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the present by timeturner
Chapter 14 : Singing Frogs and Peppermint
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 44

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the present
Chapter Fourteen: Singing Frogs and Peppermint

Hermione entered the house in a daze. The quietness reached the edges of her senses but she couldn’t quite discern what it meant. Was everyone gone? How long had she been with Draco?

She shuffled out of her cloak, letting it drop to the floor. She tried in vain to wipe the tears from her face but they just refused to stop falling. She stood in the hallway, her eyes darting several directions as if she had no idea which way to go.

“Mum?” Juliette slid her tiny fingers into Hermione’s hands, pulling her into the parlor. “Are you okay?” Hermione sank down into a chair, pulling her daughter into her lap. She buried her face in the pile of hair at Juliette’s neck, hiding her tears from view. She rocked her gently, more to appease herself than her daughter.

“Hey,” Sirius’ deep voice and his soft touch on Juliette’s leg caused them both to look up. “Juliette and I have a movie date in the parlor. Why don’t you go on up to bed? There’s no telling when our movie marathon might end.”

Hermione nodded her thanks and watched in silence as Sirius took Juliette’s trusting hand in his and led her away. She expected him to look back, to at least check on her but he never did. She was temporarily incensed at his lack of concern for her but then thought better of it. It wasn’t lack of concern but profound concern…he somehow understood that the last thing she wanted was for her daughter to witness the collapse in her world. Hermione smiled briefly, wondering if this is what he had done for James…taking little Harry away on adventures to keep him out of the myriad of horrors that must have filled the Potter household.

She traipsed to her bedroom in a drunken state, almost unable to contain the emotions welling within her. Ron, Harry, Draco….why was it they all felt the need to run off and save the world? Just once, couldn’t someone decide to save her?

She dropped to the bed, curling herself into the tightest ball she could manage. She rolled to her side, her eyes drifting across the shadows playing on her walls. They change shape as she watched them…from one horrible image to another until she finally could see nothing but a deep purplish black all around her. She squeezed her eyes shut and opened them again, a faint light from the bath causing her head to clear. She move toward it, a soft familiar scent making the tension in her neck to release immediately. Peppermint.

She stepped into the bathroom, the wafts of peppermint seeming to drift intermittently through a thick bluish white cloud that was hanging inches above the tub. Tiny stars floated inside it, flittering almost like pixies as the cloud slowly turned. She stepped forward, unable to resist running her hand through the cloud. It was warm and silky, almost like slipping on a coat of baby oil. She reached for the glass of wine perched on the edge of the tub, letting its fruity aroma wash over her as she slipped off her clothes. She stepped in the tub slowly, trying to avoid disturbing the cloud but then, as an afterthought, chided herself and remembered that enchantments were going to disappear just because she disturbed them. She sank into the steamy water, gently caressing the sweet blush camellias that were floating in the top of the water. They were her favorite things and only one person could have known them…Juliette.

That her daughter would go to so much trouble for her caused a trickle of happy tears to fall. It didn’t take long, though, for her to realize that she could not have done this alone. She had solicited Sirius’ help…or he had asked Juliette for her mother’s favorite things. Either way, she warmed to the thought that the two of them had become so close. She could almost envision the two of them in the bath, Sirius trying to enchant things while Juliette waved her wand recklessly, pouting because she thought she could do it best herself. It bothered her momentarily to think that Sirius could read her so well, that he had somehow know how desperately she was hurting right now but it also made her weak, wishing and longing for the friendship she had had with Harry, Ron and Ginny. They had know everything about each other and, oftentimes, knew things they probably shouldn’t. But they were her family and being without them had never hurt quite so much before.

Hermione peered around the door to the parlor, the quietness of the room catching her off guard. She wasn‘t sure how long she had stayed in the tub but had come down still expecting them to be watching movies. She stopped at the door, though, the dim static coming from the television casting an eerie glow over the room.

Sirius was stretched out the length of the couch, one leg dangling crookedly at the knee for lack of room. Juliette, her tiny frame dwarfed by his, was lying on his chest, a tiny wet spot of drool on his shirt indicating she had been asleep for quite some time. Hermione leaned against the doorframe, watching them intently, wondering if Juliette would ever feel quite so comfortable with any other man. It wasn‘t just that she had brought him back…there was some connection between them that she couldn‘t quite define. She had thought it was perhaps Grimmauld but watching them now she knew it had to be something much deeper. Their mannerisms, their magical abilities, their general arrogant feisty take on life…they were like two sides of a coin that had somehow been unfathomably split. Even in sleep, his arm resting protectively around her tiny body and Hermione couldn’t help but feel a twinge of jealousy…when was the last time she had felt so safe?

“Sirius,” she touched his shoulder, “might I have my daughter back?”

He turned a groggy smile her direction, rubbing his eyes. “Sorry. James always said I had a bad habit of corrupting children.”

“You weren’t letting her watch bad movies, were you?”

“Yes, the butterflies and singing frogs were just dreadful,” he answered seriously. He shuffled gently to move out from underneath Juliette. “Should we leave her or carry her on to bed?”

“Just get her a blanket and her rabbit if you would.”

Sirius obliged, conjuring it easily, pulling the blanket over her and tucking the yellow rabbit snugly under her arm.

Hermione bent down to kiss her, her fingers instinctively circling around the locket on her neck. It was the first time since Sirius’ return that she had seen it. She knew Juliette wore it at all times but she kept it safely hidden beneath her clothing. That is had been pulled out and openly displayed for Sirius aroused not only her curiosity but her jealousy as well. She tried to turn it over but Sirius grasped her hand gently and firmly in his own. Their eyes met and she immediately felt guilty…this was not her secret to know.

“Come on, I’ll walk you to bed,” she tugged him forward with a smile. “Not that I could catch you if you fall, but—“

“You are determined to be polite nonetheless,” he chuckled. “A guest in my own house…some things never change.”

She paused on the steps, the deep tone of his voice catching her off-guard. “I didn’t mean it like that.”

“I’m not very sociable in the middle of the night,” he apologized. “I’ll be my regular chipper self in the morning.”

‘Hm,” she murmured, not quite believing him. She took the hand he offered as they continued up the stairs. He slowed slightly as they reached the landing, allowing her to link her arm into the crook of his. He said nothing, though, and Hermione couldn‘t keep her thoughts at bay. “Aren’t you going to ask if I’m okay?”

He looked at her puzzled for a second. “No, should I?”

“It’s generally the thing one does after the scene I made earlier.”

“I rarely get along with societal rules. I figure if you aren’t okay you’ll tell me. Otherwise, it wastes way too much brain power to contemplate what might bring a woman like you to tears.”

She frowned and tilted her head, giving him a disapproving glare. “I’m not entirely certain that’s a compliment.”

“Astute of you,” he stopped at his doorway and turned a softer, more gentle look her direction. “Would you like to stay with me tonight?”

She wasn’t sure how she knew he meant it platonically--that he had no intention of bedding her this evening-- but she did and it was the most warming feeling she’d had in years. She nodded and stepped in before him, a wave of uncertainty washing over her. She wasn't sure if it was the tousled state of his bed sheets or the array of clothing he had stacked haphazardly on a dresser, but something tugged at her and told her she was invading his normally private world. He stepped around her easily, dropping onto the bed fully clothed. He rubbed his face, drawing his hands above his head and letting them rest across his forehead.

"I promise I won't attack you if you want to get undressed," she answered as calmly as she could manage as she slipped out of her robe and placed it at the foot of the bed.

"Too tired," he murmured, his voice already tinged with the grogginess of half sleep.

Hermione smiled and, without asking, removed his shoes so he could at least be a bit more comfortable. Climbing onto the bed she lay near the edge, unwilling to make him regret his invitation. She lay still, watching his chest move up and down with heavy breath and silently wondered how close she could get without disturbing him. She had no idea the last time he shared a bed with anyone and she didn't want to chance making him even more uncomfortable at Grimmauld.

"Come here," he chuckled softly and out stretched one of his arms so that she could roll onto his chest. She scooted in to him, resting her head in the tiny niche between his shoulder and chest.

"Mm," he rubbed her hair softly then, in near exhaustion, she could feel his arm fall to rest lightly on her arm, "peppermint."

She suppressed the giggle she felt coming on and instead snuggled deeper into his chest. "Good night, Sirius."

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