the present
Chapter Five: Existing

Hermione snuggled deeper under her covers, the wintry wind seeming to pierce through her room. She didn’t even want to guess at what time it was. Once she’d finally convinced Sirius to retire for the night, she climbed into bed with Juliette. The warmth of her daughter’s body so close to hers had given her strength and she wanted desperately to waken her so that they could share whispered secrets like they had in years past. But, she withheld her desires, realizing that at some point Juliette had turned to herself for strength rather than to her. The distance she hadn’t even realized had grown between them saddened Hermione and she had dropped off into a fitful sleep.

“Hermione?” The gentle weight of a body sinking into the bed made her peek out from under the covers. “Are you all right?”

Draco’s worried eyes made Hermione smile. “I’m fine. You shouldn’t worry so much.”

“If I’d known Remus was going to leave I never would’ve left. To think of you here alone with the likes of –"

“Stop, just stop right there.” Hermione sat up in the bed. “This is his house. We are his family. I know you don’t understand that, that you may never understand it. But he is not only welcome here…he belongs here.”

Draco leaned away from her slightly, the fire in her eyes confusing him. It had been years since he’d witnessed any emotion from her and not since their days at Hogwarts could he recall her being so protective of anyone but Juliette. Forcing himself to take her hand in his, he tried to calm his shattered nerves. He was so close to getting what he wanted…he couldn’t afford to have her angry with him now. He fingered the ring she was wearing as he touched her hand. Knowing that she still cared enough to wear it made him feel somewhat at ease and he kissed the back of her hand tenderly. “Then make me understand,” he offered quietly. “Just once, let me in, why don’t you?”

Hermione chewed her bottom lip unconsciously until he touched it slightly to make her take note of what she was doing. She intertwined her fingers with his. “Him being here, like this,” her voice cracked slightly as she spoke, “it just brings everything back.”

“You aren’t that scared little girl anymore, Hermione,” he offered quietly. “You can handle anything. I’ve seen you do it.”

He slipped down beside her, letting his arm rest lightly across her shoulders. “If you want me to move in here, I can.”

Hermione couldn’t suppress a smile. “Somehow, I don’t think having you and Sirius under the same roof will ease any of my fears, Draco. Besides, I think Juliette’s already grown quite attached to him.”

Draco frowned. “What do you mean?”

“She ran off with him first thing this morning. She wanted to make his breakfast.”

“You’ve left her alone with him?” Draco struggled up from the bed, pushing her aside. His mind whirled with what kind of dangers little Juliette could be facing. What would possess Hermione to leave her daughter alone with a murderer?

“Draco, wait!” Hermione scrambled after him, chasing him down the hallway towards Juliette’s room. She threw open the door to find both Sirius and Draco with their wands drawn. Juliette was sitting on the bed, an amused look on her face as she watched the two. Draco looked ready to kill but Sirius was watching him with a cocky, almost
challenging gaze.

“Don’t think you’ll get the jump on me twice in one lifetime, Draco,” he said, then turned a winning smile Hermione’s direction. “Good morning, Hermione. Have a nice rest?”

“Oh, put your wands down both of you!” Hermione ordered. “Your both acting like arrogant little kids.” She turned to Juliette. “Are you all right?”

“I’m fine, mum. But you should’ve seen Draco’s face,” she giggled. “He looked like a lobster.”

Hermione couldn’t suppress a smile and she touched Draco’s arm as she felt him stiffen. “He was just worried about you, honey,” she offered. “Sirius, you’re up early.”

Sirius winked as he lowered his wand. “And you, my dear, still need to get dressed.”

Hermione blanched. She had been so worried about getting to Draco before he did something crazy that she’d run through the house in nothing but her slip on. The pale pink fabric clung tightly to her and she flushed in embarrassment. Draco tried to push her behind him but with a move that even she had to admire, Sirius slid past him and offered her a robe. “I’ll see you two at breakfast, then?” He turned to face Draco, his head moving down slightly since he towered above him. “I assume we are done here, Draco?”

“Mr. Malfoy, thank you,” Draco hissed causing Hermione to grip his arm even tighter.

“Yes, well, I’ll try and keep that in mind, Draco,” he laughed and turned away. He extended his hand to Juliette. “Come, Juliette, let’s see what mischief we can do to cause them to run like that again. It was amusing, wasn’t it?”

Juliette giggled again, taking his hand with childish security and disappeared through the door with him.

Hermione whirled on Draco as she pulled on the robe. “Draco, you can’t do this!”

“You left her alone with him, Hermione! Have you lost your mind?”

“Sirius is no more of a danger to him than you are. And you’d do well to remember that.” She tightened her robe as she fought to control her anger. The broken look on Draco’s face caused her heart to wrench and she pulled him to sit on the bed beside her. “I know you love her, Draco, but I promise you, Sirius is harmless. You can’t keep antagonizing him, though. You have to realize he doesn’t know who you are. All he remembers is a death eater’s son that caused hell for Harry.”

Draco’s hand reached instinctively to his forearm, as if the decades old dark mark had inflamed once again. Hermione covered his hand with hers. “Don’t do that. Don’t let yourself go back to that time again, even in memories,” she whispered. “You are not that person anymore. He’ll come to learn that. Just like you’ll come to learn what a wonderful person he truly is.”

Hermione leaned toward him, her lips brushing gently against his. His hands slipped around her face, cupping it in his as if he needed her strength to keep him stable. He kissed her tenderly until wet tears began to roll down her face. He cursed himself. “I’m sorry, Hermione.”

He drew away but held tight to her hand. “We’ll make it through, just like we’ve made it through everything else.”

“Existing isn’t living,” Hermione mumbled. “Or so my daughter tells me.”

“Yes, well, she’s too smart for her own good,” he grumbled smiling. “Come on, let’s get that breakfast they offered and I swear to behave. But if Remus shows up and the two of them gang up on me, I swear, I’m going to have your hide.”

Hermione laughed and kissed his cheek softly. “Deal.”

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