Author's Note: They say when you have writers block to just write anything, so I've ventured out of the Marauder's universe to give this a shot. I think I've been reading far too much Theater of the Absurd lately though, because this story is chock full of dramatic silences- Pinter would be proud. Hopefully it's not too many. Thanks to lucyjekyll for clearing up my You-Know-Who confusion.
A Glass of Water
"Don't you ever sleep?"
Ginny Weasley padded blearily into the kitchen at Grimmauld Place and stopped in the middle of the room. She reached up with one hand to scratch the back of her neck while her eyes fell on the only other person awake in the large house.
Sirius Black looked at the bedraggled girl, in pajamas far too big for her, and held out a glass of water.
"Oh, no. I can get my own water." Ginny started to move slowly towards the sink.
"It's for you. I prefer the stronger stuff myself."
She stopped moving again. "For me?"
Sirius shook his head slightly. "I've seen you come down here every night this week for a glass of water."
"I know." She hesitated and then continued, "I've seen you down here every night this week when I've come for a glass of water."
Sirius gestured to the empty seat across from him and placed the glass of water in front of the seat. Ginny crossed to the spot, sat down and ran her finger lightly around the edge of the glass, ignoring Sirius's glances and staring intently at the cabinets behind him, occasionally tapping her fingers against the side of the glass. The two sat in silence for several minutes before a wretched squeal broke the silence.
Sirius jumped as Ginny burst into giggles.
"What was that?" His wand was halfway drawn. He froze and looked at the girl, doubled over, laughing hysterically in front of him.
She wheezed and calmed down enough to mimic running her finger over the rim of the glass. A fresh burst of giggles caught her and Sirius began to chuckle too as he sat back down.
Ginny continued laughing until suddenly she burst into tears. She sat and sobbed for a moment but quickly calmed herself down. Then the two sat in silence.
"Sorry about that."
Sirius waved his hand dismissively. Ginny took a sip of water from the glass.
"You hate it here, don't you?"
Sirius hesitated and finally shrugged. "You could say that," he replied and then snorted. Silence fell between them again and a few moments later Ginny silently got up, placed her glass in the sink and walked out of the kitchen.
The next few nights Ginny would walk into the kitchen to find Sirius sitting at the table and a glass of water sitting across from him. Each night she'd sit down and stare at the cabinets, eventually drink the water, carefully place the glass into the sink and then exit silently from the kitchen.
"There's a hinge missing from that cabinet door." Ginny pointed to the cabinet directly behind Sirius. He swiveled in his seat and looked at the cabinet in question.
Ginny looked at him. "Can't you fix it?"
"Some things are never the same again, no matter what you do to fix them. Why bother trying?" He turned back around to look at her.
Ginny paused, drank the last of her water, placed the glass in the sink, and walked out of the kitchen. She hesitated for a moment at the door, her back to Sirius, shook her head slightly and then continued out of the kitchen.
The next night she didn't come down.
The next night she entered the kitchen, crossed to her spot across from Sirius and took a long sip of water.
"I woke up Hermione last night."
Sirius looked at her but didn't say anything.
"She wanted to come down and get me a glass of water. I wouldn't let her."
Ginny smiled sadly and finished her glass of water before responding. "I told her the cabinet was broken." Then she got up, placed the glass in the sink and left the kitchen.
The following night Ginny took her seat across from Sirius and began tapping her fingers against the side of the glass.
"What do you know about Switching Spells?"
"Hmm?" Sirius looked rather surprised by the question.
"I've got four feet of parchment due on them in September and I don't really understand…" She shrugged and then grinned, causing her face to come alive in a manner Sirius never saw during these nightly meetings. "I'd rather not ask Hermione to explain them."
Sirius chuckled. "Well, let's see then…" He pulled out his wand and paused for a second, his face screwed up in thought. With a quick movement of his wand, the glass of water was gone and a cabinet hinge lay before her. With another movement, the hinge was gone and the glass of water had returned. "The theory isn't as difficult as it seems."
Sirius conjured up a quill and parchment and began jotting down key factors, explaining them as he went.
"But make sure you're careful with the pronunciations," he said suddenly, his voice full of mirth. "I remember when we were learning this back at Hogwarts. Remus has a spot of trouble with it as well. He turned James's ears into cacti." He suddenly looked thoughtful. "Suppose that wasn't so much mispronunciation though, I believe we were aiming to transfigure cacti… though it was supposed to be the tulips on our desks that we changed. More likely poor aim." Sirius shook his head as he analyzed the mistake.
Ginny smiled. "Thanks, Sirius. I need to get some sleep, though. May I take the parchment?"
Ginny took her empty glass of water, placed in it the sink, picked up the parchment from the table and left the kitchen.
Over the next few weeks, Ginny and Sirius continued their ritual. Most nights they sat in a companionable silence, few or no words exchanged. Some nights Sirius would help Ginny with her summer homework, often offering helpful hints and amusing stories about the way a particular theory could be bent into a weapon of mass chaos. Occasionally Ginny would miss a night, which would be explained the following night by "I woke Hermione" and Sirius knew not to ask questions. Those nights were always silent. Each night she'd finish her glass of water, place it in the sink and walk out of the kitchen.
After finishing her glass of water on this particular night, Ginny got up and poured herself a second. She sat down across from Sirius again.
"I dream about him. About Tom – Volde – " She took a deep breath. "You-Know-Who."
Sirius didn't respond.
Ginny stared intently at the cabinet with the broken hinge. "I can't stop. I try and I try and Hermione tells me… She says it'll be fine, that I'm fine, but I'm not." She finished sounding so pitiful that Sirius couldn't not look at her. She lowered her head and stared at her hands. "I'm a broken hinge."
There was a long moment of silence before Sirius responded. "You're not the only one."
She inhaled sharply. "I know. I keep telling myself to get over it. Other people have gone through worse. Just look at Harry. Look at… you."
"Don't compare yourself to me."
"I'm not. I'm only saying I've no right to complain… others have had it worse."
"That's not the way to look at it, Ginny. How can I say Azkaban is worse? I've never been possessed by sheer evil. How can you say possession is worse? You've never been to Azkaban. Neither is an experience either of us ever should've had."
"I know. But you… you seem to handle it much better than I do."
Sirius laughed. "Ginny Weasley, I've been sitting down here at this same table every night you have. It would appear to me that you and I are in the same boat."
Ginny took a sip of her water and they sat in silence for a bit.
"I'm scared he'll do it again… because I don't know how to stop him if he tried. Sometimes I think… I think if he tries again I'll just…" She paused and looked to the broken cabinet. "If I just take myself out of the equation I can't hurt anyone. What if I hurt someone else? Everyone who was Petrified… I did that to them. What if he tries something else?" She looked helplessly to Sirius. "I was so stupid. So bloody stupid."
She took another sip of water before looking back at the cabinet. "Why can't you just fix that bloody cabinet?" She slammed the glass of water back down on the table, stood up and stalked out of the kitchen.
Sirius quietly got up, placed the glass in the sink and then sat back down at the table.
The following night Ginny walked into the kitchen and sat down across from Sirius. She didn't touch her water.
"I've been thinking… there's not much I can do about this other than… try. I keep thinking that if I try hard enough, all of this will stop bothering me, but maybe it never will. But I have to keep trying and… maybe someday that'll work. Or it won't. But I'm not giving up. Some broken things can be fixed."
She stood up and walked out of the kitchen.
The next night, the kitchen was empty.
When Ginny came down for breakfast that morning, her eyes wandered over to the broken cabinet. Her eyes widened as she realized that it had a new hinge on it. It was shaped a little different from the other ones, but it seemed as though it would work as well as the rest. She glanced over to Sirius. He winked at her and went back to his breakfast.
Later, as the kitchen was clearing, Ginny walked over to Sirius and said quietly, "I thought you said it couldn't be fixed."
He shrugged. "I thought it was worth a try."