Chapter 9 : Painted Mornings
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Monday, December 13, 2004
Shuffling forward, her feet kicking up dust, she tried to quell the tears that threatened to spill. She had cried so much over the past few hours that it was almost unfathomable that there were any tears left to shed. It felt as though her heart had been ripped out of her chest, leaving only a gaping whole in its wake. The world she had carefully built over the past eight years had just fallen from underneath her, and in a moment of haste, she had done the one thing her father had warned her against. She had made a rash decision, an unplanned, spontaneous and life changing decision. Her father had always told her that any decision she made in life had to be thought out carefully, the pros and cons clear in her mind. But in a moment of weakness, all rationality fled. She had quit her job and bought a rundown, shabby looking bookstore in the heart of Hogsmead only an hour after finding out the true extent of Ron’s betrayal. She could plead a momentary lapse of sanity all she liked, but the truth was she had wanted to do it.
Life was meant to be lived to the fullest, not spent drowning in sea of lost dreams. She had always dreamt of opening a bookstore, but when the war was at its peak, she had changed her dream to suit others. Becoming a healer had never been her first choice, but after all the casualties they had suffered during the war, she hadn’t really had a choice. Everyone expected her to do it, so who was she to disappoint? And now, after everything that had happened, she couldn’t say she regretted her hasty decision. It was what she had wanted to do, what she had dreamt of doing for so long, that instead of feeling regret, she only felt the promise of what was to come.
Glancing down at her muggle wristwatch, she silently cursed. She wanted to go home, to curl up on the couch with a glass of wine, or maybe a bottle, and a large block of chocolate. She wanted to watch an old black and white movie, maybe go through a couple boxes of tissues and just hole herself up and hide away from the world for couple of days. The problem was, in order to go home she had to face Sirius. She was afraid, mostly of how he’d react, but also for the fact that he would be the first person to know from her, what had happened. There was just something so final about admitting to another person that it was over, that Ron and her would never be. Sirius would react badly to the news, of that she was certain. It was because of his volatile nature and the fact that she was afraid of breaking down in front of him, that she had prolonged the journey home as long as she had. She wanted to tell him, but then at the same time she didn’t; it was too hard.
He would be pacing back and forth, an angry but worried scowl on his face. Sirius was both protective and fierce when it came to those he cared about, and she knew that the moment he found out what Ron had done to her, he’d rush off without any prior thought to the consequences of his actions. He’d want to pummel Ron into the ground and she was afraid that she’d let him.
With a heavy sigh, she wiped away the few stray tears that stained her face, and sucked in a deep breath. She had to bite the bullet and go home some time. Glancing around the empty park, she hurried over to a large clump of bushes, the words destination, determination and deliberation running through her mind. She felt the familiar tugging sensation at her naval, and with half a turn, the front of her house clear in her mind, she was gone. Stumbling slightly, she clutched the fence for support, her head still dizzy from the apparition. Before she had a chance to regain her composure, a loud barking voice startled her, the sound of boots hitting the ground in what she guessed was a stomping manner, following.
“Where the hell have you been?” his voice snapped. “You’ve been gone for nearly eight hours, I thought something had happened. Are you trying to give me a heart attack?” she sneaked a glance at him, silently willing herself enough courage to tell him what had happened.
“Why, did it work?” she asked, voice cracking as she tried to fight the tears. She wanted nothing more than to launch herself at him, and have his arms wrapped tight around her, comforting her. All she wanted was to be held, to feel safe, protected.
“Hermione,” she heard the change in his voice; angry to wary. “Hermione, what happened?” he asked, voice laced with concern. Sucking in a deep, shuddering breath, she looked up. “What the hell did he do?” he asked, eyes sparked with instantaneous anger.
“Sirius, calm down,” she pleaded weakly, knowing that he would do anything but.
“Calm down?!” he yelled. “You get piss drunk last night, go on about how it’s his fault and not yours, crying your bloody eyes out because of that prick,” she couldn’t help but wince at the harshness of his voice. “And now you come home, looking like death warmed up because you’ve been crying again, and you tell me to calm down?” it looked as though steam would spurt out his ears at any moment. He was beyond angry, he was livid. “What the hell happened?”
“You really want to know?” she snapped, furiously wiping the tears from her eyes. “You really want to know why I feel like my whole world is crumbling to pieces? Fine, I’ll tell you!” she yelled, glaring mutinously, all the anger and hurt rising to the surface.
“Well?” he asked impatiently, arms crossed over his chest with indignation.
“He cheated alright!” she screamed, letting all her emotions loose. “He had an affair three years ago with one of my friends, a woman who I was going to ask to be one of my bridesmaids. But do you want to know the best part of it?” she snapped snidely, arms shaking by her sides. “He has a dau –” she shook her head, lip trembling as she tried to fight the tears. “He has a daughter,”
She could feel her arms shaking, her heart thumping against her chest as all the emotions, all the pain she had tried to suppress but failed at, crashed down upon her. Pain, hurt, anger, betrayal, disgust, loathing, jealousy; the list went on, never ending as each and every emotion destroyed what little composure she had left. She was painfully aware of the deafening silence and the blank, but slowly changing look on his face. Sirius was a master at hiding his emotions, at guarding himself from the vulnerability of others knowing what he was feeling, but she had slowly begun to understand the little quirks that gave him away. His hand twitched, jaw clenched and the endless grey of his eyes, darkened; he was beyond anger, beyond anything that didn’t involve his fists connecting with Ron’s jaw.
“Siri –” she started, voice choked as she swallowed hard against the lump in her throat.
“I’ll kill him,” his voice was deadly quiet, calm with determination. It would have been better had he yelled, had he shouted and kicked up a storm. But this quiet, this deadly calm, had her worried.
“Si –” her voice shook, uneven and raspy.
“I. Am. Going. To. Kill. Him,” the words made her shudder. She believed him. No sooner had he said the words, she watched in horror as he started to turn, a determined and slightly fierce look on his face. He was going to apparate, and by Merlin, he was going to kill Ron!
“Sirius, no!” she cried, mustering up all of her strength and lunging forward to tackle him to the ground.
A large part of her wanted to let him go, to give him free reign to do what he liked to Ron. But her rational side won over, telling her that no good would come of the act. Sirius was a free man, probably for the first time in his life, and she didn’t want him to ruin that for her. Ron wasn’t worth it. Sure he deserved everything he had coming to him, but she didn’t want him to die, not at the expense of another man’s freedom. She’d be damned if he ruined another person’s life tonight.
“Sirius,” she said quietly, raising her head from his chest. “Please, just –” he stared back at her, grey eyes alight in anger, but softened in understanding. “He’s not worth it, Merlin knows it’s taken me long enough to realize that, but he is not worth it,” she sniffed, wiping her eyes with the back of her hand.
“Okay,” his voice cut through the night air, not entirely sure. She knew that no matter what she said, he would eventually face Ron and fists would be thrown, and hexes cast. But for the time being she was content with knowing that the crisis had been diverted.
“Can we go inside?” she asked quietly, voice meek as a sudden wave of tiredness washed over her. She’d had one hell of a day and was mentally and physically exhausted; to curl up on the couch in front of the fire, was all she wanted to do.
“Sure,” his voice whispered in her ear. She felt him shift beneath her and was dully aware of being hoisted into his arms. Laying her head on his chest, her arms automatically wrapped around his neck. Sleep was calling her, but she fought it off. “We’ll go inside, don’t you wor –”
Jolting awake, she tried to ignore the offending rays of sunlight that burst through the window, lighting up the small room. Her dream had been strange, though a dream it hadn’t been at all. Sometimes her memories called to her in her sleep, other times it was a strange abstract world, where colors and random objects collided. This had been a memory, one she’d rather forget, but kept remembering night after night. She didn’t know what it was about this particular memory that called to her, but it did. Sirius had been furious that night, but he’d also calmed himself enough to understand what she needed rather than what she wanted. It would have been so easy for him to ignore her, to act on instinct and go after Ron despite her wishes, but he hadn’t, at least not that night.
The papers had had a field day when news escaped that their relationship was over, yet Ron was nowhere to be found. He’d showed up a couple of days later with a black eye, a few broken ribs and a fractured wrist. She had tried not to worry too much about it, arguing that it could have been anyone, but somehow she knew deep down, that it was Sirius’ doing and no one else. It could have easily been anyone, yet somehow she knew it was him, and the worst part was, she was silently thankful for what he had done. She wouldn’t wish harm on anyone, but the fact was Ron had deserved every piece of hostility and retribution thrown at him.
Everyone had taken badly to the news, including his family. Fred and George had decided to use him as their unofficial guinea pig, testing all of their new products on him, harmful or not, whereas Ginny had spontaneously disowned him as her brother. Harry had tried to talk reason into his wife, but Ginny was adamant that her decision was final. She actually felt sorry for Harry; he was stuck in an awkward position, and no matter which way he turned, he couldn’t win. Molly and Arthur had been disgusted by their son’s actions, but the moment the Weasley matriarch’s eyes landed on little Mina, all animosity was forgotten. It was obvious that Molly wore the pants in the relationship because Arthur followed whatever decision she made, albeit with less understanding. Ron hadn’t had it easy and neither had Luna. She couldn’t help but feel as though they had both gotten what they’d deserved. Ron and Luna may have inspired a great dislike where ever they went because of what they’d done to her, but little Mina quelled it with her carefree smile and bright, innocent blue eyes. Everyone loved Mina, so their hate for what her parent’s had done began to ease over the past month, until only a select few still held a strong animosity for the couple.
Sirius may not have said anything outright, but she could tell from the way his body stiffened whenever Ron’s name was mentioned, that he still held a deep hatred for the man. By no means had she forgiven Ron for what he’d done, but her anger had begun to ease and her hatred wane. There was no point in living in the past, what was done was done, and there was no way to change that. She accepted the fact that Ron had cheated, that he’d had an affair with a woman whom she’d held in high regard and counted as one of her closest friends. Wilhelmina was a product of that affair, and as much as she wanted to forget and ignore the situation, she couldn’t. The Weasley’s were a permanent fixture in her life, they were constant and unwavering, boisterous and caring, but most of all, they were family. As long as Mina existed, she would have to deal with the fact that she would never be able to forget what had happened, because every time there was a Christmas, a birthday, a wedding, or just a special occasion, she would be reminded of what had happened.
Groaning tiredly, she buried her head deeper into her pillow, ignoring the vibrating chuckle as it moved. Swinging her arm outward, she slapped away Sirius’ hand, ignoring his protest. She was far too tired to care about what he wanted; she wanted to sleep and if he was to be her pillow, then so be it. She had never been a morning person.
“You know,” he laughed, poking her in the ribs for the fun of it. “As much as it pains me to say it, you need to get your pretty little arse up and start moving,” she could practically hear the smirk in his voice.
Tilting her head up, she whacked his arm playfully. “And why, pray tell, should I get my pretty little arse up, and start moving?” she laughed, eyebrow raised in question.
“Because it’s,” at this he grabbed her wrist and turned it so he could see the face of her watch. “Already seven thirty and you need at least an hour, give or take, to storm around, huffing and puffing to your hearts content, until you’re awake enough to realize that we still have to finish painting and start stocking the shelves,” he laughed as her eyes widened. “Not to mention that you finally caved and promised Molly that we’d to go to the Burrow for dinner tonight,”
Groaning, she buried her head against his chest. “Don’t remind me,” she muttered darkly, silently cursing herself for that moment of weakness.
Molly had been on her case for weeks now, berating her any way she could for not attending the family’s weekly Monday night dinners. She’d gotten off easy enough for the first two weeks, but after that Molly had thought that there was no real reason she couldn’t attend. Hermione knew deep down that the Weasley matriarch was only trying to do the right thing. But her wanting the whole family together and what was appropriate and right for the time, were completely different things. No good would come of her and Sirius going there, especially when Ron himself, including Luna and Wilhelmina, would be there. There was only so much a person could take before they cracked, and cracked she had. Molly was thrilled, Sirius and her, not so much.
“Regretting it much?” he laughed, pushing her off as he sat up, stretching his tired limbs.
“Of course,” she snapped irritably, spreading herself out against the floor, eyes locked onto the freshly painted bronze ceiling. The kink in her neck was really starting to bug her, but then she supposed that’s what she got for falling asleep on the floor.
“As much fun as wallowing in self pity is, I hate to break it to you bu –”
“I’ve got to get up, I know!” she snapped, effectively cutting of his words. “My god, when did you start sounding like my mother?” she watched in satisfaction as his nose screwed up in disgust. Serves him right, she thought gloatingly.
“Take that back,” his voice edged with warning, but the playfulness of his smile told otherwise.
“No,” she said defiantly, a small but growing smile on her face.
“Take. That. Back,” he pronounced each word deliberately, with what she could only describe as an evil glint in his eyes.
“Make me,” she dared him with a smirk, her eyes taking on an impish sparkle of their own. She knew that he would never back down from a challenge, especially one posed by her, and relished in the fact that she still had her wand.
“Well,” he shrugged, looking about the room casually before his eyes landed on her. “You asked for it,”
Instinct took over as she heard the tin of paint fly through the air. Rolling over, she narrowly missed the waterfall of paint as it crashed to the floor, splashing the dark floorboards white. Scowling, she looked at the painted mess with disdain; it would take forever to clean up. Before she could think properly, another attack was launched and she had choice but to roll in the opposite direction and onto the paint she had tried to escape earlier. She could feel it stick to her clothes, her arms and cheek as she rolled over, and cringed at the feeling. Flicking her wand, she aimed at two paint tins to her left and threw them forward in defense, smirking as the bronze paint hit its target. He stood there, completely covered in bronze paint, oozing in large clumps down his body. She laughed at the dumbstruck look on his face, relishing in the momentary victory.
“Oh, you are so going to pay for that,” he laughed, the serious voice he had been aiming for, dying at the sight she made.
Before she knew what happened, he had lunged after her, feet sliding on the slippery paint beneath. She squealed, legs flailing about as she tried to get away, his arm pinning her to the ground, curved around her waist and clamped down so she couldn’t get away.
“Don’t you dare,” she gasped out, glaring pointedly up at him.
“Oh, I dare,” he grinned, hands beginning their torture. If there was one thing he knew, it was how to get her to bend to his every whim.
“Sirius, don –” her words died, laughter replacing them as he proceeded his torture, tickling her sides to his hearts content. She was deathly ticklish and try as she might, she couldn’t stop the tears that welled up in her eyes, accompanying her squeals of protest. Kicking her legs out, she aimed for his knee but missed miserably, the unbearable torture clouding her judgment.
“Now, now, love, that isn’t very nice,” he tsked, laughing at her pointed glare. “It’s quite simple really, all you have to do is surrender and this will all be just a bad memory,”
There was only one thing to do. “N-never,” she croaked out, biting her lip to keep from laughing as his ministrations doubled.
“Say it,” he taunted.
“N-no,” she laughed, twisting her face away, his own hovering just above her, paint dripping from the tips of his hair.
“Say it,” it was near unbearable. She couldn’t take anymore.
“I give! For the love of Merlin, Sirius, I give!” she cried, rolling out from underneath him when his hands stopped their ticklish torment.
Scrambling forward, she put as much distance as she could between them, gasping in between breaths. She hated the fact that he knew her weakness, but couldn’t muster up enough hostility to hate him for it. Sirius used things to his advantage whenever he could and it amazed her that he hadn’t been placed in Slytherin with the rest of his family. She supposed it was the playful and often mischievous part of his nature that had saved him from the manipulative wiles of Slytherin house. But then she couldn’t presume to know anything. The sorting hat had placed him in Gryffindor for a reason, and that reason was his heart. He was strong even when he was weak, because he never gave up. He always fought to the bitter end. No matter what traits of a Slytherin he may have, he was a Gryffindor through and through.
With a glare, she grabbed a leftover takeout box and chucked it at his head. He ducked it easily and stared back at her with an amused smile. “I hate you,” she pouted, throwing him scathing look before turning around to pick up another empty container.
“No you don’t,” he laughed, moving forward with ease, sidestepping the mess they had made earlier.
“Yes, I do,” she snapped, not believing a word that came out of her mouth.
“No, you don’t,” he repeated and she jumped, dropping the takeout boxes as his arms encircled her waist.
“Fine, I’ll humor you. Why don’t I hate you?” she asked, a small smile playing on her lips.
“Because you love me,” he said seriously. “Everyone does,”
Laughing, she spun around in his arms, turning to face him. “Everyone does not love you, Sirius,” she said as if she were talking to a small child.
With a dramatic pout that served to make her laugh harder, he replied. “They do too,” but she could tell from the twinkle in his eyes that he didn’t mean it. “I’m loveable,”
“As snuffles maybe,” she snorted, ducking underneath his arms and scooting out of the way. “But as you,” at this she turned and looked him up and down, laughing despite herself at the sight he made covered in paint. “Not so much,” she shrugged indifferently, smirking at the look on his face.
“Liar,” he challenged, creeping forward.
“I am not!” she laughed. “I’m only telling the truth. As a dog you are quite lovable but as a person, well that’s another matter entirely,” she smiled teasingly at him before turning around and making her way to the front door.
With a flick of her wand, the painted mess on the floor vanished and she sighed in relief, grateful that the paint sticking charm they used hadn’t applied to the floor. She’d exerted herself more than she ever had this morning and by god, was she dying for a coffee. She needed her caffeine fix.
A loud bark made her jump and she whirled around. Rolling her eyes at the large dog in the middle of the room, splattered patches of bronze paint attached to its fur, she laughed. “Well come on then Snuffles, I want a coffee and you know how I get when I don’t get my coffee,” with a bark and wag of his tale, he barreled after her.
Maybe her day wouldn’t be so bad, at least not until it came time for dinner.
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