(Hermione and Severus had promised Remus that the Compound would be their next trip. Zev had insisted on being included in that as well. Hermione wanted to take Ronni. She had said her first word already--wolf--and was beginning to move in ways that resembled walking. Hermione was tired of simply bragging to her colleagues, and not getting to show her progeny off. Both of them.)
Remus said, "I don't think I've ever been somewhere that felt like this," and proceeded to spend at least six hours a day sprawled out on the balcony of their villa. Hermione would touch her wand lightly to him and Severus in the mornings, protecting their skin from the worst of the rays. Severus only liked to spend a couple of hours out there, but with his fairness, that was more than enough.
At midday Hermione could usually coax Remus away from the balcony for a bit. The first day it was simply to go down to the pool they shared with the other villas. It was a short walk over the sand of the beach, onto the platform with the pristinely kept swimming facilities. At first Remus had been nervous, unsure of being around people who didn't know. He said, not entirely without bitterness, "I've forgotten how to be like this."
Hermione hadn't had to ask what "this" was. "This" was human. "This" was normal. Severus had sneered, "I never was like that."
Remus laughed and kissed him, and followed them quietly enough down to the pool. Once there, he made friends while Severus stayed carefully at Hermione's side, watching over the two of them, unwilling to let anything happen.
The beach itself was too crowded during the days, but at night after they had slipped into town for dining that crossed right into the adventurous for three palettes raised on traditional British foods, Hermione would say, "Come down with me."
It took some cajoling to get Severus to take off his shoes, roll the loose pants that she'd bought him for the journey up just a bit. When the waves rushed over their toes, attempting to cling to their ankles, the water still held some of the warmth of the day, but not enough to keep them from gasping just a bit. Remus jumped back a little, laughing at himself.
The water was an endless stretch of black with rare jewel glints of reflection taunting them, just out of reach. Severus said, "I never thought I wanted to see anything like this."
In the dark, Hermione could only see the pale outline of his face, its harsh planes and the forbidding depths of his eyes. She was not intimidated. "Whyever not?"
"It is-" he paused and the rush of the incoming tide swelled to hide his breathing. "Isolating." The word flowed out with the recession of the water.
Hermione watched out of the corner of her eye as Remus pressed himself against Severus' back, wrapping his arms around Severus' torso. He buried his face in the crook of Severus' shoulderblade, cheek to the thin white cotton of the shirt Hermione had purchased. Severus stiffened, as he did when caught in a possibly-public display. He did not shake Remus off.
Hermione said, "It's beautiful."
Remus said, "It's different." The sentiment sounded synonymous to Hermione's.
Severus said, "Let's return," and led them from the packed nearly-firm earth of the wetted beach to the soft, still-cooling sand, and up to their villa. The villa's shower was spacious, with plenty of hot water. It lent itself to washing the sand from their feet before bed. Together.
Both Remus and Severus liked to play with Hermione's hair. Of course, Severus would never admit to such a thing, particularly not with the verb "play" attached to said admission. All the same, where Remus liked to run his fingers through the curls, sud shampoo through them, kiss the tips, Severus liked to brush it, to run her brush through the last three inches gently so as to work out the snarls, moving upward slowly, perhaps even more slowly than entirely necessary.
At home it was mostly a ritual of comfort for them--something Remus and her could do in the shower as a good-morning, a way for Severus to touch her before disappearing into his lab for the day.
In Amanpuri it was unquestionably, undeniably a ritual of sensual fulfillment--a way for Severus to initiate lovemaking without having to ask, a way for Remus to remind her of how well their bodies fit together.
Hermione had her own rituals. Her favorite with Remus was sharing chocolate mints. She would let the chocolate melt just enough that she would taste of it when she transferred the mint into his mouth. He, in turn, would let it melt down so that she could lick up the mint on his tongue when he let her have it back. It was an exercise in timing, and knowledge of each other, and when she couldn't connect with him other way, that generally worked.
Severus was both harder and easier all at once. With him, her favorite act was to kiss the misshapen circle of a scar on his right thigh. The scar Zev had left.
In the months after Hermione had finally managed to institute field trips, several of the children had taken ill. Normally it was with minor things; colds and flus and the occasional basic magical bug. Zev, with his propensity for doing things to their full measure, had caught some sort of combination thereof.
This wouldn't have been such a big deal except that he'd caught it in the week before the full, which made it unclear as to whether the Wolfsbane was going to have it's usual effect or not. Severus was still--always--implementing changes and improvements, and some of the latest at the time were working to alter actual body-chemistry. Notably, he was working to neutralize the wolf's saliva, so that even if one of the pups bit someone, it wouldn't infect the human.
Severus figured that he couldn't really count on Zev's saliva to be an accurate test of that, since his human-form body chemistry was already altered by the illness. However, he was fairly certain that the basic components of the potion would work.
Hermione spent the change in her animagic form. Hydrea was off at a conference that week, and WAC members were scheduled to show in the morning, so it wasn't until Severus Apparated into wereworld--intent on getting up to bed and sleeping a bit--that anyone realized there was a problem. That was when Zev tore off for his human prey and reached Severus before anyone could stop him. Luckily, Zev was small at the time, and Remus was able to rip him off Severus with a fair amount of ease, but not before he'd bitten straight through his robes, and trousers and deep into the leg.
Remus ran with Zev while Hermione transfigured herself back and Side-Along Apparated them to the Hogwarts gate. She left him there while she ran to the school to get help. She and Poppy found him limping toward the school when they made their frantic way back out to him. He was--as was to be expected--curt and insulting and wanted nothing more than to control his own treatment. Poppy threatened to make him drink a sedative and take things from there, which made him more agreeable.
The bite was deep, but easy enough to clean up and keep numb. A werewolf bite could not be magically healed. It would scar.
Remus, Hermione, Severus, and--most of all--Zev spent the next two nights and another thirty-one in suspense, waiting to see if the transformation would take hold. With the alterations to the potion, it wasn't clear.
As it turned out, both the magical and normal immune system antibodies in Zev's system interacting with the changes had been the reason the potion had worked. Had any other wolf bitten Severus, he would have changed come nightfall.
It had taken nearly a year for things to return at all to how they had been between Severus and Zev before the accident. A year, and a lot of effort on Severus' part. He had taken to literally grabbing and holding Zev when he came around--if he didn't, Zev would only mumble an apology and scurry away to hide.
For Hermione, the scar was more than just something to be thankful for--just a scar, that was all--it was one more tangible symbol of his loyalty.
At wereworld, these rituals were all morning things, evening things, things for quiet, reconnecting times. In Amanpuri they could be enacted at any time of the day, and Hermione was more than willing to take advantage of that. When she woke from a nap, and Severus' hand was on the wooden handle of her favorite brush, she smiled lazily and said, "I like waking up to you."
Remus muttered something about feeling left out. She offered him a lock of hair to, and otherwise ignored his grumblings.
At breakfast on their last day of holiday, Remus said into his coffee, "It's rather odd."
"Mine tastes fine," Severus said, and made to switch cups with Remus.
Remus stole his cup back. "Not the coffee, the wanting to go back."
Severus scowled. Hermione mediated with a, "Why is that odd?" although she thought she already knew the answer. Sometimes Severus needed to hear things from Remus, not from her.
"Well, I have been trying to get out of the place for, erm. Since we moved in."
Hermione could tell him the number of days. She didn't. "Sure, for a shopping excursion or a holiday or something of that sort. Not to leave."
Severus stayed silent. Remus pinned him with a look and said, "Not to leave."
Severus took a sip of his coffee. He said, "I am glad to be returning as well."
Hermione always missed the others when she was away. Zev and Ronni were, of course, at the top of the list, but not being able to pop in upon Gin--possibly catching Nymph there--or corral Hydrea into having tea, or let Marissa mother her a bit, or make plans with Ruel, or do any of the things she did on a weekly, daily basis, caught up to her more quickly than not. She tipped up her cup of breakfast tea. "Cheers."
Remus laughed. "Think Ronni has managed her first step yet?"
"She'd best not have," Severus said, a faint growl to his tone.
"I'm certain Lorraine or Zev will have pensieved the moment, if she has," Hermione said, placing her hand over his. "Although, it's unlikely. According to the books I've read, she probably has at least another couple of months."
Remus smiled mildly. "You said that about speech and then she just burst out with it."
"Books have the unfortunate tendency of sometimes being wrong," Hermione said. She'd learned that lesson well over time.
"Maybe you shouldn't parrot them so," Severus said.
"Oh, but then what would you do? I'd be right all the time and you'd have no room left to whinge at me."
Severus gave a small laugh. "Certainly a danger. Keep to your books, madam."
"Thought you'd feel that way."
Severus turned his attention to Remus. "Has this been. . .what you imagined?"
Remus leaned over the table to kiss Severus. "And more."
Severus pushed Remus back into his seat. Remus licked his lips.
They brought home gifts. It was an unspoken rule: he who leaves wereworld brings something back into its confines. It made home feel a little bit less confining on the days when the wards did seem to shrink inward. They brought seeds for the school's greenhouses, and ingredients for Hydrea's stores, spices for Marissa's pantry and a rather sumptuous wall-hanging to cover the scores in the wood of the main hall, courtesy of one of the cubs. It had proven no more fixable by magic than a bite would be healable.
There were, of course, the personal gifts, as well. Remus brought home all sorts of teas to share with Lorraine, who enjoyed being adventurous in her tea-time selections nearly as much as Remus. For Zev they brought what they always brought when even one of them went away--a full roll of wizarding pictures detailing their adventures. Normally it was Hermione who wrote the narrative of her time, or her and Severus' time, away from the school, but this time they had all contributed to the unraveling story. At one point, Severus and Remus even had a squabble on the back of one of the pictures of Hermione at the pool.
Zev flushed at that.
For Ronni they brought home a handcrafted marionette, which Remus danced in front of her. She giggled and clapped and said, "wolf! Wolf!" which could have meant anything, really.
Hermione wrapped her arms around Zev and cuddled him a bit just as she had after every trip she'd taken since the time he was a child. Zev didn't pull away, hadn't even when he'd been fifteen and sixteen and that reaction would have been perfectly normal. She whispered, "So, what were you up to while we were gone?"
"The usual. Wedding plans, work, helping out with the students. I want to hear about not being here."
Hermione had stored up details, scads and loads, veritable heaps of details for him. She had made sure to remember the color of the sand, and how it felt on one's toes as opposed to one's fingertips, what the hotel room looked like from door to patio, how the air tasted and smelled, what kinds of foods she had tried, everything. If she couldn't give Zev the actual trip, she was determined to give him the closest thing to it. She'd already begun talking with him about possibilities for his honeymoon. She wanted him to go somewhere far, somewhere different, somewhere that, when he came back, he'd no longer have to feel like wereworld was so very small.
She let her gaze wander over to Remus, who was still playing with Ronni. Severus was discussing something with Lorraine, but his eyes were on his daughter and his husband. Hermione said, "We missed you guys."
"Here isn't here without the three of you."
"And there isn't home," she said.
Zev rested his head against her shoulder. "No, I guess not."
She kissed his head. "We missed you."