Disclaimer: I don't own any of the characters or places in this story (said characters/places are property of JK Rowling).
What I Should've Said
Harry couldn't remember a time when he'd felt so alone. He was so terrified for the people in Grimmauld Place's safety he was refusing himself sleep, and trying everything he could think of to stay awake, panicked that if he allowed himself to drift off into unconsciousness, he'd awaken to find he'd attacked again, be able to taste the blood on his lips. Maybe this next time he'd even kill...
Presently, Harry sat in the study, reading a book he'd found on Transfiguration, desperately trying to stay awake. By the third page, however, it became apparent to Harry that this book was perhaps the last he should've chosen if he wished to not fall asleep.
Setting the dreadfully dull book onto the table in front of him, eyes still darting across the pages, uselessly hoping that if he read faster it might be more interesting, Harry set about pinching himself every so often to stay alert.
"Shouldn't you be in bed?" Harry leapt from the armchair as if suddenly burned and whirled around. Sirius stood behind him, leaning against the door frame, arms crossed over his chest.
"Sorry. Did I wake you?" apologized Harry, hastily settling back into the armchair and trying to not look as startled as he was.
"No," Sirius said, shrugging and crossing the room over to where Harry sat. "I was up thinking."
"A-about what?" As soon as he issued the question, Harry realized how rude and intrusive it was. "Sorry, I shouldn't have --"
"Don't apologize," Sirius said, casting the statement off with a wave of his hand as he settled into the armchair across from Harry. "If you really want to know, I was thinking about you."
Whatever Harry had been expecting, it wasn't that. "Pardon?"
Sirius half-smiled at Harry's surprised response. "Yes, you. Ron and Hermione told me they've hardly seen hide nor hair of you in the past few days. When I started thinking about it, I realized I haven't either. So tell me, O Elusive One, where have you been all this time and why are you missing all the fun?"
Harry nervously adjusted the book on the table, lining up the bottom edge of the text with the edge of the table, trying to dodge Sirius' question. He didn't want to admit that in his own odd way, he'd been punishing himself. He was almost certain he'd attacked Arthur Weasley, whether he'd meant to or not, and felt he didn't deserve to partake in happy Christmas festivities while Mr. Weasley sat in the hospital with a wound they couldn't get to stop bleeding.
"Yeah?" Harry said casually, looking up from the book, as if Sirius' initial question had never been asked.
"Why are you avoiding us?" Sirius' tone was quiet, almost . . . angry? But Harry saw a flicker of concern in his eyes and his resolve weakened.
"I'm the weapon. Voldemort's using me to try and find out about the Order." Harry saw Sirius' brow crease but barreled on, unable to stop himself. "I attacked Mr. Weasley, Sirius. I did that! I can't go back to sleep. What if I do it again? What if I hurt Ron, or you? I tried to leave, but Dumbledore told me to stay. I don't want to hurt anyone else." The last sentence came out in a whisper, almost as if it wasn't meant to be said.
"Harry, listen to me." Sirius' eyes were full of concern now, and he looked almost shocked by what Harry had said. "You didn't attack anyone. Yes, you were in the snake, there's no point in denying that, but you didn't have control. You were only witnessing what someone else was doing."
"Then who's to say I won't witness it again?" Harry replied angrily, jumping to his feet. Sirius didn't understand. Sirius didn't see that Harry was trying to protect him, to keep anyone else from getting attacked. He thought it was all some bad dream. "Who's to say next time, I won't be watching you or someone else I care about die? Who's to say that next time, I won't actually be in control?"
Sirius sighed and leaned back in the chair, rubbing his temples with his fingertips. "Harry, there's a lot you don't understand."
"Then make me understand."
"I wish I could. Believe me, Harry, I wish more than anything that I could make you understand. But I can't. I don't even understand myself. We're not meant to know anything more than absolutely necessary."
"And I suppose it's not necessary for me to know why I'm suddenly attacking people as a bloody snake, then?" Harry snapped, flopping back into the chair.
Sirius paused mid temple rub, fingers still poised on either side of his head, and scrutinized Harry. "Don't get angry at me."
"Why not? Everyone knows things about me I don't know. If you know something about why I was attacking people, why I actually felt like a snake when I was in Dumbledore's office, why I was ready to attack him, tell me. I have a right to know."
Sirius still hadn't moved. He sat quite still, slouched in the chair with his elbows resting on the arms, fingers still resting on his temples, but not moving. "I agree with you."
"I deser – you what?"
"I agree with you," Sirius repeated. There was a look in Sirius' eyes just then as he surveyed Harry, almost as if he was seeing him for the first time.
"What do you mean?" Harry asked, squirming uncomfortably under Sirius' gaze.
"You have every right to know the circumstances surrounding the attack you witnessed."
"So you'll tell me, then?"
"But you just said --"
"I know what I just said, Harry. And I'd tell you everything right now if I could."
"And why can't you?" Harry was angry again, his fists clenched almost involuntarily. Sirius' gray eyes flickered quickly over Harry's fists before returning to Harry's face.
"Because I don't know myself." Harry's hands unclenched immediately, and a sort of relief washed over him. It comforted him greatly to know that Sirius, at least, wasn't keeping secrets, and was practically as much in the dark as he himself.
"Oh," he replied lamely, wishing he could've thought of a more eloquent response, but he was so stunned that there was someone who didn't seem to be keeping secrets from him that he didn't know what to say.
"I wanted to know, I called Dumbledore after you told me about the incident in his office, I asked him to tell me what was going on. Actually, I demanded. He refused to tell me. Seemed to think I'd go running off to confess it all to you."
"But why couldn't --?"
"--I tell you?" Sirius finished for him, a hint of a smile playing at his lips. "Dumbledore has his reasons, Harry. You'll find out when you need to, I suppose."
Harry sighed in frustration and picked absentmindedly at a loose thread on the arm of the chair, unsure of how to respond.
"Just trust me when I tell you that you run no danger of awakening as some snake in the middle of the night and attacking myself or anyone else." Seeing that Harry was about to protest, Sirius continued, "Dumbledore told me that much, at least."
"I see." Harry was suddenly aware of how ridiculous he sounded with his very short responses.
"So what's this you said about not sleeping?" Sirius asked, arching an eyebrow. Harry looked up at Sirius.
"Considering I thought I was about to go on a m – massacre if I dozed off," Harry stumbled over the word, but had found no suitable substitute, as that was the exact word to describe what he'd been fearing. After a moment of silence, he realized he'd been intending to add something after this statement, but could no longer remember what it was.
"You must be exhausted."
Harry shrugged, still playing with the loose thread, now determined not to look at Sirius, as he was certain, with Sirius' last statement, every possible sign of exhaustion had overtaken him, stretching out gratefully across his features for finally being recognized.
"Do you want to go up to bed? I could clean up in here for you." Had he not been so tired, Harry was certain he would've laughed at how parental Sirius had just sounded.
"No, that's okay, I got it," Harry said, stifling a yawn as he reached forward to close the book.
"What's that?" Sirius said suddenly, sharply, as Harry shut the book. Looking down, Harry mentally groaned. His right hand still held the cover, just above it's destination, frozen by Sirius' remark. There, alarmingly noticeable in the firelight, were the words I must not tell lies etched in his skin.
"N – nothing," Harry replied quickly, finishing his task of shutting the book and standing. "I think I'll go to bed now."
He was nearly to the door when he felt Sirius grab his upper left arm tightly. Harry's right hand was on the door frame, but the words were no longer visible under the sleeve of his shirt which he'd pulled over it. Without looking behind him, Harry could almost see in his mind's eye Sirius' panicked and worried expression as he said, amazingly quiet, "Let me see your hand."
"It's nothing, Sirius, and I'm really tired so can I please just go to bed?" Harry attempted feebly to break from Sirius' grasp, but he held firm.
"Let me see it," he hissed.
"Come on, Harry. Just show it to me. You're only worrying me more by keeping it secret."
Harry desperately wanted to plead Please don't make me, but he had no intention of begging over something as trivial as his hand. "It's nothing, Sirius, please."
"I don't believe you, and if you don't show me what it is, I'll call Dumbledore --"
Sirius' grip softened slightly and Harry turned his face to look at his godfather. Sirius' face was positively covered in concern, a horror in his eyes Harry couldn't place and didn't remember ever seeing before. "Why not?"
"He doesn't know," Harry replied simply, hoping his eyes weren't giving too much away, and considering for a second turning away again. But something in Sirius' gaze made him hold his current position.
"He doesn't know what, Harry? Please let me see your hand."
Admitting defeat, Harry dropped his hand from the door frame and held it halfway out to Sirius, who immediately seized it with his free hand, Harry's shirt sleeve falling back with the force of Sirius yanking his arm toward him. "I must not tell lies," Sirius murmured, almost silently, index finger lightly grazing over the scars. "What is this from?" Sirius looked repulsed, disgusted, and it took Harry a moment to realize it wasn't repulsion for him; rather, for the words etched in his hand as if he himself were a spare bit of parchment.
"Should've learned to hold my tongue in front of Umbridge, is all."
Sirius nearly dropped Harry's hand as he pulled away slightly. "That – that --" Sirius paused as Harry flinched in his wrath. Softening slightly, Sirius continued, " -- cow did this to you?"
"Not technically. I mean, she gave me the quill, but I'm the one who did the lines." Noticing a flicker of hatred in Sirius' eyes, Harry quickly continued, "But really, it's nothing. Doesn't even hurt that much."
It was instantly apparent that instead of "that much," Harry clearly should have said "at all." Sirius instantly let go of his hand, which Harry let drift back to his side automatically, but Sirius did not release his grip on Harry's upper arm. "Did I hurt you?" Sirius asked in a horrified whisper.
"No. Honest," he added as an afterthought when skepticism flashed across Sirius' face for an instant.
"You said – you said Dumbledore . . . didn't know," Sirius seemed to be struggling with words, as if they were all getting in the way of something much more important that he wanted to be saying. His brow was furrowed, he almost seemed utterly confused by the whole thing.
"I did," Harry replied, a definite coolness to his voice.
"Why what? Why did I say that, or why doesn't he know?"
"The – the second one." Sirius was watching Harry's hand as if it would start spurting blood at any moment.
"Because it wasn't any of his business." Harry wasn't quite sure why he'd said it, or even if he'd meant to.
"What do you mean, 'it wasn't his business'? Some crazy old toad," Harry got the impression Sirius was softening his vocabulary for his benefit, and would much prefer to refer to Umbridge by a much stronger word, "is having kids slice up their hands in detention right under his nose, in his school, and it 'isn't any of his business'?"
Harry felt a sudden anger seize him and tried to pull away from Sirius, but Sirius caught on quickly and gripped tighter. "I don't need to go running off to a teacher because I landed myself in detention."
"This is more than a detention, Harry. That – that woman was using an illegal quill on you – she was practically abusing you, Harry!" There was a tone of disbelief in Sirius' voice, as if he couldn't understand why Harry wasn't seeing things his way.
"Well I got through perfectly alright, didn't I? Without running off to tell an adult." Harry tried to break free again, but Sirius wouldn't release his hold and shut the door with his other hand, locking it.
"I can get out if I want, I just have to unlock it," Harry snapped bitterly.
"I know you can, but I'm hoping you won't. I know you feel like you have to handle all this yourself, but when someone's doing . . . that to you, that's the kind of thing you tell someone."
Harry would never understand what possessed him to say what he did just then. Maybe it was because he was longing to get the subject off of his hand, or maybe it was because he couldn't stand to look into Sirius' concerned eyes anymore, but he suddenly blurted, "Well, I'm sure if my father were around, that's what he would've done, but in case you haven't noticed, I'm not as good as him!"
Sirius, an alarmed and confused look on his face, suddenly released Harry's arm and took a step back, his head shaking from side to side ever so slightly. "What are you – what are you talking about?"
Harry, a certain bitterness, resentment, and anger welling up inside him which he couldn't identify, retorted, "'You're less like your father than I thought'." His tone was mocking, condescending, but he hardly cared. It was something that had been nagging at him for so long he couldn't hold it in any longer. He knew that the way he'd directed the conversation to this had made little sense, but it was something he'd needed to say.
For his part, Sirius looked suddenly understanding and groaned softly. Harry, however, took almost no notice of the look of apology on Sirius' face and continued, "That's what you're thinking, isn't it? Harry James Potter, big fat disappointment. Nothing at all like his father, who should really be the one alive right now because he would be making you a lot happier than I apparently can!" His mind vaguely registered that he'd gone too far at the tears he saw in Sirius' eyes, but he hardly let himself care. He was fumbling, practically blind with rage, with the doorknob when a firm but oddly gentle hand clamped around his wrist.
"Let go." He silently cursed his voice for shaking and cracking slightly as he spoke, but his exhaustion ebbed away at him suddenly, and he had no will left in him to fight his godfather any longer. Turning, Harry slid down the door to the floor, and Sirius followed him, perching anxiously before him. Harry didn't speak, and for a long while, neither did Sirius, and the latter contented himself for some time watching Harry nervously as he held his head in his hand, mentally berating himself for saying the things he had.
"I shouldn't have said that." Surprised that Sirius seemed to have said the one thing that kept racing across Harry's mind at his own words, Harry looked up. "I was just tired of being cooped up in here and wanted to get out."
"I know, and --"
"Please, let me finish," Sirius interrupted, an odd expression on his face that Harry had never quite seen there before. "You aren't your father, Harry."
Flashing back the argument Sirius and Mrs. Weasley had gotten into on Harry's first night at Grimmauld Place, Harry made a facial expression somewhere between a grimace and a smile. "I want to be. For – for you. It isn't fair."
Sirius laughed bitterly at this statement. "You're exactly right. It isn't fair, but it's the way it is. I had twelve long years in Azkaban to let go of James, Harry. You don't need to be him for me. I guess I sometimes wish I would've savored those moments I had with him more. But that's no excuse for me making you feel guilty for not being a James clone. It isn't your job to be him for me. It's your job to be you."
Sirius was silent for a moment, and Harry noticed his mouth would creep open a few times, as if wrestling to reveal something. Finally, Sirius sighed and said, "you aren't your father, Harry. You don't act like he did. But you know who you do sometimes act like?"
"Who?" Harry knew he hadn't really needed to ask, Sirius was bound to tell him anyway, but he felt compelled to keep silence from swarming in.
"Me." He must have looked startled at this, for Sirius continued, "I didn't want to admit it then, because I almost felt guilty that you were acting more like me than you were your own father. But what you did, telling me not to come visit you, it was more like me than you know. As much as I loved taking risks, toeing the line, I always would only be willing to stick my own neck out. I could never stand to risk someone else. You were doing it to protect me, and I wouldn't expect any less of James' son. You would've made him so proud, Harry."
Harry found himself studying the wood floor, blinking against the burning sensation in his eyes at Sirius' words. "So you're not – what I mean is, you aren't upset that I'm not as good as my dad was?"
"Not as good as --?" Sirius broke off and cupped a hand under Harry's chin, bringing his face up to look at him. Sirius' eyes were brimmed with tears but none had fallen, the blurred bottom edge of Harry's vision made him realize that he looked much the same. "Harry, I don't expect you to live up to James. You don't have to live up to anyone, for that matter. I just want you to be you. I want you to be Harry James Potter, my godson, whom I love and would do anything to protect."
"Really?" Harry suddenly hated how weak and attention starved he sounded, but it was too late to stop what he'd said.
"Of course. Harry, didn't you know that?" Harry was vaguely aware of shaking his head, although the action seemed almost unattached from his mind. He seemed to be in a sleep-deprived haze, only one sluggish thought able to slip through the fog at a time. Who I love and would do anything to protect. Sirius loved him.
Without warning, two powerful arms wrapped around Harry and pulled him from the door, cradling him close. "I've always loved you, Harry. You're my godson, you didn't get to be that because I hated you. I just – I never said because . . . well, I thought you knew. I'm so sorry, Harry."
But Harry no longer had the control over his body to tell him he had no reason to be sorry, that he had every reason to believe Harry already knew. Snuggling into the warm embrace, Harry muttered, "I love you too, Sirius," before drifting off into the first decent sleep he'd had in quite some time.
A.N.: Well, to be honest, this story is older than dirt. Well over a year old. But it's really just all the issues I felt Sirius and Harry never got a chance to work out. I wanted to write this as a means of closure on the death of my favorite character. I hope you enjoyed and will review. Thank you for reading.