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“I think I’ve found something,” Hermione said excitedly as she peered closely at the sloping scrawl covering the margin of the page open before her.

“What is it?” Remus asked as he marked his place and closed his book. He stood up and crossed the small room to stand behind her.

For a moment, she was distracted by the scent of peppermint and spice, but she soon forced herself to focus. Now was not the time for indulging in frivolous thoughts and foolish infatuations. Instead, she pointed at the writing. “It’s a name and appears to be a telephone number,” she said as her mind raced through the possibilities of why Voldemort would have a Muggle telephone number.

“A telephone number?” He leaned down to get a closer look. “Maybe it’s some sort of code instead.”

“It’s a telephone number,” she said firmly. “Any of the other codes we’ve found have been pretty distinguishable. I can’t see him using a code system of phone numbers.”

“Yes, well, I can’t see him having a telephone number at all,” Remus said with a frown.

“It’s something,” she pointed out. That frown meant he was frustrated and on the edge of annoyance.

Annoyed Remus, she had learned during the last few weeks, was not a charming person to be around. In fact, he was quite disagreeable and often made appearances before a morning cup of coffee, found tea to be weak and tasteless, and wasn’t at all shy about making his opinions known. He was a part of Remus she had never really seen during the years when she’d had difficulty not thinking of him as Professor, which had lasted until this current assignment when they’d been required to work together so much that it seemed silly not to call him Remus.

“It could be nothing,” he challenged as he sat on the edge of the desk and held the book in front of him.

“It’s the first thing we’ve found that could be important,” she argued as she settled back in her chair ready to debate.

“Why do you think it’s important?”

“Because it’s a name and a Muggle telephone number written sloppily in the margin of Voldemort’s book. I’d think it was worth looking into even if proves to be nothing.”

“Are you sure you’re not projecting your frustration at being stuck here with just research to occupy your time for an excuse to get out and do something proactive?”

“Remus, we’re not being kept prisoner here. If I wanted a break, I’d simply go for a walk, not invent stories of possible evidence,” she said dryly. “Besides, I volunteered for this assignment.”

“I always suspected that genius bordered on insanity and now I know that’s true without a doubt.”

“Was that a joke?” she asked with mock surprise. “Are you feeling well?”

“It was a weak attempt and there will be no questions regarding my health,” he said as he rolled his eyes. “You forget that I, too, volunteered for this mission.”

“Well, yes, but I think we already know the issues with your sanity or lack thereof,” she said matter-of-factly. “It’s just a pity that you can’t use the genius excuse.”

“Cheeky,” he murmured as he shook his head. “You didn’t use to be so insolent.”

“You used to be my professor,” she reminded him as she tapped her quill against the edge of the table. “I admired my professors, even those I thought were rather worthless, and would never have disrespected any of them in such a way.”

“That’s odd since I seem to recall a certain incident during the year I taught you regarding a certain fit thrown in the midst of a particular class that you didn’t enjoy,” he mused as he ran his thumb over the cover of the book. “Or was that some other Hermione Granger who stormed out of Divination?”

“It wasn’t a fit,” she denied. “I simply had a difference of opinion and chose the wrong way to show my displeasure. I did apologize later for my behavior.”

“You do realize that Moody would dismiss this as nothing more than feminine imaginings, don’t you?” he asked as he glanced at the scrawled phone number.

“Moody hasn’t yet realized that women are smarter than men or that I’m not some silly fourteen year-old with flights of fancy. I didn’t even have those when I was fourteen,” she said.

“You say as though you’ve years of experience behind you now,” he said.

“I’m nineteen and the last two years…well, needless to say Harry, Ron, and I had to age quickly if we wanted to survive,” she reminded him before she smiled. “I notice that you didn’t deny women’s superior intellect.”

“Because you don’t truly believe that,” he said with a shrug. “There’s no use arguing when you’re making generalizations simply designed to make me debate with you. You hate broad judgments and considering an entire group without looking at individuals, remember?”

“I do make exceptions at times,” she muttered before she gestured at the book. “So we’ve established that Moody, should we mention our find, would dismiss it as useless and not worth investigating. That leaves us with the options of not telling him and looking into it ourselves or ignoring it and going on with the cleaning.”

Remus looked at her and asked, “Do you really think it’s worth investigating?”

Hermione considered the question seriously and finally nodded. “It’s too odd not to at least try to find a reasonable explanation,” she said. “It may be nothing, like you suggest, but I’d feel better knowing for sure.”

“All right. We’ll look into it and I’ll forget to mention it in my weekly report to the Order,” he decided. He handed the book back to her and smiled. “Unlike Moody, I happen to have faith in those odd feelings of yours.”

Hermione smiled at his words, wondering if he had any idea that the greatest compliment she could receive was someone supporting her like that. Other women might prefer to be told they were pretty or fun, but she preferred someone to value her mind more than any of those qualities. She looked down at the book before she did or said anything inappropriate, though she didn’t stop smiling as she tried to read the name and number listed.

He cleared his throat and looked briefly away. “It’s getting late. We can start our investigation tomorrow, Hermione. It’s nearly midnight.” He took the book from her hands and set it on the desk, closing the cover and leaving his hand on it for a moment.

“I suppose that now wouldn’t be a good time to point out that ‘nearly midnight’ actually does equate to being ‘nearly tomorrow’ would it?” she asked as she glanced up at him through lowered lashes. His lips quirked into a half-smile before he looked away and ran his fingers through his hair.

“No, it wouldn’t,” he agreed as he put the book on the table and started to walk towards the stairs. “There will be plenty of time to play detective in the morning, after dawn, when the sun is up again. There, is that better?”

“Much,” she said with a nod. “That statement is far more precise and clear as to your definition of tomorrow versus another.”

“Hermione,” he said in a warning voice as he arched his brow and tapped his foot.

“I’m so very proud that you’ve learned how to say my name so well,” she teased as she deliberately took her time putting away her quill, ink, and notes. “It’s only taken you five years to learn that it’s not Miss Granger.”

“And how long has it taken you to stop calling me professor? I believe that, should we do a fair comparison, the fact that I was only your professor for one year far outweighs the fact that you’re still, actually, Miss Granger,” he told her. “Now quit dawdling and come along before I decide to leave you down here.”

“Dawdling? Is that one of those words that you used when you were young?” she asked as she hurriedly put away the rest of her things. While she wasn’t actually scared of this house, not after the extensive curse breaking that was performed before they moved in for this assignment, she had no desire to be left alone downstairs at night in the small house that Voldemort had called home. Well, home was probably too warm and cozy for him so perhaps ‘stronghold’ was more appropriate. She reached Remus and smiled innocently. “It’s very fortunate that you can remember things from way back then. That means your memory is quite good.”

Before he could swat her arm, which he had taken to doing in what she thought was an affectionate manner, she rushed up the stairs ahead of him. She reached the second floor and made a quick stop at the loo to brush her teeth and use the toilet before she headed to her bedroom. His door was open as she walked past and she glanced in at him, stomach twisting gently as she thought about him changing for bed. She wasn't sure what to do with the sensation, but whatever it was, it was complicated, and she wasn't ready to think about it very hard.

“Sweet dreams, Hermione,” he said with a friendly smile as he glanced up from the book he was reading.

“Good night, Remus,” she said softly before she went into her room and closed the door.

*************



Voldemort was dead but the war wasn’t over. In the weeks since his defeat, the Wizarding world had started the slow process of reconstruction. Funerals were held, sentences for captured Voldemort supporters were delivered, memorials were planned, and people were doing their best to move on. The Aurors were hunting the last remaining Death Eaters, the Ministry was attempting to get plans and processes set in motion so life continued as normally as possible, and rebuilding had begun. Harry had been released from St. Mungos but was still recovering, Ron had started to help with the construction on Diagon Alley, and Hermione had been working with the Order in whatever capacity was needed.

Since her own release from St. Mungos, she’d thrown herself into gathering information. She hated not having a purpose so she'd created one by listening for what was unknown, and then coming to know it. Mostly, she gathered data on battles and statistics that might help them understand what had really been lost during the war, but her skills with organization and research had been utilized in various other projects as well.

It was comforting, the research. Solid. For too many years she had had only one true goal: to survive to see Voldemort's defeat. With that behind her and no alternate anchor, she'd felt lost and restless. She had been around too much death and destruction to help at the hospital or with rebuilding, but she could make a contribution like this, and knowing that she was contributing was really all that mattered.

Besides, it was better than trying to work out what to do when she grew up.

She thought more than once as she scribbled notes that she might eventually write a book, a true telling of the war so that history woouldn't repeat itself. It would probably be useless, as far as that went, because people never seemed to learn from their mistakes, whether they be wizards or muggles, but, for once, she hoped she’d be proven wrong. Either way, it wouldn't be too soon; there was too much to work through emotionally. Still, it didn't hurt to scribble thoughts as they came to her and fill rolls of parchment knowing that one day, that might be the result.

In all honesty, the distraction provided by her notions of authorship were sorely needed at times. Her work with the Order had given her an opportunity to explore the libraries of purebloods, to gain access to books that she’d only heard rumors even existed, and to travel throughout England while performing various tasks. It had also, not very coincidentally, allowed her the chance to get to know Remus, someone that she’d never really given much thought beyond his being a former professor and fellow Order member.

Now it seemed that he was rarely away from her thoughts, which was proving to be bothersome. Which was why the distraction was welcome. Hermione was not the type of woman to become infatuated nor had she had a crush since the disaster that was second year and Lockhart. Her relationship with Ron was something else entirely; they had lasted for nearly a year, after all, and he was still one of her best friends. And, come to think of it, they just worked better as friends. It was possible they'd have worked as lovers had they not been on the run and hunting horcruxes, but when their friendship with the added attraction of shagging reverted to just friendship, it wasn't a crisis for either of them, and neither of them had suffered lingering infatuation.

Her infatuation with Remus, though, had come out of nowhere. He was nearly twice her age, a former teacher, and not someone she’d ever really considered as male, in terms of potential attraction. After a week of long conversations and working side by side, she had been surprised to find herself aware of him in a very non-platonic way.

Instead of seeing him as just skinny, she noticed the subtle muscles in his shoulders and arms. She quickly developed a fascination with his hands, which were large yet graceful with long fingers that made her mind go places it really shouldn’t. She found the gray lightly sprinkled amongst his brown hair to be very distinguished instead of making him seem older. She liked his voice, which was soft but firm, and enjoyed listening to him during their many conversations about everything and anything.

He was quiet and thoughtful, as she always knew, but he was also witty, sarcastic, and intelligent. Even if she hadn’t found him physically appealing, which she did, she knew she’d have been attracted to him for his mind. Therein lay the problem. She shouldn’t be attracted to him and certainly shouldn’t have developed a crush.

Crushes were for little girls, not women of nineteen who had already had a semi-serious relationship in the past. True, she had little to no experience at flirting, seduction, or that sort of thing, since she and Ron had skipped those steps due to their situation and the possibility of dying while helping Harry, but she still felt too old to have a crush.

She was trying to deal with it: there were scrolls of parchment all over the table in her room with lists of the reasons why she needed to get over it and reasons why she should act upon it instead. Normally, lists helped her make sense of things that confused her, but they weren’t doing any good with this particular subject. Pros and cons only made things even more complicated because she couldn’t find a definite answer.

Should she forget the growing feelings she was developing or do something about them? Was it worth the risk of humiliation or ruining a new friendship for a chance at something more? She honestly didn’t know and weeks of thought and analysis hadn’t helped. It wasn’t really fear holding her back; it was difficult to be truly frightened of many things in comparison to facing Death Eaters. Fear of rejection was present, though, as was the knowledge that she had no idea how to flirt or play those sorts of male/female games.

They were nearly done sorting through Voldemort’s books and papers, and she doubted there were many more such assignments left. That meant their partnership would be ending. For all she knew, Remus would disappear, as he had in the years following the first war, and she might never see him again. If she didn’t at least try, would she always wonder ‘what if’ or look back with regret?

Hermione sighed and looked at the pile of lists on the table beside her bed. “Why can’t you be any help?” she muttered, glaring. She rolled her eyes at herself and wondered if Harry and Ron would worry if they knew she was talking to parchment now. Considering their teasing over her talking to books, they’d probably just use it for evidence to support their belief that reading too much made one crazy.

After deciding that she'd spent enough time focusing on that subject for the evening, once again, she turned off the light and lay back on her bed. She thought back to her find that evening and wondered what it meant. Tomorrow, they’d research the name and telephone number she found. The fact that a Muggle telephone number was found in one of Voldemort’s books still intrigued her, though she was prepared for it to be a false lead. Even if it was, she decided, it might prove useful in some unexpected way. It seemed so many of their best finds were serendipitious like that.

It wasn’t long before she’d exhausted that comparatively straightforward topic and her mind once again turned to Remus and annoying crushes. She sighed and concluded that it really was time to stop making inefective lists and just take some sort of action. She didn’t have much experience with men, but she liked to think that she’d know if one were attracted to her. She hadn’t noticed Remus ever looking at her in a leering sort of way or even as if he had realized that she was a woman and not the gawky teen he’d once taught.

Maybe she should try flirting and see how he responded. If he was uncomfortable or asked if she was mental, she could always deny that she’d been intentionally flirting, after all. If he didn’t respond at all or even notice, she’d know it was hopeless and she needed to get past the infatuation. And if, perchance, he flirted back, well, she’d be more confident about things. With that decision tentatively made, Hermione rolled onto her side and snuggled against her pillow before she drifted off to sleep.

*************



After a night of tossing and turning for reasons that had nothing to do with nightmares for once, Hermione woke up to the scent of coffee. She hadn’t previously been much of a coffee person, preferring flavored teas, but working with Remus had given her a new appreciation for it. She got out of bed and picked up her robe, yawning when she saw that it wasn't even seven. She was a morning person, much to Harry and Ron’s annoyance during the year plus of hunting they’d done together, but had to admit that she was becoming lazy as she got older.

She stopped at the loo for the toilet and to clean her teeth, making sure she wiped away the drool that was on the corner of the mouth before she went downstairs. Her hair was hopeless on a good day so she didn’t bother to do anything more than run a pull it up into a sloppy ponytail for now. Once she was on the way to being conscious and good company, she went downstairs and found Remus in the small kitchen.

“Coffee,” she said as she reached out and made a ‘gimme’ gesture with her hands.

“Say please,” Remus said in a far too perky voice for this early in the morning. His hair was damp and the old T-shirt he was wearing was wet in spots, making it cling. That vision was enough to wake Hermione up even better than a mug of the strongest coffee. After all, she couldn’t be sleepy and bleary eyed when there was clinging.

“Please,” she murmured as she took the mug from him and focused on the bitter taste of hot coffee. When she noticed the plate of fresh fruit and toast on the table, she smiled. “You’re a god.”

“If I didn’t know that anyone who gave you coffee in the morning would receive such a compliment, I’d be flattered,” he said as he sat down.

“Not just anyone,” she said, feeling more awake after a few sips of coffee. She sat opposite him and reached for the butter, rather proud of herself for not ogling clinging. “For instance, I can’t imagine ever saying that to Voldemort even if he’d bought me a coffee factory. Well, if it was an entire factory…”

“It’s nice to know that I do rate higher than Voldemort in your opinion,” he said dryly as he picked up her freshly buttered toast and slathered it with strawberry preserves, her favorite, before repeating the action with his own toast.

“Of course you do,” she told him as she added exactly the amount of milk to his coffee that he preferred and then a spoonful of sugar to her own. “Though, really, you’re to blame for my coffee addiction so you should repent for getting me involved with such an unhealthy relationship.”

“I’ll be certain to ask for absolution at some time in the future,” he decided as he opened the newspaper and handed her the local news before he began to do the crossword.

She smiled as she read the news and ate her toast, listening to him mutter about several of the clues in his crossword. After she finished reading, she leaned back in her chair and sipped her coffee. “The plan for today is investigating the name and telephone number that I found?” she asked as she mentally began to schedule the day.

“Eight letter word, pub game,” he said as he looked up and arched a brow as his lips twisted into a mischievous smile. “Or is that not your area of expertise?”

“I’m not a total recluse,” she muttered as she tried to figure out the clue. “Any letters?”

“Fourth letter is T and the last letter is S,” he told her after he glanced at the paper. “Yes, we’ll look into the name and number before we go back to sorting through the bookshelves.”

“Skittles,” she said confidently after running through the games her father mentioned playing at the pub. “I think the easiest thing to do is go find a Muggle telephone and call the number, of course. We can see if it’s valid.”

“It fits,” he said as he wrote in the name. “I also think it would be a good idea if we check that book for any other possible notes before we go call.”

“I hadn’t thought of that,” she reluctantly admitted.

He put his paper down and smiled slightly. “That’s why I’m here, to think of the things your brilliant mind doesn’t.”

She rolled her eyes. “If you start with that ‘brightest witch of your age’ bit, I’ll hex you.”

“I appreciate the warning,” he said as he picked up his mug and took a drink. His gaze was curious as he stared at her until she shifted in her chair. “Do you really dislike being complimented on your intelligence?”

“No, I don’t really. Sometimes I feel like it’s all anyone sees, though,” she replied before she could stop herself. “I mean, most women would rather be told they’re beautiful or charming and not that they’re smart or clever, wouldn’t they?”

He frowned slightly and she stared into his pale hazel eyes until he blinked and his lips quirked into a half-smile. “That’s an unfair comparison, however, because you’re certainly not ‘most women’,” he said before he looked down and shook his head slightly. He stood up and picked up their empty plates. “Now run upstairs and get dressed so we can start investigating the information you found.”

Hermione stared at his back before she stood and went upstairs. What did he mean by ‘not most women’? The entire moment, brief as it had been, had unsettled her, and she didn’t even know why. After a quick shower, she got dressed in comfortable jeans and one of Ron’s old T-shirts she’d borrowed with the intent to never return. She couldn’t find one of her trainers despite knowing she’d taken them both off and left them by her bed, and fnally resorted to a summoning charm to locate it under the chest of drawers. Honestly. No matter how many complex spells she'd masterd, shoes were apparently cleverer. Irritated with how long she was taking, she tied the laces and hurried down.

When she got there, the kitchen was empty and clean. Remus was in Voldemort’s study, leaning back in the chair with his eyes closed. It looked like he was scowling, which made her hesitant to let him know she was there. He suddenly opened his eyes and looked right at her, his gaze narrowing. His scowl deepened momentarily before he looked at the book she’d been reading the night before and seemed fine again.

“I didn’t look through it since you made the original discovery,” he said. “I assumed you’d want to look yourself.”

“I would,” she confirmed as she picked up the book, her quill, and a piece of parchment. She sat in the extra chair and opened the book where she’d marked. “It’s rather messy but I think the first name is Bernard or Barney and the last name starts with an N definitely or is it an M. Norris or maybe it’s Morris.” She looked up and frowned. “You’d think a Dark Lord would have had better penmanship.”

“Want me to take a look?” he offered as he closed the book he’d been scanning.

“Please,” she said as she stood up. Instead of giving him the book, she walked back around the desk and stood beside him. She leaned forward and pointed. “See, it’s difficult to decipher. Several of his letters are written so similarly that I can’t quite read it.”

The scent of mint and spice vied with the book to claim her attention. Remus looked at the name, and she resisted the urge to smell him when she realized just how close they were now. If she were more bold or the flirtatious type, she’d touch his shoulder or giggle over nothing to draw attention to her lips. Instead, she bit her lip and stole glances at him from the corner of her eyes.

“I think this is deliberately messy,” he mused as he tapped his finger against the page. “If anyone had casually opened the book, they’d have seen an ink stain and not given it a second thought. It’s fortunate that you’re more careful and observant. I think it says Bernard Morris and the number looks like it’s a London exchange.”

“I had a suspicion that it was London,” she agreed as she turned her head to look at him. She unconsciously swayed closer before she caught herself and straightened up before she complicated things by acting on her crush faster than she'd had in mind. “We wouldn’t be lucky enough for it to be some small village where a Bernard Morris might be known should the number no longer be active.”

“We should go now,” he said as he stood up quickly after she moved back. He walked to the other side of the desk and looked at her. “Do you know where a public telephone box happens to be?”

Hermione shook her head as she watched him shift and tap his fingers against his upper thigh. “I haven’t had to go into the village so I’m not sure if they have one or if we’d be better off going to a larger city nearby.”

“When I did the initial sweep through town before we moved in, I didn’t notice a phone box but it wasn’t something I was looking for,” he admitted. “I think it might be best to go to Cardiff and find one. I believe that’s the closest large town. Are you wearing that shirt?”

“I think going to Cardiff is a good idea,” she agreed. The local village wasn’t very big so they might be more likely to be noticed there. It didn’t really matter if they were seen since they weren’t in hiding or anything, but it was easier if they could just disappear once the assignment was complete without anyone even realizing they’d been there. When he asked about her shirt, she glanced down and shrugged. “I had planned to wear it. Why?”

“It advertises a Quidditch supply company and we’re going into a Muggle town,” he pointed out.

“And if any Muggle bothers to actually read it, they’ll assume I got it at Camden and it’s just advertising some new unknown band or something,” she said. “Besides, it’s been washed so many times that the words are faded.”

“Fine,” he said with a brief scowl before he started to walk towards the door. “Let’s go.”

She was tempted to ask him if he needed a nap since he seemed to be having bouts of cranky today. Instead, she put the piece of parchment in the pocket of her jeans and left the study. “Do you have the coordinates to an Apparition point in Cardiff?”

“No, I just thought we’d randomly try to find one,” he said.

“Cute,” she muttered as she rolled her eyes.

“So I’ve been told.” His scowl turned into a teasing smile as he deliberately ran his fingers through his hair in a primping manner.

She laughed and shook her head. This was definitely a glimpse of the man who had held his own against Sirius Black and James Potter, one she knew that not many people ever got to witness these days. Before she could tease him, he moved his arm around her waist and pulled her against him. To go from laughing to aware in the space of seconds was enough to startle her until silence. Any foolish ideas she might have entertained, even briefly, about him suddenly being overwhelmed with desire for her or planning to kiss her until her toes curled, dissipated when she felt the familiar pull of Apparition.

They arrived at the Apparition point, and she looked around as she tried to collect herself. She didn’t dare look at him in case he could tell that she was affected by simply apparating with him. She had resolved last night to flirt with him should the opportunity arise, but now that the situation was at hand, she was having a hard time keeping that resolution. It just wasn’t something she was good at, and it made her feel awkward to even try.

“Thank you,” she said as she glanced up at him. His face was so close that it would require her leaning up just a little to brush her lips against his. She felt his hand on her back and realized that he hadn’t stepped back yet. Her gaze lowered to his mouth as she licked her lips. She almost fell backwards when he let her go and walked past her.

“I thought that would be easier,” he murmured as he stopped and waited for her. He looked tense and she calculated how long it would be until the next full moon. It was still a couple of weeks away, though, and it didn’t normally make him that moody, just tired and weak for a few days. When he looked back at her, he offered a half smile that was familiar. “Are you ready to check out your lead, Hermione?”

Glad that she had obviously been imagining things, she smiled and caught up with him. “Yes, I want to get some answers,” she said as she followed him out of the alley. They found a telephone box not too far away and she got the parchment and a few coins from her pocket.

“I think it would be best if I called,” Remus said. He held up his hand before she could argue. “We have no idea who this man is or what he might have been involved with regarding Voldemort. I’d feel better if you weren’t involved in that potential conversation, at least until we know what we’re dealing with.”

She wanted to argue but remembered the time she'd tried to extract information from the shopkeeper in Knockturn Alley, all those years ago; she hadn't gotten appreciably better at the task since. She just wasn’t good at lying or being tactful. Remus held out his hand and she gave him the coins and scrap of paper. While he dialed the number, she stood outside the box and waited. It didn’t take long for her to sigh with disappointment.

“It doesn’t work,” he said with an apologetic smile as he hung up the phone.

“Damn,” she muttered as she tried to figure out the next step. “Here, let me check something.”

She slid past him as he stepped out of the box and dialed the operator. After a quick exchange, she hung up and looked at Remus.

“Well?” he asked as he hooked his thumbs in the pockets of his jeans.

“There is no record of that telephone number in their system so it obviously hasn’t been in service for awhile,” she said. “She also said that it wasn’t a London exchange. It’s Cambridge.”

“Cambridge? Why would Voldemort have a telephone number for a Muggle in Cambridge?”

“That’s the question.”

“We need to regroup and figure out what to do next, if anything,” he decided. “We don’t need to rush off to Cambridge without a plan.”

“Plans are good,” she agreed as she took the parchment back from him and put it in her pocket. “We can go back and decide the next step.”

“While we’re here, we should probably go to the market to get a few supplies. We’re almost out of milk, eggs, and that tea you have in the evenings,” he said as he started walking down the street. “I didn’t know how much longer we’d be there since I think we’re nearly done going through everything, but we’ve probably got another week’s worth of boxes and books to sort through.”

“He had a rather extensive book collection considering he lacked a full library,” she said as she fell in step beside him. Less than a week left. She almost wished Voldemort had had a dozen bookcases instead of a few boxes of artifacts and just one bookcase stuffed with texts. After this assignment, she wasn’t sure what the Order would need them to do. There was a chance that they’d be sent out separately despite the fact they’d been working together since the end of the war. If they were out of places to organize and sort, she didn’t really know what she’d do.

That also meant that she might not have much more time with Remus. She expected him to disappear once all the loose ends were tied up. Since his relationship with Tonks had ended, he didn’t have anyone keeping him around except Harry, and a visit every few months would suffice there. The thought of never seeing him again, even for conversation unaffected by her infatuation, bothered her.

She needed to revise her timeline, she decided, which meant she needed a new list. A plan always made things better. For now, they’d go shopping and then figure out what to do about the information she’d located. She pushed thoughts of crushes and desire neatly into a corner of her mind to think about later. They started discussing Cardiff as they walked, and she listened intently as he told her the history of the city.

*************

It was unusual for Hermione to wake up feeling excited but that was exactly how she the next morning. She was rested and focused, which was always good. Yesterday had been a disappointment in regards to the telephone number but they planned to go to Cambridge today and see if they could locate a Mr. Bernard Morris. Despite her love of research, she had honestly missed the action of the hunt for new information that required more than flipping through the pages of a book.

Not only was the day going to be different in terms of searching Cambridge for some unknown Muggle, but she also had a plan regarding the Remus Situation, as she had titled it the previous night. She was far more successful at accomplishing things when she was prepared so she had spent far too much time making a list of how to deal with her infatuation. The realization that their time working as partners could honestly end any day was the kick in the bum that she needed to really focus.

It had been a struggle to write out the steps she should take because she’d never researched the topic of flirting and seduction. She had to rely on years of observation, which wasn’t very dependable. In the end, it was a rather short list but she’d added things she could remember Lavender, Parvati, Katie, and Ginny mentioning during their respective dating experiences. There were a few things that Hermione would normally never consider doing, would actually have scoffed at the notion of doing, but she was ready to do something pro-active before she no longer had the opportunity.

She rolled out of bed and went across the hall to the loo. She went ahead and took a shower now, despite smelling the heady aroma of fresh coffee. If she went downstairs now, Remus would just see normal old Hermione in her comfortable pajamas, which wouldn’t fit the plan. No, he needed to see her once she was ready to play the silly games necessary to attract someone like him. According to Parvati, it was necessary to make a man take notice from first sight when one intended to pursue a physical relationship.

The physical relationship sounded very nice, especially after some of the dreams that she’d been having regarding lots of naked flesh and sensations she’d not felt in over a year. Of course, it wasn’t just physical, but she certainly wouldn’t kick Remus out of her bed should he wish to share it. That thought made her face flush and she had to focus on showering just to get clean without any naughty exploration that she might want to indulge in right now. She thought about her list as it kept her hands from wandering.

According to Lavender, the way to attract a man was through flirting and emphasizing your best physical characteristics. Hermione wasn’t exactly sure what her best parts were, but Ron had always seemed to like her breasts and she had a nice nose. She had lost weight during the hunt for horcruxes due to all the walking and lack of steady meals, but in the weeks since the war had ended, her body had begun to go back to the curvy build she normally had as she began to have regular meals and spent most her time with books. She knew some women hated not being thin but Hermione had never cared one way or another so long as she was healthy and happy.

After her shower, she put on her robe and went back to her room. A look at the clothes she’d brought with her made her groan. There was nothing that would suit number 4 on her list, which was to dress sexily. In fact, she didn’t think she even owned anything that would be considered alluring. School uniforms, comfortable trousers and jeans, a few proper skirts for special events, a variety of shirts to match and a couple of nice formal robes comprised her entire wardrobe at home, so there wasn't any reason to Apparate home to find something better. The trousers and shirts she'd brought with her would have to suffice.

Unfortunately, he hadn’t seemed too impressed with her T-shirt and jeans yesterday, which was almost all she had brought for this assignment. She finally chose a pair of cotton trousers that were the most adaptable and transfigured them into a short skirt. She put the skirt on and quickly added a little more length because, plan or not, there was no way she was going to parade around with her bum barely covered.

Once it fell to her knees, she felt more comfortable. It reminded Remus that she had legs, rather nice ones at that, without making her feel uncovered. She chose a solid colored T-shirt and transfigured it into something less casual. By the time she was done, it had a lower neckline that nicely emphasized her cleavage without letting it all hang out and skimmed the rest of her curves in a way she thought was suitable.

A thorough look in the mirror left her satisfied. It wasn’t what she’d normally wear for a casual morning spent searching for a Muggle, but it also wasn’t a drastic change. She was willing to follow the steps she’d made as long as she wasn’t trying to be someone else. While these things weren’t how she’d normally act, she accepted that such things seemed to be necessary in regards to men and women and relationships so she didn’t feel as if she were doing anything more than playing a game in which she wasn’t entirely sure of all the rules.

Regardless of rule number four, she wore her comfortable trainers because there was no way she planned to walk around Cambridge in a pair of sandals or, worse, heels. She might be infatuated with Remus and plan to see if there was any way he might be attracted to her enough to let them blur the lines of friendship, she did not plan to do so with sore feet. If the only thing that stood between her and requited desire were a pair of shoes then, honestly, she didn’t think he’d be right for her after all.

A glance at the clock made her frown. Bloody hell, she’d taken nearly an hour to get dressed. How did women do this sort of thing every day? She was normally able to be ready to start her day in fifteen minutes, tops, and that included dealing with her hair and make-up, though the latter only consisted of lip gloss. Since she didn’t know any of the beauty charms, she just put on her favorite lip gloss and decided this was as good as she was going to get right now in regards to the physical bits.

When she got downstairs, Remus had already finished breakfast and his crossword puzzle. He was pacing in the sitting room and muttering to himself, which was actually quite adorable and made her smile. “Is there any coffee left?” she asked.

He glanced at her and his eyes narrowed. “I saved you a cup,” he said as he frowned and looked away.

Well. That certainly hadn’t gotten the effect she’d been hoping for. Hermione didn’t let it change her plans, though, and she thought back over her list as she went to the kitchen and got the coffee. She leaned against the counter and tried to remember if step 3 was to laugh at all his jokes or if that was step five, in which case she couldn’t recall step 3. She wished she'd had more time to study the list, but it had taken her ages to compile it and, by the time she was satisfied, she'd been too sleepy to learn it completely

“The wireless said that rain was predicted. You might want to change into jeans,” Remus said from the doorway.

“I won’t melt,” she said as she looked at him and smiled in what she hoped was a flirtatious way. “Besides, they’re probably wrong since they said last night that it was going to be sunny and warm today.”

“Fine. If you catch a cold, just remember that I warned you,” he muttered.

Her smile faded and she rolled her eyes. “I’ll remember,” she said as she tried to maintain some sort of optimism in her plan. It was certainly looking as if it was going to fail as the clothes hadn’t made him look at her as if she were womanly and alluring and her flirty smile hadn’t made him less cranky. Failure wasn’t a word she normally tolerated, though, so she had to remain determined to follow her plan before admitting defeat.

When she turned to put her empty coffee mug in the wash basin, she saw Remus look away quickly. He was frowning and tense and everything just felt horribly awkward. This wasn’t how she wanted it to be at all. She wanted to blame her infatuation but knew it was her fault for deciding to actually try this silly plan. Well, by the end of the day, at least she’d know without a doubt that she had to get over this crush since there wasn’t a chance he might return her feelings. Still, she’d do the other steps just so she knew she’d done everything she could.

“All right, I’m ready,” she said as she walked over to join him.

“You need to eat something for breakfast,” he told her.

“I’m not hungry.”

“At your age, you should take better care of yourself. By the time you’re as old as I am, you’ll wish you’d been more careful,” he murmured as he looked at her. “You’re too young to skip meals.”

“I don’t think that one skipped breakfast is going to ruin the chances of my having a long and healthy life.”

“It starts with one skipped breakfast and then it becomes a missed dinner and then you’re not eating several meals a day that are important.”

“I didn’t realize skipping breakfast one time was a sign of the apocalypse.”

“Ah, the glib attitude of youth.”

“I’m not glib nor am I a child,” she said patiently. “I’ll get something at a bakery while we’re out. Now that that’s settled, can we go?”

His gaze suddenly dropped and swept over her as he said, “No, you’re not a child but you’re still far too young.”

A feeling of warmth spread over when he actually looked at her, but then it was ruined by him pointing out her age. She didn’t want him to keep thinking of her as some young and foolish girl. She was a woman of nineteen with needs and desires. “Too young for what?”

“To know better,” he said as he raised his eyes to meet hers. “I’ve got the Apparition coordinates so let’s go.”

According to Ginny, she should use every excuse to touch, even casually. With that recollection in mind, Hermione focused back on her plan and stepped closer to Remus. She moved her arms around his waist and felt his body go rigid as she pressed against him more than was actually necessary. She moved her hand along the curve of his back in what she hoped was a casual way because she couldn’t resist touching. Looking up at him, she said, “I assumed you’d just Apparate us like yesterday.”

He looked down at her silently for a moment before he said, “I’m sure you did.” Then he put his hand on her back and Apparated them to Cambridge.

“Why would we want to go to the library if he could be listed in the directory? It seems like a waste of time and research if we can find him more easily,” she observed.

“Actually, I don’t know if the library here has what we need,” he murmured as he became thoughtful. “We should find one of those new coffee places.”

“Of course we should because I’m sure Morris is hiding at the bottom of a coffee cup.”

“Perhaps a cappuccino?”

“Very funny.”

“I found it rather amusing. And, for the record, I was intending for us to utilize one of the computers that those new places have set up for customers but if you’d rather look at the bottom of cups, that’s perfectly all right with me.”

“A computer?” Hermione was surprised, though she probably shouldn’t have been. She was a Muggleborn, after all, but she hadn’t ever done very much with computers. Her parents hadn’t bought a personal computer for the house until she was sixteen and by that time, she was rarely home to ever learn how to use it. She looked at Remus and had to admit to being surprised by him once again. “You know how to use a computer?”

“Yes,” he said with a slight smile. “Finding employment in the Wizarding world is extremely difficult considering my recurring monthly problem but I discovered that Muggles have a wonderful thing called temporary service. It doesn’t pay a lot but it’s something I’ve fallen back on when necessary many times over the years. I learned how to use a computer at one of my assignments years ago.”

“I never knew that,” she admitted, wondering what else she didn’t know about him.

“Not many people do,” he said matter-of-factly as he led them into a place called Wired Java. It smelled good and she was pleased to note that they had a nice selection of teas as well as oddly named coffees. She ordered a cup of peppermint tea and a muffin before she followed Remus to a table with a computer.

She sat close to him, forgetting about her plan as she eagerly learned what she could about the computer. It amazed her how much information was available after a few simple keystrokes. “This is fantastic,” she murmured as she leaned against him so she could see better.

“Haven’t you ever used a computer?” he asked curiously as he glanced at her while his fingers kept typing.

“Well, my parents had one in their office when I was younger but it wasn’t like this. It was just for basic information and patients’ records. By the time they bought one for our house, I was hardly home during holidays so I never had much of an opportunity to play with it. When I was home, I spent time with them or studied for school,” she said before she met his gaze. She was suddenly aware of how close they were, once again, and she moved her leg against his casually.

“There isn’t a record of a Bernard Morris in Cambridge,” he said quietly as he shifted in his chair and moved his leg away from hers. “There are numerous Bernards and even more Morrises but not the man we’re looking for.”

“What next?” she asked as she pressed her chest against his arm and fluttered her eyelashes at him at recalling Katie’s belief that men liked having their ego stroked and being made to believe they had all the answers. Personally, she thought Katie was rather vapid and most men did know more than her, but it was on her list so she had to try it.

“Do you have something in your eye?” he asked as he arched a brow and looked amused.

“No,” she muttered as she scowled at the computer screen. This was the worst plan ever, obviously. She had done everything the other girls always said worked so well but he hadn’t done anything that could be considered inappropriate or showed potential for reciprocated desire. This unrequited infatuation business was just more trouble than it was worth.

“Are you sure?” he asked as he reached up and brushed his thumb under her eye. She looked up at him and forgot how to breathe for a moment or five when he dragged his thumb along her cheekbone and jaw. “I plan to do a wider search now.”

“Huh?” She cringed at how breathless and silly she sounded, wondering where her rather extensive vocabulary was when she actually needed it.

His lips quirked slightly before he dropped his hand and looked at the computer. “I am going to bring up a search engine and type in the name,” he explained softly. “It will bring back any mentions of that particular name and then I can search through those.”

She watched as he clicked a few buttons and then a list of things came up. Her eyes widened when she saw the number. "Over two million? Hmm…can you add England to your search parameters?” she asked as she pointed to advanced search, assuming that might let him search more specifically. “That seems like the most logical way to get a more accurate search since there could be many Bernard Morris’s out there.”

“Good idea,” he murmured as he added the restriction and then hit the search button. According to the list, there were over one million possible matches on the more restricted search, which made them both groan and get more comfortable. Nearly two hours and three cups of tea later, he clicked a link, as he told her the items were called, that brought up an article from a newspaper that made her lean forward.

“No, don’t,” she said when he prepared to exit the screen and move on. “This is him.”

“How do you know?” he asked as he scrolled through the article.

“Doctor Bernard Morris, resident of Oxford, was found murdered this evening outside the Worlds End pub in Cambridge. There are no suspects in the murder. Doctor Morris was widely known amongst those in the community as a long time Professor at Oxford University as well as the author of four critically acclaimed math texts,” she read. She shook her head and felt incredibly stupid. “Why did we assume that the name and number were recent? We couldn’t find him because he’s dead.”

“Hermione, the name is the same as the one you found, but you have no proof that this man is the one we’re looking for,” Remus told her.

“Look at the date, Remus,” she said.

He leaned forward and cursed under his breath. “October 28, 1981,” he said slowly. “That still doesn’t mean…”

“The name of the man we found written in one of Voldemort’s books is found mysteriously murdered outside a pub three days before the attack on Harry and his family and you’re telling me it’s a coincidence?”

“It’s odd but it doesn’t prove anything,” he said. “Why would Voldemort kill a Muggle math professor?”

“I don’t know,” she admitted, “but I know it’s him.”

“He’s been dead nearly twenty years, Hermione,” Remus said quietly. “Whatever the reason, if it was, indeed, the same man, is no longer important.”

She wanted to argue but knew he was right. There was nothing more than the date and the name to connect the two and that wasn’t enough. Even if her intuition was correct and this was the man, there was nothing useful they’d find after all these years. Her excitement at finding the answer, as she did believe this was the right person, turned into disappointment at the realization that this was it. She looked at Remus and smiled wryly. “I guess we’re done here then.”

“You don’t want to keep looking just in case we find someone else?”

She shook her head. “No, I think the search is over. If it isn’t him, well, it’s obvious that we’re not going to find him so I think we can call this a failure,” she said, mentally adding like my list.

Remus frowned. “I don’t like failure,” he murmured as he began the process of getting rid of the webpages they’d read. She tried to figure out what he was doing to make them disappear, but he was clicking the buttons too fast. “But I suppose you’re right.”

“I usually am,” she teased softly, wishing the awkwardness would go away so things could be back to how they had been a few days ago. Now, she was even more aware of him and wanted things she knew she’d never have.

“The term usually implies a high percentage in comparison to the total number of things you say,” he said. “I think the term occasionally is far more accurate.”

“That’s one of those times I’ve mentioned in the past when you speak merely to demonstrate that you know a lot of multi-syllable words because you’re not actually saying anything worthwhile.”

“Hermione, have you learned nothing? Everything I say is worthwhile,” he said with a straight face.

“I’ve learned quite a bit but I must admit that I missed that lesson somewhere,” she admitted with an exaggerated sigh. “I guess I can no longer claim the title of ‘know-it-all’.”

“I’ll be sure to alert the Daily Prophet when we get home,” he said dryly as he stood up. He offered her his hand and gave her a look that made her forget what she’d planned to say. It was gone before she had a chance to figure out what it meant but she knew she hadn’t imagined it. She took his hand and stood up, following him out of the café as he began to quietly tell her about a temporary job he’d had years ago.

After a lazy lunch at a pub in Cambridge, where she had a delicious ham sandwich and chips, they returned to Voldemort’s house outside of Llandaff. Despite the disappointing results of their search for Morris, she had enjoyed the afternoon. She had also refocused her attention on her plan regarding Remus and had utilized their lunch for the opportunity to touch him as often as possible in a variety of casual ways. She was actually quite proud of her creativity in that regard, even if it didn’t appear to affect him.

“Would you like to play a game of exploding snap?” she asked after they arrived back in the sitting room. “I honestly don’t think I can face anymore research tonight.”

“I didn’t think you liked that game. Was I wrong?”

“Well, I’m not overly fond of it but I prefer it to Wizarding chess, and that’s the only other thing I’ve found here.”

“I suppose we do deserve one night off from work so why don’t you go upstairs and change while I find the cards.”

“I’m actually quite comfortable like this. I’ll go put the kettle on while you get the cards.”

She went into the kitchen and started to make tea. She had actually planned to go put on something more suitable for lounging around and playing card games but had decided not to after he mentioned it, again. She wasn’t exactly sure why he didn’t approve of her clothes, since she thought she looked quite nice, but she wasn’t above displaying childish behavior by refusing to do something he obviously wanted her to do. In one way, she thought maybe her plan was actually affecting him but that seemed to be wishful thinking considering she’d not caught him ogling, leering, or staring in a masculine appreciation sort of way.

It was a fine day when she was cross because a man hadn’t ogled her and treated her as nothing more than a sex object, she decided. What was the world coming to? She should be glad that he respected her mind and considered her a friend, crush or not. It was all just so very complex and confusing. There needed to be books that actually made sense and dealt with this subject more honestly. Nothing she'd ever found had been useful, and now she had learned that not even the advice and wisdom of other women could be depended upon.

Once the tea was made, she got two cups and some chocolate biscuits to go on the tray that she took into the small sitting room. Remus was pacing again and his hair showed signs of multiple fingers-running-through-it moments since she went to make tea. “Did you find the cards?”

He stopped pacing and looked at her as if he’d forgotten she was there. “Yes, I found them,” he said before he sat down. She sat down opposite him and arranged her skirt so she could pull her leg up and tuck her foot under the other. She glanced up from the tea tray when she felt him staring. He cleared his throat and frowned. “Are you sure you don’t want to change? You look very uncomfortable.”

“I’m quite comfortable, thank you,” she said before she poured a cup of tea for him and then one for herself. “I’ll warn you now, just to be fair, that I played this game many, many nights while Harry, Ron, and I were on our quest so I fully expect to win and don’t believe in losing simply to placate your pride.”

“In the interest of fairness, I’ll tell you that I was the best exploding snap player in our entire dorm while I was in school,” he said casually as he narrowed his gaze and picked up the cards. “I play to win so do try not to cry when you lose.”

Hermione shuddered slightly at the low firm voice that made her think about many things, card playing not amongst them. She thought about her plan and the parchment upstairs with the list she had been following. This was just all wrong. She wasn’t the type to wear skimpy skirts and flirt with fluttering eyelashes. Despite her intentions, she had become one of those girls that annoyed her terribly. Her plan had to go. She took a sip of her tea and then put down her cup before she looked at him and calmly said, “I fancy you.”

He was in the middle of taking a drink and started to choke. All right, that hadn't been the response she was looking for. Her eyes widened and she got up to help. He coughed and spilled his tea on the floor then pulled back before she could touch him and stared at he, eyes watering. “You what?” he finally managed to gasp.

“I fancy you,” she repeated matter-of-factly. “I just realized that I’m entirely unsuited for all these silly games so I wanted to tell you. So you’d know.”

“I think you need a nap because you obviously don’t know what you’re saying,” he said as he collected himself.

“I know perfectly well what I’m saying, Remus. I’m neither stupid nor dense so I am fully aware of the words that I’m choosing to speak,” she said with a frown. While she hadn’t expected a favorable reaction, she had hoped to at least understand his reaction. As it was now, she was just perplexed.

“You have a crush, Hermione. While I’m very flattered that a beautiful, intelligent young woman such as yourself would find me even remotely attractive or of interest, I have a hard time thinking it’s anything other than simply a reaction due to our working together and the closeness we’ve had during the past weeks,” he explained.

“It isn’t just a crush,” she defended. “I want you, Remus.”

“You’re nineteen years old. You don’t even know what you want,” he said firmly. “You’re playing at being grown up with your tight shirt and flirting but you have no idea what you’re playing with so I suggest that we consider this subject closed and play a game of cards.”

“No,” she said. “I may be nineteen but I’m not some silly child with stars in her eyes. You’re an impossible man, opinionated and stubborn at the same time you’re quiet and thoughtful, which is not an easy combination to obtain. You’re not overly handsome, even if you are attractive, and you have mood swings worse than most women I know. I am fully aware that you’re far from perfect but that’s why I like you. You’re also highly intelligent, kind, loyal, and one of the strongest people I’ve ever met.”

“I’m also twenty years older than you and a werewolf,” he pointed out. She wondered if those were the reasons he and Tonks didn’t last, though she honestly thought that relationship had ended because the two of them didn’t have very much in common, not unlike how she and Ron hadn't. Or at least, not the right things.

“Only nineteen years,” she corrected. “And you should know better than to try to discourage me by using your lycanthropy. If you‘re not attracted to me, I understand, or if you prefer men, as I never even considered that until now, but if you‘re simply using age and lycanthropy as an excuse, then it‘s not fair to me or you. Now do me the decency of being honest.” She faltered before she could actually point blank ask him if he could ever possibly want her. It appeared her courage only extended so far.

“You’re the impossible one,” he said as he stood up and walked around the table towards her. “You look at me with those big eyes that I could get lost in and I feel things I shouldn’t because you’re so bloody young. You watch me until I’m so on edge that I can barely think. You touch me…God, you’re always hugging and touching and it makes me want more even though I know it’s so wrong.”

She blinked at him, not sure what to say after what he’d just said. “Who said it’s wrong?” she finally asked softly as he reached her.

He reached up and lightly gripped her chin as he lowered his head. “Everyone,” he whispered against her lips. “We shouldn’t…I should know better.”

“You don’t know everything, Remus,” she said as she reached up to brush her fingers through his hair as she’d wanted to do for weeks. She smiled slightly. “I’ll alert the Daily---”

The rest of her words were caught by his lips as he pressed them against hers. He bumped her nose and she accidentally bit his lip but it didn’t take them long to figure out how to hold their heads and then the kiss deepened. She shyly pushed her tongue into his mouth and made a noise she never had before when his hand slid down her back and gripped her bottom.

“We can’t do this,” he told her in between kisses and nips to her bottom lip. “You’re too young and I’m taking advantage of the situation.” His words were followed by a deep kiss that left her panting when he pulled back.

“Don’t,” she breathed against his lips before she pressed closer to him, “stop. Don’t stop.”

“God, Hermione,” he groaned softly before he kissed her again and pulled her against him.

“We could go to my room,” she said with only the slightest stammer when she felt his arousal pressed against her. She bit her lip and looked up at him, unsure of what to do now or how to tell him what she wanted.

He rested his forehead against hers and ran his hand up and down her back. “Are you sure?”

“I think so,” she said as she kissed him lightly before she stepped back and took his hand. They didn’t say anything as they walked up the stairs, and she was nervous by the time they reached her room. She wanted to make love, she really did, but now that they were in her room and he was kissing her neck, she was slightly scared.

“I want you, Hermione,” he said softly as he turned her to face him. He brushed her hair from her face and smiled. “But not tonight. When we make love, you’re going to know for sure that it’s what you want and you’ll be able to answer that question I just asked you with a definite yes. I think we can both see that I‘m definitely ready but I‘m willing to wait until you are.”

She glanced down at the front of his trousers and then back up at him. “Thank you,” she whispered. “I do want you but maybe we can start with more kissing and see what happens?”

He smiled and led her over to the bed. They sat down and she smiled sheepishly as he traced her jaw with his thumb before he kissed her. As they fell back on her bed, he said, “I think that sounds like a very good plan.”

*************



There was a body spooned behind hers when Hermione woke up. It took her a moment to remember the events of the previous evening. When she did, she smiled and turned her head to find Remus looking at her.

“Morning,” she said sleepily as she reached up to discreetly check for drool.

“Good morning,” he echoed before he brushed a light kiss against her mouth. “Sleep well?”

“Extremely well,” she told him as she shifted and rolled over so she could face him. He was wearing his trousers but his shirt had been tossed on the floor last night. It was by her skirt, which had also been removed while they’d kissed and touched. She was rather pleased that she didn’t blush upon waking up beside him wearing only her bra and knickers. She knew it wouldn’t be long before he'd know she was ready and willing for more because she did want to make love with him, but things had happened so fast yesterday that she was glad they’d waited.

“So did I,” he said before he kissed her, not giving her a chance to worry about morning breath or her teeth. He pulled back and looked at her closely. “Any regrets?”

“Just one,” she said after a moment of serious thought. She smiled mischievously. “I didn’t get to beat you at exploding snap.”

“Very funny,” he muttered as he lightly slapped her bottom and kissed her again. He groaned as he rolled over and stood up, stretching in a way that made his trousers fall further down his hips. “I’ll go make coffee while you get dressed, unless you’d like to wear that today. I certainly won’t complain.”

Hermione threw her pillow at him, laughing when he caught it and smiled at her before he left the bedroom. She lay back on her bed and sighed, still smiling as she thought about the last few days. Reluctantly, she got up and dressed before using the toilet and cleaning her teeth. When she reached the kitchen, he had a cup of coffee waiting for her.

“Thank you,” she said as she took it and then watched him fry bacon. “Need any help?”

“You feel like eggs or just toast?” he asked.

“Well, someone very wise once told me that I need to eat a good breakfast and it seems I skipped it yesterday so maybe eggs and toast?”

“At least you didn’t say old and wise. You can scramble the eggs.”

“The old was implied since they do go hand in hand. Perhaps I should have clarified.”

“Clarification always helps,” he said before he stole a kiss.

They finished making breakfast in between kisses and conversation. She felt nervous, excited, and couldn't stop smiling despite it being far too early in the morning. When they sat down to eat, she moved her leg against his as she nibbled her bacon and read the paper. He moved his foot along the back of her leg as he did his crossword. It was new and different yet also comfortable and familiar. To be fair, her plan had worked in a roundabout way because if it hadn’t been such a failure, she might never have gotten the nerve to bluntly tell him how she felt.

They were nearly done with breakfast when he casually asked, “So what was the name of that pub where they found Morris?”

Hermione lowered the paper and looked at him as she started to smile. “The Worlds End, I believe. In Cambridge.”

He glanced up from his crossword and he said, “If it’s still open, that might be a good place to start if someone wanted to look into a mysterious death that might not just be coincidental.”

“Yes, it might,” she agreed as she arched a brow. “Though it might be best to research the victim to see if there is more of a connection.”

“True, but such an effort could be a waste of time if a trip to the pub leads to the knowledge that the crime has been solved or that the man in question had a reputation that could have led to a sudden death,” he pointed out.

“Ah, but a thorough background check on the victim would also provide such results without having to locate the pub, if it’s still there,” she said with a triumphant smile.

“Good point,” he reluctantly admitted before he winked at her and began to question the method in which they could gather that information.

She was excited at the prospect of gaining some real closure on the matter of Bernard Morris and that telephone number. It was also nice to think about working on this with Remus and possibly getting some answers to questions raised by Voldemort having Muggle contact information. The date and nature of Morris’ death also really piqued her interest.

As she listened to him talk, she watched him and couldn’t help smiling. It seemed that the infatuation had developed into something more serious, if it hadn’t always been. She wasn’t ready to put a name to it yet. After all, things were too new to really know what might happen, and sure as she felt, they had a lot to discuss. For now, she was going to enjoy the adventure.

End