Chapter 6 : Still A Boy
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Still A Boy
Sirius had no idea how he made it back to Grimmauld. He didn’t remember much until he dropped to the floor at the front entrance to the house. Regulus had tried to help him up but a few well ordered commands from his father and Regulus had run off. Sirius tried to stand but he still had no strength. Reaching his hand to his face, Sirius wiped off the trickles of blood that were burning into his fresh cuts and scratches. Distant memories of laughing and joking with James on the Hogwarts Express glossed over his mind…it seemed like years ago rather than mere hours.
“Perhaps they persuaded you why Slytherin is the best house for someone like you?” his father growled menacingly as Sirius once again tried to get to his feet. “You would do good to learn why there’s no comparison to a pureblood.”
“There are purebloods in Gryffindor,” Sirius said quietly, grabbing the stair railing to keep his balance as he stood.
His father loomed over in him an instant. “How dare you! You dirty, filthy, little ingrate! Haven’t we taught you how important being a pureblood is?”
Sirius fell to the stairs, cursing himself for saying something so stupid. He knew better, didn’t he? Why did he always have to open his mouth? His blurry eyes drifted upwards, wondering how he was ever going to make it up the stairs and into the safety of his bedroom before his mother appeared and joined in the tirade. A slight movement caught his eyes and he strained to see who was there.
Cat. Peering around the corner, twisting her skirt in anxiety, tears streaming down her face, she looked desperate to run to him. Sirius’ eyes met hers for the briefest instant, and he knew how bad he must look. As if his eye contact strengthened her, Cat’s eyes blazed through her tears and she took a step out of the shadows.
“No!” Sirius yelled violently and Cat moved back to safety as his father yanked him up off his feet by his hair.
“You dare tell me no!” His voice shook with anger. “Get out of my sight!” In one swift movement, he had shoved him into the stairs, a cracking sound echoing in Sirius’ ears. “Get to your room and don’t let me see you again, do you understand me?”
Sirius didn’t answer but tried to stand. It was impossible, though, as not a single part of his body was without pain. His arms trembled with exhaustion and fear, his legs still shaky from the confrontation. His chest rattled as he tried to breath and with each ragged intake of breath he doubled over as searing pains shot through his mid-section. Slowly, desperately, he began crawling up the stairwell. He wasn’t sure how long it took him to get to his room, but he refused to stop there. Leaning against the walls for support, he dragged himself into the passageways and into his secreted room. He collapsed to the floor, taking deep breaths to try and calm himself. Lying down only made it harder to breathe, though, and he pulled himself up to sit against the wall. Pulling his knees into his chest, Sirius tried to bury the emotions that were beginning to drown him.
“Sirius?” Cat’s voice seemed miles away as he drifted in and out of consciousness.
“He didn’t see you, did he?” Sirius tried to wipe the sticky blood off his face.
“No.” Cat took his hands in hers and pulled off her apron to wipe off the remaining blood. “I’ve contacted your uncle, he should be here soon.”
“You shouldn’t have done that. It will only make things worse.”
“Let him worry about that,” her voice was sharp.
“Are you mad at me too?” he asked quietly, refusing to look at her.
“Oh, Sirius!” Cat pulled him into her arms, ignoring his winces and yelps of pain. “You protected me, how could I be mad at that?”
“No, I mean about Slytherin.”
Even through his blurred vision, he could see the same fire he had noticed earlier. It was like nothing he’d ever encountered before and as much as it intrigued him, it scared him more.
“Why on earth would I care about that?” Cat shook her head. “You are who you are, Sirius. Not whoever it is they want you to be.”
Even through his pain, Sirius could hear the bitterness in her words. “You are learning to hate them, aren’t you?”
“They are your family. They have provided me a home,” she answered carefully.
“It’s okay, Cat,” a somber voice said from behind them. “You can hate them.”
Cat slid out of the way as his uncle knelt beside him and began checking his wounds. His touches were hesitant, as if he was afraid to find out exactly what damages had been inflicted on his favorite nephew. “Rough night, Sirius?”
Sirius couldn’t stifle the laughter his uncle’s mundane question brought. Bolts of pain shot through him, though, and he doubled over.
His uncle nodded. “You’ve cracked your ribs.”
“He didn’t – " Cat’s words were cut off with a meaningful glare from his uncle.
“Will you tell us what happened?”
The odd tone in his uncle’s voice caught Sirius off guard. Just yesterday he had been ordering Sirius around, forcing him to discuss things he would have preferred to keep private. But now, for some reason Sirius couldn’t quite understand, he was asking for Sirius to share with him, confide in him, and recount the night’s events.
He wasn’t sure how long it took him to tell them the whole story…he kept fading in and out of consciousness and they would have to shake him back to the present. Cat’s furious remarks at his father would stop the conversation cold and his uncle would have to gently prod them back on topic. Since Sirius couldn’t remember much of anything from Hogsmeade or coming home, Cat filled in what she knew from over-hearing his parents talk and what she saw from the stairwell.
“I’m sorry you had to see these things, Cat,” his uncle said softly when the story had been re-told. He had moved a pace away from Sirius, his hand resting lightly on Sirius’ shoulder but his gaze was fixed on Cat.
“What?” Cat whirled on him. “What kind of response is that? He’s sitting her bleeding to death and – "
“He is not bleeding to death. You do tend to over react, don’t you?” His uncle smiled and patted Sirius lightly. “I think Sirius would probably agree with me to say he got off easy considering.”
Sirius nodded tiredly, not wanting to meet Cat’s protective gaze.
“First Black ever to not be in Slytherin,” he murmured shaking his head with a gentle loving laugh. “When you decide to make a mark, Sirius, you make a big one.”
“Will you stop making fun?” Cat said harshly. “What kind of horrid place is this?”
His uncle started to reply but Sirius cut him off. “It’s my home,” he murmured.
His uncle apparently approved of his answer because he stood up. “Cat, can you watch over him without getting caught? I have some damage control to do it seems. Sirius, I’ll be back in a few hours. Try and get some rest and we’ll get you to a healer as soon as you get back to Hogwarts.”
“Hogwarts?” Sirius shook his head. “They aren’t ever going to let me go back there.”
“Let me worry about that. You just rest for now.”
Sirius stretched out on the pillows as soon as his uncle had gone. His eyes closed but, for some reason, the quiet rest he had craved moments before now eluded him. He turned a tired gaze to Cat. “Are you really okay?”
Rather than answer, she stretched out beside him, her nose inches from his. “Now I understand,” she said softly. “I understand why you are the way you are. Why you act like an adult half the time. Why you are worried about me instead of curled into a ball sobbing your heart out.”
“My uncle was right…I got off easy,” he murmured. “It can only get worse from here.”
She didn’t answer and instead took his hand tightly in hers, pulling it up to lie between their faces. “Are you hurting, is there anything I can do?”
“No,” Sirius forced a smile. “I’ll be fine. You can bet no Slytherin will ever get the jump on me again.”
“Even a half dozen of them?”
Sirius’ eyes darkened. “Even a half dozen of ‘em.”
“Must you always be so tough?” Cat’s normal inquisitive voice had taken on a softer tone that pained Sirius more than his ribs. He knew he’d hurt her…he wasn’t sure how, but a quick look into her eyes and the clouded inkiness of blue told him it was true.
“What have I done?” he asked her confused. “Please don’t be mad at me.” His voice was weak, almost pleading but Sirius didn’t care. He just couldn’t stand the thought of anyone else being mad at him.
Cat didn’t move but she didn’t answer either. Sirius could almost see her thoughts tumbling out of control as she watched him. I’ve lost my only friend, Sirius’ mind became dark with the thought. The heavy silence tore at his soul and he fought the tears he could feel coming on. He wanted to hold her gaze until she answered him…more than anything he’d ever wanted in his entire life, he wanted to know what was going through her mind at this very moment… but his energy was flagging and the pain was once again becoming unbearable. He could feel himself fading away even as he sensed his uncle’s return.
“Be patient with him, Catarina. Underneath it all he’s still a boy.” His uncle’s voice seemed hollow and miles away. Sirius struggled to stay awake but no matter his resolve, his mind shut down.
When Sirius awoke she was gone. His uncle was watching him closely and seemed to breath a sigh of relief as Sirius’ eyes fluttered open.
“Sirius, can you hear me?” Sirius nodded, his eyes trying to scan the darkest corners of the room. “I sent her away, Sirius,” his uncle answered the unasked question. “Would you like me to call her back?”
Sirius shook his head. He couldn’t stand to see her again. The look of hurt or disappointment or whatever Cat had felt was too much for him to bear. He’d let his family down from the moment he was born – he’d never expected to see anything but ridicule in their eyes. He’d grown immune to their punishing looks years ago but Cat? Sirius never knew a simple glance could hurt so much. The one friend he had in the whole world and he’d lost her and still didn’t know why.
“Sirius?” a worried voice cut into his self pitying thoughts. “Sirius, please say something.” His uncle’s words were urgent now and he shook him gently.
“I’m sorry,” Sirius managed before the tears he had so gallantly been fighting broke free. His body shook as years of hurt and resentment poured out in heartbreaking sobs, forcing him to strain for ragged breaths as his emotions swirled out of control. Rushing to his side, his uncle scooped Sirius’ wilted and broken frame into his strong arms. He pulled Sirius into his lap, rocking him soothingly as the hysterical tears continued to fall.
“I’ve failed you. I did this. I caused this. I thought I was doing right.” His uncle’s anguished words caused Sirius to cry even harder. “For God’s sake, Sirius, what have I done?”
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