Sirius half ran and half slid to his uncle’s side. Blood had already pooled around his withered frame causing Sirius to wonder just how long he’d been there waiting. He ripped off the cloak, the blood stained shirt causing Cat to gasp from somewhere nearby. Sirius’ eyes roamed over his body but the numerous cuts and punctures were almost impossible to distinguish. Taking his hands, his uncle guided him to the deep, potentially fatal, wound in his chest. Without hesitating, Sirius ripped open the shirt, grabbed the clean towels Cat had retrieved and pressed them into his uncle’s skin.
“What can I do?” Cat asked, her voice stronger than either had expected.
“Tend to breakfast,” Sirius answered distractedly as he threw open the latch on his school trunk with a nonverbal spell and then began riffling through the contents.
“No, I mean –"
“Cat,” his uncle’s pain-filled voice was as gentle as he could manage. “He can’t worry about both of us at the same time. Tend to breakfast and keep yourself out of sight. He’ll come for you when he’s able.”
With only a momentary glance backwards, Cat hurried out of the room.
“Sirius, I need you to find Dumbledore.”
“No.” Sirius pulled out the tin container of Remus’ balm he’d been looking for and began applying it to the less deadly wounds. He couldn’t explain the feeling in the pit of his stomach that told him Dumbledore was somehow responsible for this. Had he not asked about him, Sirius would never have known they knew each other. But something told him Dumbledore was not to be trusted, that he had his own agenda, and he was the last person Sirius was going to resort to for help.
“Thank you,” his uncle said quietly as the balm healed the abrasions and lessened some of his excruciating pain. “But it’s not enough, Sirius. You have to fetch him.”
“Do you trust me?” Sirius backed away from him quickly, grabbing his cloak off the rack.
“Of course, but Sirius –"
“I’ll be back,” as an afterthought he grabbed the pitcher of water and sat it beside his uncle. “It won’t take long.” He hesitated, wanting to cling to his uncle…wanting to sit with him while someone bigger, older, and more responsible went for help. But he knew better than to expect that and with one last glance, he hurried out of the room and into the dark summer night.
It took him mere moments to reach his destination…it wasn’t far and he had memorized all the shortcuts there even if he’d never actually visited the place. He paused, though, his hand in mid-air as he prepared to knock. He didn’t want to do this…he didn’t want to invade their quaint, blissful little world with his own agonizing tragic one. But he had no choice and he rapped loudly on the door with no thought to the lateness of the hour or the fear his appearance might instill on the unsuspecting inhabitants.
The door was opened slowly by a man near his father’s age wrapped in a plaid dressing gown. He had his wand drawn and a deep furrow over his brow. “What’s the meaning of this?”
“Mr. Potter, I need your help, sir,”
“Sirius Black?” A soft glow lit from the end of his wand as he strained to see through the darkness. “I haven’t seen you since –"
“I know. Sir, please,” Sirius’ voice broke. “I need you help. Can you come with me?”
He was unnerved by Sirius’ presence, Sirius could tell. Of course, Sirius thought silently, who wouldn’t be afraid of a late night visit from a Black? He cursed himself for thinking anyone would be willing to help him and he turned to leave.
“Sirius, wait-" he reached out and pulled Sirius back. “What’s happened, Sirius? Where are your parents?”
“They are gone for the weekend, sir. It’s not them. Please, I apologize but I have to hurry. I’m sorry I bothered you at all.”
“Dad, its okay,” James familiar sleepy voice, the one Sirius had awoken to almost daily for over a year, echoed from somewhere just behind his father. “Go with him.”
Mr. Potter glanced from one boy to the other and Sirius could hear the click of lost time reverberating in his brain. “I have to go,” he finally managed.
“Just a moment, Sirius, I’ll grab my cloak.”
Sirius led him to Grimmauld in silence, refusing to even tempt his good fortune and having James Potter as a roommate. When they reached the house, Sirius turned away from the main entrance and towards one of the secreted passageways. Mr. Potter’s unease was evident as Sirius opened the door.
“It’s best for you not to enter the main house,” Sirius explained apologetically. “My brother is home and has several friends over.”
“Certainly.” Although his voice was strong, Sirius was sure he heard him breathe a sigh of relief.
“Just this way,” Sirius said quietly, leading him through the corridors towards his room. Sirius hesitated at the door, afraid of what might be awaiting him, but as soon as it swung open James’ father sprung into action.
They acted as if they knew each other but neither seemed comfortable in saying so in front of Sirius. His uncle seemed relieved at his prescence, though, which assured Sirius that he’d done the right thing.
“Sirius, this is going to be a rather difficult wound to heal,” he turned away from Sirius’ uncle to face him. “I can do it,” he added hastily, seeing the fearfilled look in Sirius’ eyes, “but it’s probably best that you leave.”
“No,” his uncle’s voice, already stronger than when they arrived interrupted them.
“He’s just a boy!” he protested.
Sirius’ uncle shifted uncomfortably, his voice quiet. “No, he’s not…not in this household.”
Further protest was quelled and Sirius sat quietly as he watched James’ father work. He heard tormented screams of agony as the healing process began and Sirius forced himself to look away when tears began to stream down his uncle’s face. Rays of the sun were pouring into the room before James’ father finally turned to Sirius with a satisfied look.
“He needs rest, Sirius. He doesn’t need to be moved. When are your parents expected to return?”
“Not until late tomorrow.”
“That will be plenty of time. He’ll be his regular charming self within hours but you must keep him from moving, do you understand?”
“Yes, sir,” Sirius nodded, his eyes drifting to his uncle and his deep, peaceful slumber. “Thank you, sir.” Sirius extended his hand in thanks but a heavy weight rested down on his shoulder instead.
“Sirius, you did a very brave thing by coming to me tonight.”
“It was all I knew to do.” Sirius tried to make light of his comment but the penetrating gaze made him glance away.
“Are you all right, son?”
Sirius hesitated, caught off guard for one of the few times ever in his lifetime. The tenderness and caring from such a stranger made his heart wrench with longing. “Yes, sir,” he answered simply, afraid his voice would give away the emotions welling inside him.
“Take care of yourself, Sirius and if you ever need anything, I believe you know where to find me.”
“I’ll see you out.”
“That’s not necessary. Get some rest, Sirius, you look near a coma yourself.”
Sirius nodded and as he departed, Sirius went to find Cat. He had never been to her room and, in his exhausted state, it took him a few moments to figure out where his mother might have placed a muggle’s bedroom. He traveled quietly, for fear of garnering Regulus’ attention, but finally found her in one of the far wings that hadn’t been used in generations. Pushing past the cobwebs, he tapped lightly on the only door that seemed dust free.
“Cat, it’s me.”
She opened the door in a rush and pulled him inside, closing the door behind her. His eyes surveyed the sparsely furnished room without really taking in his surroundings. As if in a daze, he dropped heavily onto the metal cot. The thin cotton mattress and dingy sheets sunk with his heavy weight but he barely noticed the change. He stretched out and rubbed his face with his hands to try and wake up. “He’s alive.”
“Thank goodness,” Cat heaved a sigh of relief that seemed endless.
Having no strength to move, Sirius shifted his head to see her better. She wasn’t facing him and he could swear she was whispering a prayer from the tiny drop in her head. Her dingy floor length skirt hung loosely on her frame, wrinkles crisscrossing the fabric, its frayed edges brushing across the tops of her bare feet as she moved. Her white blouse, normally kept in pristine condition, was splotched with stains of grease and bits of unidentifiable crumbs. He knew it was from fixing breakfast…she had to have been so consumed with worry over his uncle’s condition that she became distracted from fulfilling her duties. He was thankful his parents weren’t around to witness whatever food she had managed to throw together and took comfort in the fact that Regulus had probably been too drunk to notice what it was anyway. He attempted to lift his arm but his muscles wouldn’t cooperate and it merely dropped just off the edge of the bed. “Come here,” he wiggled his fingers to try and get her attention.
“Oh, Sirius,” she sank down next to him, using a nearby blanket to wipe away some of the dried blood and sweat that were still clinging to his face and neck. “You look exhausted.”
“I’m a bit tired,” he nodded and gave her a lop-sided grin. “Look, I know you have questions, Cat…”
“You’re okay, you’re uncle’s okay,” she shook her head as she spoke. “Really, Sirius, it’s probably best that’s all I know.”
Sirius smiled and gave a tired laugh. “I was just going to say it’s probably safer for you not to know.” He stretched his hand underneath the pillows and gave a loud yawn. “Did Regulus ever get up?”
“Yes,” Cat’s voice was disgusted. “All of them. They ate everything in sight then passed back out in the drawing room.”
“Probably better that way,” he murmured as his hands latched onto something underneath her pillow. Sliding them out he fingered the colorful ribbons he had given her the summer before. They were tattered and a bit faded, but they still added color that was absent throughout Grimmauld. “You’ve got a pretty crappy room here, Cat,” he said as he tied the ribbons onto her wrist…the only part of her body he could reach without moving.
Cat glanced around as she helped him tighten the ribbons. “It is rather dismal but I don’t spend much time in here anyway.”
“Do you have any other clothes?” he asked, his words beginning to slur as his eyelids fluttered closed and then opened again as he fought sleep.
“Sirius,” Cat tugged his head back in place on the pillow. “We can talk later, get some rest.”
“No, they are all just like this.”
“We’ll go shopping then” Sirius murmured. “I hate that outfit. It makes you look like a damn orphan.”
He heard the catch in her breath but neither recognized or understood it. He did feel the gentle caress of her lips on his forehead though as he began to drift off.
“Wake me in an hour.”
“No, you need sleep.”
“I need to be with my uncle,” he countered tiredly. “Wake me in an hour.”