twisted,
still-smoldering wood left to burn out on its own. Hermione resolutely stepped
in between the pieces, careful not to catch her robe on one, and entered the
Steven, Gerard and Verona were in the common space at the front of the ward.
When the Dai Llewellyn had been remodeled to possibly house werewolves on a
permanent basis in the aftermath of Fudge's pushing through the Werewolf Safety
Act in Hermione's seventh year, it had been set up something like a Hogwarts
House, with a common room and then several "dorms" which were really
just converted hospital rooms, with all the comfort that implied.
Taking a chance that they would actually respond, Hermione attempted,
"Got tired of being cooped up, did he?"
While it wasn't unlikely that one or two of the adult ward inhabitants could
affect wandless magic, she doubted they would have tried it on anything so
useless. Most of them stayed of their own choice, unwilling to be branded and
excommunicated from the world they knew. Those werewolves who chose to stay
outside Mungo's walls and declined to take the brand spent their lives either
running or in the Muggle world. But a child, even if he knew he had nowhere to
go, could easily blow up a door without meaning to if he was scared enough or
angry enough or sad enough.
Gerard gave her what she wanted, "He's been sicking up in the loo ever
since he did it. Your friend is with him."
That was evidently all Gerard felt up to saying, though, as he turned back to
his conversation with the others and didn't give her anymore. Hermione headed
off to the male bathroom. She knocked lightly, "Zev? May I come in?"
Hermione winced at the raw quality of the boy's voice. "It's me."
"You can come in."
Hermione stepped inside. The stench was sickening, she touched her fingers to
the wand inside her pocket and chanted a quick air-cleansing charm. Remus threw
a look of relief her way, but didn't move from where he was, kneeling behind Zev,
one shaky hand stroking the boy's hair. Zev, for his part, was leaning up
against the toilet, his cheek laying against the porcelain seat, too exhausted
to do much more than breathe. Hermione settled herself on the floor across from
Remus, their feet touching in the cramped space. Gently, she repositioned Zev so
that he was in her lap, his head tucked under her chin. "What happened,
"I just wanted to go outside," Zev explained. "I didn’t mean
to blow the door up."
"Everybody knows that, we all do things like that," Hermione
"Tippy yelled at me. She called me a stupid animal."
Tippy was the Sister who had flooed Hermione with the news in the first
place. Hermione carefully resisted the urge to set Zev aside and cast a
schmorgasbord of hexes on the woman. "She shouldn’t have said that. It
was just a mistake. It happens. You're not stupid and you're definitely not an
Zev growled something into Hermione's chest.
"What was that?"
Zev looked up at her. His picture perfect pout would have been adorable had
it not been so heartbreaking. "You're the only one who believes that."
Hermione kissed his forehead. "I know it seems that way, but I'm not. I
know lots of people who believe the way I do."
"My parents thought I was. Mum called me a…an in-feck-shus
"Your mum was wrong," Remus said suddenly, startling Hermione.
"She must have been, because I've known Hermione for almost ten years and
in all that time I've never once known her to be wrong. So your mum must be the
Hermione mouthed, "Liar," because she could think of at least six
or seven times that she'd been obviously horrifically wrong and Remus had found
a way to correct her without humiliating her. She didn't think now was the time
to bring those moments up, though, not when Zev was sniffling,
Remus nodded solemnly, "Swear it."
Zev sighed, looking a long way from completely convinced. "I just wanna
"I'll see what I can do," Hermione promised. "Do you think you
could take a shower now, get yourself cleaned up?"
It took two tries, but Zev pushed himself to his feet. "Are you still
gonna be here when I'm done?"
"Yeah, I'm not going anywhere. Except maybe out of this loo, if that's
Zev made a face at her and scarpered off to get his shampoo and towel.
Remus stayed where he was. "Um. You mind helping me up? The trip from
the room here kind of took it out of me."
Hermione rose and dusted off her robes. She leaned down a bit and escorted
Remus up to a standing position, her hands tucked safely under his arms. She
stayed close, holding on, until she was sure he was upright and planning on
staying that way. "It was good of you to stay with him."
Remus breathed deeply. "Redda was too busy tearing Tippy a new one, and
she's the only one who pays him any attention in here."
"That saves me one errand, at any rate."
Remus let the shadow of a smile touch his lips. "Surprised me, didn't
know she had it in her. It's really too bad you couldn't have been here for
Slowly, in case he wanted to try on his own, Hermione wound Remus's arm over
her shoulder. "Back to bed?"
"Back to bed."
They made their way slowly, both ignoring the looks that the threesome were
giving them. Once in the room, Hermione settled Remus down into the bed. She
took out her wand and performed several Cleaning Charms. "Better?"
"A million times. Thank you."
She soothed back an errant hair the way he had done with Zev. "Get some
He closed his eyes. "Yeah."
She was slow to withdraw her hand. "Yeah."