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Chapter 13 : Indications of Truth
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Indications of Truth
“You just getting in?”
Sirius sank down into a dining room chair and accepted the warm coffee Remus offered him. He nodded as he let the lukewarm liquid draw him awake. “Yes, father.”
“I didn’t mean it like that,” Remus offered with a grin. It was impossible not to grin…Sirius’ tousled hair, sleepy eyes, and half unbuttoned shirt were classic signs that he had apparently had a wild evening. As if he had any doubt, rose colored lipstick stains on his collar shown brightly under the room’s chandelier proving at least some tempestuous encounter had befallen his friend. “I just thought I’d get you some breakfast if you hadn’t eaten.”
Sirius nodded gratefully and Remus conjured a steaming plate of sizzling ham and eggs. Before he even had a chance to take a bite, hot biscuits with a drizzling of honey poured over the top had appeared as well. He ate hungrily, a soft grin playing on his face as he shoveled the food in his mouth. “You’ll make someone a damn fine wife one day, Remus.”
“Sod off,” he returned good naturedly as he refilled his own mug. “Did Hermione desert you or did you leave her to fend for herself and catch her own way home?”
The silence that met his jovial question caused his eyes to narrow. He watched Sirius uneasily…he knew his question had been heard but Sirius avoided his gaze, his eyes seemingly transfixed by the yellow puddle of egg yolk that was invading his biscuits. Remus dropped his back against the chair, a feeling of déjà vu that he hoped would never happen again washing over him. He closed his eyes as visions of Sirius’ past caught up with him, the slight ding of silver against china causing the memories to fade in and out of view. He wanted to be sure…it had been so long since he’d seen Sirius’ mannerisms that he refused to take anything for granted. But no, he knew this was one thing he could never possibly get wrong. He exhaled heavily, his soul aching for the foolish path his friend was choosing to take….again.
“She loves him, I think,” he murmured, causing Sirius to look his direction. “I catch her looking at him once in awhile.”
“Who? Draco?” Sirius questioned innocently, as if he had paid no mind to either of them since his return to Grimmauld.
“Yes, Draco,” he answered, shaking his head. He twisted the napkin on the table and then, when that became obvious, he shuffled around the dishes Sirius had already picked clean. “Can’t say they make each other happy but there’s probably few things legal that make a Malfoy happy.”
Sirius paused with his fork in mid-air. It was unlike Remus to be so critical of anyone, much less someone he was entrusting secrets to. “You don’t think much of him, do you?” he asked quietly, watching him closely for some indication of the truth.
“I think,” Remus said lightly, forcing a smile onto his serious face, “that you are much too clever for me. But, I will say, it’s nice to have someone around to take him down a few notches.”
“Ah, you heard about that, did you?” Sirius shook his head. “I’m afraid I lost a bit of control there.”
“Sirius,” he chuckled, “that’s what you’re famous for.”
He raised his eyes in mock protest but warm feeling of friendship that quiet time with Remus brought him had filled his entire being. He joined in the laughter, feeling a freedom he hadn’t felt since before James and Lily’s death.
“So, you are really going to decorate this place for the holidays?” Remus asked with a sigh, his eyes drifting across the homey but rather dank surroundings.
“I promised Juliette,” he shrugged as if that settled it.
“Won’t it be hard?” Remus asked quietly, “I mean Christmas here, a real one…after all these years.”
Sirius wiped his mouth with the marigold colored napkin and dropped it to the table. “The past is done, Remus.”
He nodded, wondering if everything was as simple as Sirius always made it. “Tonks and I are off work for the holidays. So, if you’d like some help--”
Sirius scooted his chair back from the table. “Thought you’d never offer. Come on,” he clapped him on the shoulder, “let’s go find Juliette.”
“I think she was trying to transfigure Draco into a ferret while he slept,” Remus grinned mischievously. “I probably shouldn’t have told her that story.”
Draco leaned heavily against the rough hand carved doorframe, watching the lot of them decorate. Wide grins were plastered across each of their faces as the baubles floated around the tree, hanging themselves with perfect precision. Juliette, looking as if she was in training to be a seeker, was catching half the ornaments before they could reach their spots causing Remus to chase after her before she could squirrel them away. His eyes sought Hermione’s but she was observing the chase with an affectionate smile, and though her grin was only slight compared to the others in the room, he couldn’t help but think she radiated happiness. Draco couldn’t even remember the last time she was this happy and he grimaced visibly, wondering if Sirius had anything to do with it.
Remus had turned Juliette over to him and, to Draco’s chagrin, Sirius seemed to have no problem controlling her. They sat down on the floor together, both working together to decorate Crookshanks with brightly colored ribbons and tiny jingle bells. Hermione was scowling at them…but, not with the scowl he was used to receiving. It was more playful and friendly with only a hint of reprimand.
Draco eased back out of the doorway, his ears still ringing with laughter, his eyes still burning with the vision of Juliette’s stocking feet balanced on Sirius’ as he twirled her around the room in a Christmas dance. He had never known this kind of family -- one that wasn’t about regal traditions or family blood. It didn’t matter that he’d been there the day Juliette was born…he suddenly felt like an outsider, knowing he could never be part of that commonality.
“Draco?” Hermione’s soft voice caught him as he was walking away. “Aren’t you going to join us?”
He knew better than to try and explain himself to her and, instead, offered her a smile. “I was just thinking of some air. Will you join me?”
She glanced back into the room, the frivolity continuing in her absence as Remus began to sneak kisses from Tonks under the mistletoe. Her eyes met Sirius’ briefly and he offered her a wink of encouragement. Or, challenge….she couldn’t ever quite tell.
“Is everything all right?” she asked, tearing her attention from the scene and back to Draco. “I mean, are you all right? You seem a bit…out of sorts.”
Rather than reply, he grabbed their cloaks and pulled her into the wintry paths of the Grimmauld gardens. He buttoned her cloak for her, then slid his hand into the pocket as they traipsed slowly through the growing piles of snow.
“Hermione, do you remember the night of…” he hesitated, surveying her for some sense of her mental state. “Well, the night you learned about Ginny.”
“Of course,” she answered quietly. How could she possibly forget? That night had changed everything…it flooded their lives with a terror and disbelief that almost capsized them all.
His voice softened, his eyes willing her to look his direction. “You came to me that night. It was raining and lightning so hard we thought the storm would knock the walls of that place down.”
Hermione nodded without glancing his way, pulling away just far enough so that his hand slipped out of her pocket. “I remember.”
Draco stopped and pulled her to face him, unwilling to let her put a wall up between then again. “You asked me to go after Harry.”
“And you refused.”
“I wouldn’t leave you alone,” he corrected softly. “Just like Harry would’ve wanted.”
She wanted to chastise him…to tell him how much she wanted him to go after Harry and, at the same time, how much she wanted him never to leave her alone again. Why, of all times, he would’ve chosen then to remain beside her had plagued her for years…he was right about that. And, it seemed that since then he done nothing but run away from her each time things got too rough in their lives. He wasn’t a coward, she knew that. If was more as if he thought time apart would heal all wounds they seemed to deal each other. But, she couldn’t quite summon the courage of truth she needed and she bit her lower lip instead. “But--”
“Stop being so damn stubborn, Hermione! We both know I’m right.” He paused but only briefly. “You told me I made you feel safe.”
“I was scared and felt deserted,” she responded, dropping her head. “Everyone was off somewhere saving the world except you and I.” She hesitated then took a deep breath steadying breath. “It was a lifetime ago, Draco.”
“It was awkward,” he tried. “I…we were awkward and nervous and everything was new.” he admitted quietly, as if it hurt him to admit any fault. He touched her cheek gently. “We were together the first time that night and you’ve held that against me for years. You don’t have it say it out loud. I know it and fashioning me a fool that doesn’t understand gets us nowhere.”
Something about his touch emboldened her and she moved a pace away, stuffing her hands deep into her pockets. “What’s your point, Draco?”
“Sometimes what you think are mistakes aren’t…it’s the truth taking told of your life whether you like it or not.”
“I never said you were a mistake,” she shook her head. “And I never would say that.”
He tiled her chin to his, his eyes piercing into hers. “You never said I wasn’t either.”
She pulled away rather than respond, unwilling to give him what he wanted. She began walking away but his words made her stop and her stomach turn in knots.
“I have to leave.”
“Remus has asked me to take care of something for the ministry. I don’t know how long it will take but well, I’ll come back for Christmas no matter what. I already promised Juliette.”
Hermione nodded. It wasn’t as if this was the first time Remus had sent Draco off somewhere. But the finality of Draco’s words weren’t like any time before either. They had so many things they needed to talk about, how could he just walk away now? She glanced at him uncertainly, her fists tightening into little balls in her pockets. “Is it dangerous then?”
He deftly avoided her penetrating stare and, instead, slipped his arms around her easily, his hand rubbing gently over her head. “I know its bad timing. I know how hard the holidays are for you. We’ll have plenty of time to talk things out, Hermione.”
“Then it is,” she couldn’t keep the soft crack in her voice at bay.
He couldn’t help but soften…he’d told himself the only way to leave her was to keep it business-like and non-emotional. However, the silent tears streaming down her face were more than he could take. Dark memories of his mother flittered through is mind…moments when she would fall apart at the choices she had been forced to make at the hands of his father. He hated seeing her cry then, and now Hermione’s tears made him feel much the same way. He’d always attributed his mother’s tears to weakness…over time, though, he’d learned the hard way that her tears for him were merely the release of her frustrations and worries. The actions she’d taken to keep him safe displayed more courage than his father ever dreamed of having. He pulled Hermione into the hollow of his chest in a way he could never have done with his mother. Her sobs caused both of their bodies to shake uncontrollably and her tiny arms wrenched tightly around his waist, her slightest touch reminding him why he hated to leave.
“This isn’t permanent…it’s just another mission. I will come back,” he promised softly, his husky voice causing his own emotions to spin out of control. He took a deep shuddering breath as he tried to calm himself. “I’m not going anywhere, all right?” he brushed his lips against her tear stained face then moved inches away. She still wouldn’t meet his gaze and he wiped away what tears he could before kissing her with the strong reassurance he knew she needed. “I’m not everyone else…I’m not walking out.”
Author’s Note: Yippee! New bannner, new chapter…few new twists in the works…did you see any of them hinted at here? There’s at least three…let me know what you think :) And thanks for sticking with me and all the wonderful questions and reviews, I appreciate them all! Oh, and please please forgive me for any spelling and grammar errors (but do point them out) I was just so excited to get this posted!
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