Although she could have stayed with her friends from day one, Ava had felt that she had to at least stay with her parents, whom she had, after all, not seen in a very long time, for a while. But despite her good resolutions, Ava had had enough of her parents after only a few hours at home, and was therefore very thankful when two weeks into the holidays an owl arrived bringing a letter from Lily, telling her that she was welcome anytime. Ava immediately packed her bags, and left home the same day.
The holidays could have been fun from then on, had it not been for the constant worry about Sirius. Lily’s parents were wonderful people, extremely nice and always trying to make Ava feel welcome, and Ava felt regretful knowing that they didn’t understand why she so rarely smiled, and never laughed. But she could never quite get her thoughts away from Sirius, her best friend, the best friend whom she loved more than anyone else in the world, and who was now stuck with his horrible parents in his horrible home. She thought regretfully about the promise she had given him, the promise that now kept her from racing over to Grimmauld Place and get Sirius away from there, not matter what the cost. But she was still sensible enough to know that doing this would eventually lead to Sirius being in even bigger trouble with his family, and she did not want to cause that.
She was glad that Lily wasn’t at all opposed to accepting James’ invitation to come over to his house for a permanent visit after another week. And so they packed their bags and moved into the Potter’s comfortable guest room, which, with its two beds and large windows, provided the best place to live during the holidays imaginable. If only Sirius had been there – Ava would have been wanting nothing.
But she was glad that she was away from her parents, that she was with the Potters. It was here that she felt the most distracted, and thus, as far as it was possible, the happiest, and more welcomed than she had ever felt at home. James’ parents, still as caring and nice as she remembered them, seemed to love that the house was bursting these days – Remus was there always, too, and Peter, though coming less frequently than the others. The five of them tried to have as much fun as possible, but Ava noticed clearly that she wasn’t the only one affected by the thought of where Sirius was while they were on the sunny lawns playing Quidditch, or lounging around James’ pool, and the mood was never quite cheery.
They were less than half way into the summer when all that changed.
Ava was trashing about wildly in her bed in the guest room she shared with Lily, muttering angrily and fearfully in her half-sleep. Nightmares of Regulus and the other Slytherins torturing her had ceased to bother her as soon as she had returned to Sirius, but now they had come back full force; only this time the victim kept switching between being herself and Sirius. She was sweating; the sheets tangled tightly around her frantically moving body.
Even though she was making quite a lot of noise herself, and even though the clattering of the rain on the roof hadn’t woken her up – when a faint knocking sound reached her ears, she suddenly sat up in bed so fast her head spun, wide awake.
She listened intently, her eyes wide open. It was raining heavily, and it was pitch dark outside; she could not see a thing outside the window.
But there it was again – someone was faintly knocking on the front door.
Ava gulped, and hesitated for just a second. Then she shot out of her bed and stumbled towards the door, ripped it open and hurried past James’ bedroom and towards the staircase.
But the darkness made it impossible for her to see a thing, and she ran straight against the wall; a rather loud crashing sound resounding through the hallway.
Rubbing her forehead, she quickly pushed herself off the wall and made sure that she was standing properly, then was still and listened. Someone was bound to have been woken up by that.
Someone was. Seconds later, a pyjama-clad James opened his bedroom door, his hair, even messier than usually with sleep, barely visible in the darkness.
He leaned against the doorframe, rubbing his eyes, and squinted at her.
“Ava?” he yawned. “What the -”
And faintly, just barely audibly, there was another knock on the front door.
James almost tumbled to the floor in shock. “What’s going on?” she heard him mutter, he fumbled for something, muttered “Lumos” and a bright light erupted at the tip of the wand he was holding.
Grateful to be able to see properly, Ava made towards the staircase.
“Oi! Ava!” James ran after her, stopping her. “What are you doing?”
Again, a knock. Ava didn’t know how a knock could do that, but somehow it sounded scared and urgent. She made to push past James.
“Someone’s down there, James,” she hissed.
“Yes, and you have no idea who!”
She closed her eyes, trying to calm her breathing. “No I don’t. But I need to see.”
“Because James, I think – I don’t know, it’s just a feeling. All I know is that I have to see who this is now.”
“That is absolutely out of -”
Just then, hoarsely and faintly, the someone called out from the other side of the door. “Ava?”
James’ and Ava’s eyes widened simultaneously .The person’s voice had been filled with so much pain, so much terror, that it was almost unrecognizable. But only almost.
They flew down the staircase.
James unlocked the door with a charm, then pressed down the handle and threw the door open.
“Hey,” said Sirius. “It’s me.”
And then he collapsed against the doorframe.
Ava stayed awake the entire rest of the night, listening to the soft sound of Sirius’ now even breathing. She didn’t feel the hardness of the floor she slept on; she had not paid attention to James’ tired orders to sleep in her own bed. Tonight, nothing would make her leave Sirius’ side.
It had ceased to rain; and the moonlight was shining softly through the window, casting enough silver light into the room for her to be able to see Sirius when she propped herself up on her elbows. He was tucked tightly into James’ bed, and he was sleeping soundly, his ruffled black hair surrounding his head on the pillow. She could have stared at him for hours, but James and Lily, lying on the other side of the bed, always noticed and made her lie back down.
And so she did, closing her eyes, and listening to the quiet sound of his breathing, which, so ragged before, was now coming evenly.
She would be forever thankful that Mrs Potter had been able to heal Sirius’ cuts and bruises so fast and painlessly. She had said that he must have been out in the cold for hours; his clothing was soaked, his body shivering convulsively for half an hour after they had carried him into the house. They had been standing around them, cold with fear, James, Lily, Mr Potter and Ava, watching as Mrs Potter, who was a healer, worked on Sirius’ wounds and bruises that suggested horrible treatment. Ava didn’t want to think about what had been happening to him at the place he was supposed to call home, but the horrible thoughts forced themselves into her head, making her tremble with anger, making her feel horrible for having been safe and happy at James’ while he had been going through hell. Mrs Potter had forced a hot, steaming liquid down his throat that had thrown his unconscious body into a coughing fit, but his breathing had evened afterwards, and his burning forehead returned to a normal temperature slowly. It had taken almost an hour; but finally Mrs Potter, her face streaked with tears, had declared him dry and, considering the circumstances, healthy. So they had brought him upstairs and tucked into James’ bed, and Ava, though urged to return to her own bed by the Potters, had positioned herself on the floor beside his bed. James and Lily had done the same, and even though Mrs Potter told them to do otherwise, the slights signs of a smile that appeared on her face suggested that she appreciated how much they cared for Sirius. Ava had seen how much the events of the night had torn at her; she had looked pale and sadder than ever. Sirius was like a son to her, and seeing him slumped in her doorway had almost cost her all her strength. Mr Potter’s face, too, as he looked down at the sleeping form of Sirius, had been marked with a concern so deep Ava was able to feel, if not happy, sort of content, because she knew that in a way, Sirius did have a family.
But nevertheless she didn’t think that anyone of them felt as deeply as she did. All her senses were alert for any of Sirius’ movements, and each time his breathing became a little faster or a little slower, every muscle in her body tensed. She didn’t feel angry yet, she knew that would come later, but the shock of seeing him collapse, beaten and bruised, had been too deep for her to feel anything but a sort of horrible terror for hours, until she had finally been sure that he was safe, and relief had finally set in.
She didn’t know what she was feeling as she lay there on the floor, watching over Sirius’ every move. It was not happiness exactly, after all, he had been through a nightmare, and even though he was with them, safe and healed, now, that fact couldn’t be erased. But he was here, he was with them, and he would survive. And if he was depressed or hurt or mentally broken, she would deal with it. He would smile again. She would make sure of it. And he would never, ever go back to them. She would not allow him to. She would make sure he stayed where he was; she would not leave his side. She never wanted him to go through any sort of pain at all again.
And that thought on her mind, she turned over to be as near to Sirius as possible, closed her eyes, and slept.
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