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Chapter 1 : Insomnia
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“O sleep, O gentle sleep, natures soft nurse,
How have I frightened thee, that thou no more
Wilt weigh my eye-lids down and steep my
Senses in forgetfulness?”
- Henry IV, William Shakespeare
Sirius hadn’t slept properly since the night Lily and James had been killed. Before that, even, his sleep had been broken and fitful, but now, years after betrayals, and murders, and imprisonment, and tears, he was lucky to sleep an hour or two a night. Every time his eyes closed, he could see their faces, cold and unseeing—he sometimes wished he had actually come face to face with their bodies, so that he didn’t see those awful imaginings. Sometimes he thought that the Dementors had somehow gotten inside him, only coming out in his dreams, to haunt him with his terrible mistakes.
Usually, when it got too bad, Sirius would take a walk outside, leaving Buckbeak to fend for himself. After a few hours in the fresh, frequently tropical air, he would find himself remembering that he couldn’t go insane or anything ridiculous along those lines, that he had Harry still, his godson, who had eyes like Lily’s and who looked so much like James. But now he couldn’t take walks outside, because Dumbledore had forbidden him to leave his parents’ dark and decaying house. At first, he’d been able to manage; his old bedroom had reminded him of happier times with the Maurauders (before they’d been broken and betrayed) and with Regulus (before he’d broken and betrayed) and with his parents (before he’d broken and betrayed them), but that had ended within a day or two. Too many bad memories. Too much. So Sirius would wander through the dingy halls, looking at cobwebs and cracks, and seeing the faces of the dead. Eventually the wandering would stop, and he would end up in the kitchen. After a while, he simply gave up after his nightmares woke him, and stumbled to the kitchen straight away, to drink a cup of tea, if Remus was there, or a Firewhiskey or three if Remus was gone.
The first week of July, the Weasleys came to stay at number twelve Grimmauld place. Molly had taken one look at the kitchen, heaved what Sirius considered a rather exaggerated sigh (the kitchen wasn’t that dirty, for Merlin’s sake) and declared that all that the house needed was a little spit and polish. Sirius disagreed, but he chose to keep his mouth shut, for the time being, James’ voice ringing in his ears; ‘Women like to think they’re right, mate. Just let them have their way, and they’ll come around when they realise what a mistake they’re making.’
He had hoped that all the activity, the lifting, the bossing, and the being bossed would tire him out enough that he could get the good night’s sleep he longed for. It was not to be. He woke a little past one in the morning, his heart beating, and his mind full of screams and light. He stumbled out of bed, snatching up a slightly musty dressing gown in one hand (he resolved to wash his clothes before Molly caught a whiff of them) and his wand in the other, and made his way downstairs to the kitchen.
He was halfway down the dim stairwell when he noticed that someone was sitting in his spot. Someone with red hair, and slightly too small pyjamas.
'Ginny?’ Ginny jolted and grabbed her wand from the table beside her. ‘It’s all right, it’s just me,’ said Sirius, raising his hands mockingly. Ginny glared at him for a moment, and then dropped her wand back onto the table and looked away.
‘Sorry,’ she muttered. Her ears were pink. Sirius found himself biting back a smile.
‘What were you planning on doing? You’re underage. The least you could have done would be to throw your wand at me.’
Ginny raised an eyebrow. ‘You mean the least I could have donelegally. You forget, I’ve lived with Fred and George my entire life. I’m surprised that wasn’t one of their trick wands I picked up just now.’ Sirius grinned.
‘What are you doing down here? I thought everyone went off to sleep,’ he asked. An unhappy look flashed over Ginny’s face, but before Sirius knew it, it was gone, and her face was unreadable once again.
‘I couldn’t sleep,’ she said. ‘That room mum chose for me isn’t fit for a ghoul to live in, let alone a human. I swear I’m going to have to blackmail Fred and George into cleaning it with magic tomorrow. There’s no way I’m scrubbing that floor by hand.’ Sirius was impressed. The lie was up to his own standard—although it was true that the room was probably infested with doxies at the very least. ‘What about you? What are you doing here?’ asked Ginny.
James’ face swam before Sirius’ eyes.
‘Couldn’t sleep,’ he mumbled. ‘Accio Firewhiskey,’ he added. Ginny looked at him for a moment, the same blank expression on her face, and then nodded her head slightly.
‘What do you think the chances are that the Harpies will win this season,’ she asked.
Their meetings became somewhat of a habit to both of them. It would always be several hours after the group had gone to sleep, exhausted and complaining about guard duty or (more frequently) about the Cleaning. Sometimes Sirius would be the first to wake, and he would sit at the empty table in the light of the dying fire, and wait for the inevitable footsteps that preceded the pyjama clad Ginny, and sometimes, he would come downstairs to find her sitting at the table already, holding a mug of tea, and staring into the darkness. Every night it happened. Some nights they talked: of Quidditch, of spells, of Professors, of Hogwarts. Sometimes Sirius would feel brave enough to talk of old times, and he’d tell Ginny about pranks he and the Marauders used to pull. Sometimes he realised that he had trailed off into silence, and just been replaying memories in his head. He’d look at Ginny then, and she’d smile and ask what happened next. Sometimes she’d tell stories about when she was younger, growing up with six older brothers. Sometimes she would trail off too, and he’d wait, because she had waited for him. Eventually she would look up, and he’d smile, and ask what had happened next. Sometimes they talked until one of them dosed off. That was the unspoken signal that it was time to try and sleep again.
Sometimes they sat in silence until they heard people stirring upstairs.
The day Harry came, Ginny was in the kitchen first. It was later than usual—Sirius suspected she and Hermione had been talking about the information that he had told them after the meeting. He felt that it was in his best interest not to speak about the Order to Ginny, as he suspected he might give up and tell her anything she felt she needed to know. So spoke before she had a chance.
‘So…why didn’t you tell me, Miss Weasley,’ he asked, raising an eyebrow.
‘Tell you what?’ She looked confused, and a little irritated. Sirius grinned. He was right. She had been planning on trying to get more information out of him.
‘I saw that look you gave Harry at dinner. How long has this been going on?’ Sirius was suddenly reminded of Lily, and the way she would pry Remus and him for information on girls they liked.
‘Shut it, Sirius,’ Ginny said. Her face was blank again. Sirius fought back an urge to attempt to read her mind—he felt that she was probably a damn good occlumens.
‘Come on Ginny, you know I won’t tell a soul. You’ve got a crush. On my itty bitty godson. I’m so proud.’
‘Go ahead and tell anyone you want. Everyone knows I liked him. But I’m over him now, Sirius. I’ve got a boyfriend. Don’t tell Ron that though. Or Fred and George. Or Bill or Charlie, actually.’ Ginny leaned back in her chair, and crossed her arms.
‘Oh, Ginny. Don’t be like this. Tell me the truth,’ Sirius said. He was a little curious now—why would she refuse to tell his something as trivial as this? He face as she had looked at him at dinner that night had clearly shown that she felt something more than just friendship for Harry. But she refused to say anything. He continued to plead, but she simply glared at the table, arms crossed, chair tipped back, her ears getting steadily pinker. Finally, he seemed to have hit a nerve.
‘I was crazy about him, all right, Sirius? I begged mum and dad and Bill and Charlie to tell me stories about him, and as soon as I could read, I read all the books I could find about him! I wanted to be his friend, his family, my whole life! I was so sad that the poor hero had no parents; I wanted him to come live with us! I asked for that for my fourth birthday! And then when Ron went off to Hogwarts, he met Harry, and they were best friends, and they went and saved the entire bloody wizarding society, and I thought that maybe, it’d be like a book. Maybe Harry would see me, and like me. But all I was, all I am, is Ron’s little sister. And then in first year…’ She trailed off into silence. Sirius waited. The clock ticked once in a while (they still hadn’t repaired it) and the paintings in the hallway snored. Eventually Sirius asked;
‘What happened, Ginny?’ She looked at him, and he saw for the first time, a chink in her armour. Her face wasn’t blank, and he was slightly scared of the pain and fear in her face. And then it was gone again, covered by the mask.
‘Well, I messed it up between us, Sirius. Just made it worse. Not to mention I was always too shy to talk in front of him. Hermione told me to just be myself in front of him, and everything will work out. Don’t know why I’m following her advice…everyone knows she and Ron are mad about each other, but they haven’t noticed.’
Sirius didn’t know what to say. He knew, somehow, that that was all she was going to tell him. She was looking at him, daring him to protest.
‘I wouldn’t give up, if I were you,’ he said finally. ‘Have I ever told you about the time James almost drowned trying to ask Lily out?’
A week before Harry’s hearing, Sirius had one of his worst dreams yet.
He was at Godric’s Hollow, but it wasn’t broken and crumbling and lonely and angry. He was at the kitchen table, alone in the little yellow room, but he could hear James and the baby somewhere else in the house, laughing, and there was something bubbling on the stove, so that meant Lily wasn’t far off. He could smell soup and leaves and the general scent of the Potters’ house. He was content sitting there, listening to the laughter.
And then a boy ran in, maybe eleven years old.
The boy looked like James, but his eyes were green and almond shaped. Just like Lily’s eyes.
He was smiling hugely, a letter clutched triumphantly in his skinny hands.
‘MUM, DAD,’ Harry shouted. ‘Come here! Quick!’
Footsteps. Lily appeared in the doorway, followed by James.
‘I got my letter! I got it! Look!’ Harry waved the letter towards his parents, who were beaming at him. A girl ran in, behind Harry. Red hair, green eyes. So pretty, so happy, so like her mother. The toddler in James’ arms giggled when she saw her sister come in.
Lily ran to give Harry a hug, teary eyed. James put the toddler on the floor, and went to clap his son on the back. Sirius watched them laughing and dancing and talking.
He couldn’t join in.
When he woke up, he felt almost as he had when they had first died. He stumbled down the many flights of stairs, eyes half open, to the kitchen, where Ginny was already sitting, staring at the table, and apparently lost in thought. When she saw him, she gave a half-hearted smile.
‘D’you think he’ll win the hearing?’ he asked, as he sat down.
‘Yeah,’ she said, without hesitation. ‘He’s still a hero, even if theProphet’s spreading lies about him. People feel guilty, hating him. And he’s always been good at getting out of stuff. And he’s got Dumbledore on his side. He’ll be fine.’
‘James and Lily had Dumbledore on their side too.’ It was out of his mouth before he could stop it. Ginny looked at him, startled.
And suddenly, Sirius was angry. Angry at Dumbledore, for not letting him leave his parents’ filthy, rundown house. Angry at Ginny for not telling him why she never slept. Angry at Harry for looking so much like his parents. Angry at Lily and James for disappearing from his life. And angry at himself, most of all. Because he had stopped his friends from having that life that was still burnt so vividly in his mind. And now his eyes were stinging from the tears that were building up. He covered his face with his hands, and tried to ignore that a fourteen year old girl was watching him cry. All he could see were the Potters from his dream, happy. All he could hear was their laughter.
Ginny put her hand on his arm. They sat like that for a while, until eventually the tears stopped, and the words began. Sirius told Ginny about anything that came into his mind, from the way James had taken him in on the train, to how it had hurt when Regulus had died, to the horrifying betrayal he had felt when he had realised that Peter Pettigrew had been the spy all along. To his surprise, when he was done, his heart felt much lighter.
‘Feel better?’ asked Ginny. He smiled faintly.
‘Yeah, thanks. I never told anyone that much before.’
‘You can’t keep that stuff bottled up like that all the time, it’ll drive you mad,’ she said. ‘Not that you weren’t already,’ she added, grinning. ‘Anyways, I’m going to try to get some more sleep. You should too.’ He nodded his assent, but something was nagging at his mind. As she reached the bottom of the staircase, he asked:
‘Yeah?’ She turned.
‘Why are you always down here?’
Instead of answering, she just gave him a faint smile and continued up the stairs.
‘It’ll drive you mad, you know.’ He called after her. She didn’t reply.
It hadn’t mattered to him, before, that he didn’t know what Ginny’s secret was. But now that he had told her every last detail of the pain and suffering he had endured his entire life, he felt that he needed something in return. So, since she wouldn’t tell him what it was, he took matters into his own hands.
The day of Harry’s hearing, Sirius hung back with Bill at the table after breakfast. As soon as Mrs. Weasley had hustled Ron upstairs to start cleaning one of his father’s old offices, Sirius leaned across the table, and looked at the eldest Weasley son.
‘Bill, what happened during Ginny’s first year?’ He knew at once it was the wrong thing to say. Bill’s normally relaxed shoulders tightened, and his normally easy-going face hardened.
‘That’s not funny, Sirius,’ he said coldly. Sirius was a bit perplexed—Bill was the most level-headed of the Weasleys, in his eyes.
‘I don’t understand, mate,’ he said. ‘I wasn’t trying to be funny. I honestly don’t know what happened.’ Bill continued to give him the hard, cold look.
‘Just leave it alone, Sirius. She’s just getting over it. Everyone thinks she’s okay, but just don’t bring it up. Not good to tempt fate.’ He caught up the papers and walked out of the kitchen, leaving Sirius more confused than ever.
So he tried another brother.
It didn’t take him long to find another Weasley. He tripped over George in the pantry.
‘Lost a sock,’ said George quickly, until he recognised Sirius in the gloom, and relaxed. ‘Sorry mate, thought you were mum. Just…er…looking for some Nifflers. For a…present.’
‘If there were Nifflers here, this house would be in even worse shape than it is already,’ said Sirius. ‘Don’t worry, I won’t tell Molly. Your nose is bleeding, by the way.’
‘I know,’ said George, waving his wand at it half-heartedly. The bleeding slowed slightly. ‘We’re working on it.’
‘Actually, I was looking for you,’ said Sirius. ‘I was wondering if you could tell me something.’
George raised an eyebrow, and his nose began to bleed harder.
‘Sounds serious, Sirius. What’s up?’
‘It’s about Ginny. What happened during her first year?’ Sirius held his breath as George’s face darkened like his brother’s had.
‘Why do you want to know?’ Sirius exhaled slowly.
‘I’ve heard mentions of something happening, but no one says anything specific. They assume I’d already know, I suppose. But I don’t, having been in Azkaban and on the run. I don’t want to say something offensive to her, that’s all.’ George continued to stare at him. Sirius was sure that he too was on the edge of refusal, when George finally spoke.
‘She was possessed by You-know-who. I don’t know how, and I don’t know why it was her who was possessed. But she was, and it scared the hell out of all of us. She was pulled down under the school into the Chamber of Secrets, and Ron and Harry went and saved her. I don’t know why you really want to know, but there it is.’ He stared at Sirius, and Sirius felt rather like dirt. He looked away. ‘Don’t tell her I told you,’ said George. ‘She likes to pretend she’s okay.’ He picked something up off the floor, and stalked out of the room.
Sirius stayed in the pantry until Harry came back, and there were other things on everyone’s mind.
Sirius didn’t know how to bring up the topic of possession by the most evil wizard of all time with Ginny. She, of course, didn’t realise anything was wrong. She chatted away about Quidditch, and Harry’s good luck, and the books she needed, and all sorts of meaningless things. Sirius smiled, and mumbled the occasional ‘Yeah!’ or ‘Good for him!’, and watched her face. He noticed that sometimes, in the rare silences that occurred, her face would fall, and she’d stare at the table so hard that Sirius was surprised it didn’t burst into flame.
He didn’t say anything to her, not that day, not the next, not the one after that.
She went off to Hogwarts, and he never mentioned a thing.
On September second, Sirius sat at the kitchen table alone. He hadn’t realised how much Ginny’s presence had meant to him; she’d given him a brief respite from the memories that haunted him day in, day out. He shifted uncomfortably in the wooden chair, avoiding looking into the shadows, afraid of what he might see. He clutched at his firewhiskey. Let it go. Pushed his chair back. Pulled it in.
Footsteps. Sirius looked to the top of the stairs, thinking for a wild second that Ginny had come back to Grimmauld Place. But it was Remus who appeared on the stairs, smiling his sad half smile.
‘I thought you might want some company,’ he said. Sirius smiled half-heartedly. ‘She’s very much like Lily, isn’t she,’ Remus went on, pointing his wand at the kettle.
‘Who?’ asked Sirius, watching Remus pour the hot water into a mug. Remus raised an eyebrow.
‘Ginny Weasley,’ he said. ‘Don’t think I didn’t know that you two had a little insomniacs club going on down here.’ Sirius felt his face heat up. Of course Remus had noticed. He’d never wondered why his old friend hadn’t come downstairs since the Weasleys’ arrival.
‘She’s not really like Lily,’ Sirius said. For one thing, Ginny was still alive. ‘She’s more level than Lily was at that age. And more….I dunno…’
‘Sad,’ said Remus. ‘Ginny’s seen more than Lily ever did, I think.’ Sirius thought of George’s words. Possessed by You-know-who.
‘You know about that?’ he asked.
‘I worked at Hogwarts, and I was a friend of the Potters. People liked to tell me things about Harry, and what he’d done. And, well… I pieced it together pretty quickly. She’s a strong girl. But an adult wouldn’t be able to completely move on from that, let alone a child. You two were good for each other. So I let you be. You should talk to her about it. It’ll help her move on a bit. Maybe it’ll help you some too.’
Sirius shrugged. ‘I dunno, Moony,’ he said. ‘I’ve told her everything, you know. But she never said anything back to me. I’m no good at feelings. It was always you who knew what to say about that sort of thing.’ Remus smiled his sad smile.
‘Everyone has to learn some time,’ he said. ‘It’s good to get things off your chest.’
‘Well, I’ve run out of time, haven’t I,’ snapped Sirius. ‘She’s gone back to Hogwarts, away from this bloody house. She’s happy there. It cheers you up, that place.’
‘She’s gone back to the place where Voldemort possessed her, and where she unknowingly petrified muggleborns, including one of her very good friends. Do you really think she’s going to be completely happy there, Sirius?’ Sirius had no answer to that, so he sat staring at the table in the same way Ginny had, so often.
‘How do you cope, Remus?’ he asked, after a long silence. ‘You had to go through with losing us all in a day, and then live with that for twelve years. But I’m still more messed up than you are. How have you managed?’ Remus smiled his worn, sad, half smile. Sirius wondered if he had smiled properly since they had left Hogwarts. He couldn’t remember.
‘I don’t, really,’ Remus said. ‘I just hide it better. The first year, I barely slept too. I couldn’t find any lasting employment, so I threw myself into helping the Order, but it disintegrated pretty quickly after Voldemort disappeared. I worked in the muggle world for a while, but I didn’t know enough about them, and eventually the Ministry made me stop. Thought I was a danger to them. I was broken, Sirius. I couldn’t leave my flat, I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t read, I couldn’t feel. But you can’t live like that. It’s not how it works. Either you go on with living, or you give up. So I chose to keep trying, living. It doesn’t do to dwell on the horrors of the world. I’ve learned that, over the years. What is done is done. There’s a new war going on, except now we’re the experienced veterans, and they’re the new heroes who are going to save the world. We have to be strong, because if we aren’t, who will they look up to?’ Sirius looked up at Remus, at his grey flecked hair, at his sad eyes, at the laugh lines from his youth, and the sorrow lines from more recent times.
‘What if I can’t do it, Remus?’
‘You’re still getting over Azkaban, Sirius,’ said Remus kindly. ‘Don’t forget that. Just because you’ve left the Dementors behind you doesn’t mean that what they did to you for twelve years will simply disappear. It’s normal. You’ll feel better. You just need time. And people to talk to.’
‘Like Ginny Weasley?’
‘Yes. You trust her, and I think she trusts you more than you realise,’ replied Remus. He grasped Sirius’ arm, then stood, sending his teacup to the sink with a wave of his wand. ‘Think about it, at least. She needs you too.’
Sirius thought about what Remus had said for weeks afterwards.
He was sitting at the kitchen table, listening to the wind blowing far above him. The cold remains of his lonely dinner lay in front of him, barely touched. The fire was dying, and he refused to light any of the candles that littered the room. He’d rather sit in the dark. Black like his name, like his family, like his future. Christmas. Alone. Again.
His mind was full with memories of Christmases past, some good, many bad. His father’s icy silences, his mother’s angry screams, his brother’s hurt looks. James’ jokes, Lily’s laughter, baby Harry’s grasping hands.
A yell from upstairs. Then another. Coming closer. Sirius sprang to his feet, grabbing his wand.
He found Phineas Nigellus standing in a portrait of a particularly ugly great-great aunt holding two enormous boa constrictors.
‘What are you doing here?’ asked Sirius. Phineas raised an eyebrow.
‘Obviously delivering a message from Dumbledore. Or did you think I was here because I enjoy being attacked by half-blood snake trainers?’ The ugly great-great aunt gave a bloodthirsty simper.
Sirius rolled his eyes. ‘What’s the message,’ he asked.
‘You’re getting some uninvited guests. Rude of Dumbledore to send them here, but I suppose he’s always done whatever he’s wanted to before now never mind common courtesy.’
‘What are you talking about,’ demanded Sirius, pointing his lit wand towards Phineas to see him better. ‘Who’s coming here? When? Why?’
‘You ask an insufferable number of questions,’ said Phineas, exchanging a dark look with the ugly great-great aunt. ‘In my day, one respected their elders. But, I suppose in your case, one more broken tradition doesn’t make a difference. Apparently Arthur Weasley was injured rather severely, and Dumbledore is sending his brood here, along with your blessed godson. Students belong in school, in my opinion, but of course Dumbledore won’t—’
Sirius didn’t hear the rest of Phineas’ rant; he was already hurrying downstairs to the kitchen. He met Kreacher at the bottom of the stairs.
‘The Weasleys and Harry are coming back, Kreacher,’ he barked at the house-elf. ‘I expect you to be on your best behaviour this time. Understand? Now go build up the fire.’ Kreacher bowed, muttering insults that Sirius ignored out of habit. He lit a candle, then collapsed in his chair, waiting.
He wasn’t going to be alone!
‘…disgrace to the family…’
Arthur Weasley was injured.
‘…Mistress died of grief because of him, Kreacher hopes he remembers that as he throws her treasures away…’
Harry would be there!
‘…befouling the house, oh how Kreacher’s mistress would cry…’
Arthur had been on guard duty.
‘…just like his no-good friends, look what happened to them, Kreacher hopes Master ends up with the same fate…’
Ginny would be back!
‘…then Kreacher could live with Miss Cissy and Miss Bella…’
The Weasleys might lose their father tonight.
A crack and five pyjama-clad teenagers landed on the floor across the table from him.
‘Back again, the blood-traitor brats. Is it true their father’s dying?’
Sirius saw the stricken looks on five pale faces.
‘OUT!’ he roared at Kreacher. The house-elf scuttled out of the room, and Sirius was confronted with the scared faces of Harry and the Weasleys. As Harry told his story, of the attack, of everything that had really happened in the past few hours, Sirius watched them. Fred and George looked increasingly panicked, Ron (who had probably heard the story before) looked at Harry with empty eyes, and Harry himself looked guilty for bringing so much pain to the Weasleys. Ginny, however watched Harry with what looked like pity on her face. Compassion. Her father could be dying, yet she still felt empathy for this boy in front of her.
It was one of the longest nights he had ever sat through. Including the night Lily and James had died. Seeing the Weasleys’ grief written so plainly across their faces, and knowing that it was possible that it might just get worse for them, knowing what they might feel at any moment was like a physical pain, a gut-wrenching, heart piercing, sorrowful anger.
When Molly Weasley came into the kitchen at dawn announcing that Arthur was going to be all right, Sirius felt something in his heart, deep, underneath the pain and the sadness and the betrayal. He was coming back to life. He looked at Ginny Weasley as she left the room to rest before going to Saint Mungo’s.
She had helped him, now it was his time to help her.
“I can’t believe him.’
Sirius looked up from the table. Ginny was stalking down the kitchen stairs, her dressing gown billowing out behind her dramatically, and her face flushed with anger. He raised an eyebrow.
Ginny flopped violently into a chair, her bright eyes flashing.
‘Harry Bloody Potter is the most idiotic male I have ever met.’ He let out a bark of laughter, but stopped abruptly at the glare Ginny turned on him. He was reminded irresistibly of Molly Weasley.
‘Why, what’s he done?’ he asked, trying to keep the amusement from his voice as best as he could.
‘He has been ridiculous all year,’ said Ginny angrily. ‘Moaning and complaining, snapping at everyone who so much as talks to him, ignoringanyone who tries to help him at all. Frankly, I’m amazed Ron and Hermione go anywhere near him. I would have snapped by now, if it was me.’ Sirius thought it wasn’t a good idea to mention that she seemed to be snapping now. ‘And now he’s avoiding everyone, the prat,’ she continued. Sirius frowned.
‘Is he?’ he asked. Thinking about it, he hadn’t seen much of his godson over the past few days. ‘Why?’ Ginny jumped up out of her chair again, and began stalking around the kitchen. Sirius had never seen her so agitated or angry.
‘Because,’ she spat, ‘we overheard Moody saying he thinks Harry’s been possessed. And now the idiot is hiding somewhere and sulking because he thinks he hurt dad, and he doesn’t want to hurt any of us. Which is absolutely idiotic, because…because…’ she trailed off, and turned her back to Sirius, violently making herself a cup of tea.
‘Because you’re the only one he knows who’s ever been possessed by Voldemort, and so you’d think he’d come to you for advice,’ he finished. Ginny whirled around and they stared at each other what felt like years.
‘You know, then,’ she said.
Sirius felt a little afraid.
‘Yeah,’ he said. ‘I wondered what it was and…and eventually I asked. I—I shouldn’t have. It was an invasion of your privacy. I’m—’
‘Don’t apologize, Sirius, it doesn’t become you,’ said Ginny, the corners of her mouth turning up for a split second. ‘I knew you’d find out sooner or later. And yeah, that’s why this is bothering me so much. I mean… he couldn’t have been possessed. I’d know, wouldn’t I? But he doesn’t even think of that. He hasn’t thought to ask me what it’s like. It’s as if I’m nothing to him. He’s such a huge part of my life, he saved me! Tom was taking my life, trying to come back, and he stopped it! And yet…he doesn’t remember! How can he not remember that, Sirius? Am I that worthless to him?’ She sat again, her tea forgotten, her hair swinging to cover her face. Sirius was startled. He’d never seen anyone except for James show so much emotion in front of him. He wasn’t sure what to do.
‘If Harry doesn’t realise what an amazing girl you are, Ginny,’ he said, feeling rather ridiculous giving advice, ‘then he’s an idiot, just like you said.’
‘I’m serious,’ he said. ‘You helped me get through a lot since the summer. I don’t think you realise how much. You’ve been through so much more than I ever have—than most people have. Yet you’re still stronger than I will ever be.’
She looked at him, sad, lonely, and so scared.
‘I still think of him as Tom Riddle, you know,’ she said. ‘That was his name before. He made me kill roosters, made me release that—that thing in the Chamber of Secrets, made me petrify Colin, and Hemione and all those others. He nearly killed me. I know it’s him…You-know-who. But in my head, some part of me still calls him Tom. I dream of him every night. Standing over me, getting more real, laughing at me. Laughing at how stupid I am. Sometimes he kills Harry, in front of me, and I can see it, but I can’t do anything. I hate it! I hate it so much!’ She was crying now, in earnest. Fat tears, held back for so long, were hitting the table steadily. Her shield was down, her heart out for him to see its fragility.
‘But it’s not real!’
‘It is, Sirius, can’t you see? He could have killed Harry, or Ron, or any of those muggle borns, and it would have been my fault! And he still can, now, and I can’t help! I’m useless, just like I was when I was eleven, when Tom Riddle made me walk to my own death.’
And then once again, Sirius was angry. Angry because Ginny was 14 years old and afraid of her mind being stolen, afraid of death, afraid of losing her friends. Angry because he had lost his friends, because people had lost their families, because war was tearing apart so many people.
‘You listen to me, Ginny Weasley. You. Are. Not. Useless. D’you understand me?’ Now it was Sirius’ turn to leap from his chair, to stalk around the room. ‘You’re a brilliant witch, you’re clever, you’re funny, you’ve got boys fawning all over you, and a family who’d do anything to protect you. You’re the strongest person I know. Stronger than me, certainly. Stronger than Harry, who goes off and fights Voldemort practically on a yearly basis. Stronger than Remus, who’s had to fight against people judging him for something he can’t control since he was five years old. Stronger than James, who died protecting his family. Stronger than Lily who threw herself in front of her son to save him. You had the most evil wizard of all time inside your head and you won. Harry might have killed that Basilisk, but you were the one who fought that bastard for a year.
‘D’you know, once, back during the first war, I saw someone being possessed. He was an Auror, one of Mad-Eye’s superiors when he joined the force; he left just before Voldemort came into power. He had trained in occlumency and mind protection for almost thirty years. And Voldemort beat him in less than five minutes. He died, right in front of me. Because Voldemort was in his head, and it drove him insane. And you lasted for a year.
‘You say you’re useless? I’ve heard stories from Remus and your brothers of what you can do. I’ve seen the way your family looks at you. They all look up to you Ginny. You’re their hero in a way that Harry will never be. Because you’ve got something in you, a way of seeing the world, of helping people who are broken, that makes you the most special, most useful girl in the world.’ He stood staring at her, and she sat staring at him, brown eyes meeting grey.
‘I…’ she seemed lost for words, a little embarrassed. His collar felt a little warm. Her ears were pink. ‘You’re right. I’ve never thought about it that way, I suppose, that I fought him. I’ve just always felt that he controlled me. Thank you.’ Sirius smiled back at her. Hesitant, but real. The first real smile since they had died.
‘You should corner Harry tomorrow,’ he told her. ‘He’s got a stubborn streak in him and a dramatic one too. He’d like to be the misunderstood hero right now, but don’t take that. Not that you will, if I know you.’ She giggled, and then looked thoughtful.
‘Hermione’s supposed to be coming tomorrow. She’ll be able to talk him into coming downstairs for a bit, and then we can stage an intervention for the dramatic idiot.’
They both went to bed a little bit after that—neither of them were particularly feelings oriented, and the conversation had tired them.
Just because he and Ginny had had a heart to heart did not mean that either of them could finally sleep soundly. He was awakened the next night to James’ cold, accusing face, and Ginny came to the kitchen less than an hour after he arrived. But it wasn’t as bad now. They both felt lighter, calmer, more at ease together and with themselves.
When she went back to school he didn’t feel as unhappy. He began to clean without Molly’s nagging, he looked through the books in the library that had nothing to do with Dark magic, and he started making plans for a future when he was allowed out of the gloomy house again.
He ran through the door of the room in the Department of Mysteries. Whispering from behind the Vein filled his ears, but he ignored it.
At long last.
Lights. Red. Green. Blue. Violet.
Harry, alone now, scared but fierce.
Or was it James?
No, no it was Harry, and he had to save him.
Where were the others? Ron and Hermionie, Alice and Frank’s boy and the Lovegood girl. Ginny. Where?
Fighting towards Harry. Must save Harry.
He had missed this.
He saw Tonks crumple out of the corner of his eye, felled by her own aunt, his cousin.
Memories of catching Bella torturing Reg one Christmas. Anger.
She’s not taking Harry too.
He fought her, joining in with her laughter.
Just like old times.
He vaguely noticed that there was no more fighting around him anymore, that it was just him and her, fighting to the death, trying to prove once and for all which side was the stronger, dark or light, good or evil.
He teased her, taunted her. Her aim was always worse when she was angry.
It was when they were young.
It struck his chest.
Harry was staring at him, not comprehending. Green eyes, pale face, looking more like Lily than James for that split second in time.
Time. It went slower as he fell.
A flash of red in the corner of his eye. Clutching the doorway of the next room, standing on one foot, but alive, and stronger than anyone he’d ever known. Ginny, eyes wide, terrified.
He hoped Harry would realise he needed her.
Sirius woke up feeling better than he had ever felt before. He realised, eventually, that he might stand up, and find where he was. The memories of the battle came back into his mind. Harry. Ginny. Falling. He must have fallen through the veil.
He looked down.
He must have fallen through the veil and ended up naked. Strange.
He stood and saw a set of robes nearby. Harry. He pulled the robes on. Where were the sounds of battle? Where was the battle, for that matter? He needed to go help Harry. There was a thick mist around him, so thick he couldn’t see anything. It reminded him of the nights when the autumn became cold and the fogs rolled in from the mountains, making everything so much more exciting for the Marauders and their adventures. He could almost feel their laughter.
In fact, he could hear laughter.
He squinted through the mist, trying to see something. Eventually a stone bench appeared. Sirius, having nothing else to do, sat.
The mist seemed to be thinning. He squinted again. There seemed to be someone—two someones—coming towards him.
A flash of red hair.
A glint of glasses.
‘H-Harry? Ginny?’ he asked. Maybe they had escaped the battle, come looking for him in the strange place. The someones came fully out of the mist.
‘Afraid not, mate. Glad to see you’re taking your duties as Godfather so seriously.’ James was standing in front of him, smiling the smile that Sirius had almost forgotten, and offering a hand to him. Sirius reached to shake it, but James pulled him into a hug instead.
When he let go of his best mate in the whole world, Sirius turned to Lily, beautiful Lily who had Harry’s eyes.
‘Welcome, home Sirius,’ she said and hugged him too, her comforting hug that he had missed so much. ‘I always knew you were going to go to prison. I just didn’t think it would be for something you didn’t do, you prat.’
He was smiling so wide, he thought his face might break. And there, behind Lily was Regulus, and the Prewetts. All those people who had been gone for so long.
He didn’t know who might live and who might die, who might betray and who might fall in love. But he did know, as he stepped into the welcoming midst of his friends, that they would win the war. Because they had Remus with his stubborn courage. They had Harry Potter, his godson, the courageous hero. And they had Ginny Weasley. The strongest person he would ever know.
Hey Guys! Sorry I've been AWOL for so long...life got busy. I've had this idea for like a year, so I figured I'd write it down quick before University kidnapped me again.It's unbetaed at the moment, but it's written! That's a step!! Kreacher and Sirius' lines in the kitchen of Grimmauld place after Harry and the Weasleys turn up are from page 420 of Order of the Pheonix. I hope you enjoyed...tell me what you think! Any kind of review would be much loved :) Ciao!
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