Author's Notes: Here we are, with the very last ficlet! Thanks for reading; I hope you enjoyed this little set. :)
Of Frogs and Princesses
Prompt: 015 – Loch Ness Monster
Word Count: 1,316
"Can you hear that?" Remus hears Sirius ask. He remains silent for a moment as he listens, and then he shakes his head in the darkness. There are so many sounds that night that he doesn't know to which one Sirius is referring.
"What is it?" Remus inquires.
Remus is almost too tired to laugh, but he manages to give a feeble chuckle anyway. "I suspect that there are many frogs outside, Padfoot. A creek runs through the woods, and there's a pond if you follow it long enough."
"This frog sounds different," Sirius insists, and they pause once more to listen.
At length, Sirius sucks in his breath with a hiss. "There it is again," he mutters, though Remus hasn't heard anything unusual. "Could you show me where the creek is? I don't reckon I can find it on my own."
Remus sits up in his bed, suddenly more awake. "What are you going to do to it?" he queries suspiciously.
He can almost make out Sirius's shoulders as he shrugs. "I dunno. I just want to find it."
After deliberating, he decides that it can't hurt to partake in a late-night excursion. His father has set up a protective barrier—magical, of course—around their property, and he knows for a fact that the pond is near its center, so they're bound to be safe. (And if Sirius, for whatever reason, decides to do something to the frog, then Remus will be there to stop him.)
"Okay," he agrees. "Just don't wake my parents when you come down the stairs. The last step creaks."
"I won't make a sound," Sirius promises earnestly.
Together, they carefully and quietly tiptoe out of Remus's room and into the outside corridor. From there, they can hear the subtle snores for which Remus's father is known drifting from the bedroom that's behind the last door. They exchange an amused glance—because this sort of thing never gets old—and at once start down the stairs. Remus holds his breath when they reach the bottom, but Sirius keeps his promise; they both make a point of jumping over the last step.
Soon, they've made it outside into the summer air, which is warm and still. But it's a clear night, and that compensates thrice over for the heat which is settling upon them. Above, the sky is of the deepest black that Remus has ever seen, even compared to nights in which there are full moons and everything is intensified.
Beside him, Sirius suddenly stops and tilts his head upward. A silent gasp escapes his lips, for there are millions upon millions of pinpricks of light gleaming down at them. From where they are, just outside of Remus's house, they're surrounded on all sides by tall pine trees that stretch up to meet the stars. From where they stand, looking up, the trees seem to form a circle that holds the sky together. It's almost more magical than Hogwarts.
"Bloody hell," Sirius breathes at last. "I didn't know there were so many." The light is so intense, so ethereal, that it seems to stain locks of his hair blue. "Mum never did like stars much. Obviously, it wasn't left up to her to name me."
Remus doesn't know how to respond; he never does when Sirius talks about his family. So he pretends to concentrate deeply upon the sky as if nothing needs to be said.
A minute passes, and then another.
"So where's this creek, then?" Sirius asks, suddenly snapping out of his reverie.
Remus returns his gaze and his thoughts back down to Earth.
"We should be seeing it soon," he says. "I don't know where it originates, but it passes fairly close to the edge of the woods." He pauses. "It isn't very far."
Just as he has said—because he's lived here long enough to have explored everything within reach—they can hear the gentle flow of the creek after traveling only four more paces. It's colder, now that they have begun to pass beneath the trees and are nearing water, and Remus unconsciously draws his arms around himself.
Sirius steps ahead of him, and Remus allows himself to fall behind. The former seems to have decided that he knows where he's going now, even if he's never been here before. Remus knows this feeling, though; he knows that here, it's like the woods whisper into the ears of the passers-by, guiding them wherever they'd best like to go. So he's glad, not only that he doesn't have to lead anymore, but that he knows someone else can sense this magic as well.
They are careful where they step as they follow the bends and turns of the creek. Sometimes, when they step too close to it, their bare feet sink into the sodden earth and their feet are splashed by the cold droplets they disturb. As Remus muses to himself, he compares this to a balancing act. But unlike a balancing act, it's still rewarding when they step out of line.
They've only been walking a short while when a loud, peculiar-sounding croak fills the night air, drowning out the cricket symphonies and the owls who hoot and perch unseen amongst the trees. It's difficult for Remus to pinpoint what it is that's so abnormal about the sound; perhaps it's the pitch, or just the volume. Whatever it is, though, it doesn't at all disguise the fact that what they've been searching for has been found.
Sirius slows and creeps forward. Somehow, he knows precisely whence the sound came, and knows how to capture that which created it. Remus wonders whether dogs have exemplary vision at night.
Suddenly, a twig snaps as Sirius surges forward, his hands outstretched. Then there's another croak and a yell of triumph.
"I've got him!" Sirius exclaims. "Come and see!"
Remus obliges. Carefully, he maneuvers his way into the trees and to the edge of the creek where Sirius is squatting. He lowers himself to his knees, feeling the outline of a leaf pressing onto his leg.
Sirius holds out his cupped hands and unfurls his fingers, one by one. They're dripping, and his thumb is coated in an uneven layer of mud.
"Odd thing, isn't he?" Sirius comments.
The frog sits upon his palms, not moving except when it takes a new breath. It's green, as far as Remus can see, and small enough to be caught in Sirius's hands in the first place. A stripe of an indistinguishable color runs down its back, and above its eyes are two points, like minute horns. Apart from that, it's just like any other frog Remus has found here.
"Are you sure this is the one?" he asks.
Sirius nods. "Yeah. I didn't see any others." Then, unexpectedly, he chuckles. "Kiss it, Moony!" he jokes, holding it eyelevel with Remus. "Maybe it'll turn into a princess!" He laughs, and Remus can't help but join in. Sirius himself is just so infectious.
Suddenly, though, Remus frowns. "I'm afraid I'm not really one for princesses. Nor frogs, for that matter. So I don't think I'd enjoy a kiss from either one."
"Got someone else in mind, have you?" Sirius teases.
Remus says nothing; rather, he becomes all too aware of how hot it is. He looks away.
"You have!" Sirius cries gleefully. "Who is it, Moony? Somebody I know?"
And then Remus surprises himself. He leans forward, steadying himself with one hand as his fingers graze the ground, and he quickly kisses Sirius on the lips, like he could—but hasn't done—with any girl.
"I, ah… I expect…" Remus fumbles to find the right words.
"I suspect I'm a better kisser than the frog," Sirius adds, and there's a strange, almost husky tone to his voice.
But it's a strange night, Remus decides.
And very soon, the frog is forgotten.