A/N I'm sorry for the cliffhanger in the last chapter. I actually had this one written when I published that one, but out of curiosity's sake, I wanted to give my readers a chance to digest the darker than normal material. I was actually very interested to see the commentary it would inspire and I was glad to see that there were a lot of strong reactions to it.
It was a dark scene. I meant it to be so. I feel that Sirius is a complex being and we only begin to scratch the surface of him in canon. What we do know is that he was raised in a dark home until he was a teenager. He spent his late teens to early twenties in a war, lost his best friend and then spent thirteen years in prison where all happy thoughts were taken from him. So, he's going to be a little dark, and flawed and angry and reckless. He had a track record of this already (luring Snape where Remus was transforming. Giving Hagrid his motorbike before leaving to hunt down and kill Peter). But he also loves fiercely. This is the guy that broke out of prison to get to Harry and lived on rats for him. He's pretty committed to the kid lol. And as we are all products of our upbringing, I didn't think it realistic that Sirius, who in canon has a vicious temper, would just be suddenly perfect at all times as a parent to a danger magnet. Fear is a powerful emotion and it makes us all do crazy things sometimes. Will my Sirius continue to punish Harry for misbehaving? Absolutely. Will there be another incident like the last one? Absolutely not. Sirius and Harry are learning together, and they will both make mistakes and they will both suffer through them.
Incidentally, I don't think the physical side of the punishment he gave Harry was abuse. He spanked him and gave him a few smacks with what my friend's grandmother used to call an "attention getter". Maybe I grew up more old school than many of you, but it was pretty common while I was growing up to see kid's having to cut their own switches when they were in trouble. Used briefly to make a point, it stung, but didn't damage. And Sirius would never do anything, even in anger, to genuinely hurt Harry. Sirius' true crime was his rage, and not taking the time to cool down before punishing. Believe me, none of you are more upset with him than he is with himself ;)
This will be my last update for a bit. I'm working on the next chapter which takes place during the First Task and its going to be a bit of a bear to write. Enjoy. And thanks for taking the time to read and review.
The warm light of a sunbeam shining through his bedroom window and directly into his eyes finally woke Harry. He blinked against the blurriness, reaching around the side of his pillow for his glasses. His searching hand found nothing even though he was sure he had laid them there the night before when he crawled into bed. Squinting, trying to focus his poor vision a little more, he saw the outline of his round specs on the small table next to the bed where he usually put them. He reached for them, fumbling a little as he put them on, his coordination always a bit off when he couldn't see properly. Looking down he also noticed that he was covered by the throw blanket that usually lay over the squashy armchair in his room.
A wave of shame cascaded over him as he realized that it must have been his godfather who covered him. Sore and miserable last night, Harry had just curled up on his bed and sobbed, not even bothering to remove his shoes, and had eventually fallen asleep. Looking out of the window, he saw the sun further up in the sky than it normally was when he woke up. It was late in the morning, the daylight promising all the signs of being unseasonably pleasant for late November. As it was Sunday, he knew that most of the students would be out and about on the grounds taking advantage of the nice weather. He lay quietly in his bed for a moment or two, reluctant to leave the comforting warmth and be forced to face whatever was waiting for him outside of his room. He had acted horribly, and didn't know how to even begin to make amends. Sirius had never refused to offer comfort after chastisement before, and he had never seen the man so angry at him before either.
This was going to be bad, he decided.
Eventually, the pressing need of his bladder made his choice for him and he reluctantly rolled out of bed. Moving as quietly as he could, he grabbed fresh clothes, slowly opened the door and took a quick peek out into the sitting room. Remus was sitting alone at the dining table looking rather rough, his face drawn and wan in color. Harry felt a pang of sympathy for the man. Even with the Wolfsbane potion, the lunar cycles still wreaked havoc on him. Remus looked up when he heard Harry emerge from his room, giving the boy a slight nod in acknowledgment. Already feeling tense, Harry nodded back and then quickly slipped into the bathroom. He used the toilet, afterwards washing his hands in the small pedestal sink and staring at his reflection in the ancient oval mirror hanging above it. His eyes were a little red and puffy and there were hints of lavender blushed circles under them from poor sleep. Running his hands under the cold water of the faucet, he splashed his face a few times attempting scrub the sleep away before finally giving it up as a bad job and deciding that a shower was what he really needed.
He disrobed, shedding yesterday's clothes and kicking them off to the side before turning on the shower nozzle to get the water warm. It took forever for hot water to come up to the tower from the depths of the dungeon floors. While he was waiting for the steam to build, he couldn't resist the urge to check for any lingering signs of his punishment from the night before. Although he didn't feel any soreness this morning, it had hurt so much last night. He twisted his upper torso around as much as he could and glanced down, surprised when there were no physical remainders of the whipping he had been given. He supposed that the evil little switch had been all mouth and no trousers, although it hadn't seemed that way at the time.
Once clouds of steam began to swirl around the small room, he stepped into the shower and let the warm water engulf him washing away dirt and grime, sweat and sadness. When he finally emerged twenty odd minutes later, he felt a little more fortified, a little more strengthened in body and mind. He dressed slowly, clearly not in any hurry to face his godfather, but knowing that he had to. He needed to apologize, even it Sirius didn't want to allow it. He was sorry, genuinely sorry and he needed to prove that to the man. Squaring his shoulders back, he finally emerged from the bathroom, waves of steam trailing him, and made his way over to the table.
Remus was still sitting there alone, hunched over a goblet of swirling green liquid that Harry knew was a tonic to counteract the side effects of the Wolfsbane. He didn't acknowledge Harry's approach, instead keeping his attention on a pile of parchment papers stacked in front of him. Harry looked around for Sirius, but he wasn't in the room, his bedroom door was open, showing that it was empty.
"Good morning," Harry addressed Remus softly, still feeling a bit skittish.
"Good morning, Harry." Remus finally lifted his face up to Harry's and the boy got a better look at the pale sickliness of his former professor's face. He attempted a half smile in sympathy.
Harry slipped into his usual chair, finding a plate with breakfast waiting for him at his place. The thought of food flipped his stomach and he grunted a little. "Where's Sirius?" he asked, a little hesitantly.
"He left you breakfast," Remus replied, unnecessarily gesturing towards the plate. "Eat."
"No, thank you," Harry replied, the smell of hot cakes propelling the nausea to rise up in this throat. "I don't want it."
At this Remus glared at him crossly, slapping down a piece of parchment sharp against the table. "And I don't care what you want, young man. You are going to do as you are told for once! Now, eat!"
Harry drew back in shock from the ferocity of Remus' words. They had hit him like a physical slap and he blinked rapidly, trying to compose himself before picking up the fork.
"Yes, sir," he replied quietly, obediantly putting a forkful of eggs into his mouth and trying mightily to keep from sicking up after swallowing it.
Remus closed his eyes and swallowed thickly. It didn't take a genius to see the boy's slightly green complexion, not that all different from his own this morning. But it did take an arse to force a boy that clearly wasn't feeling well to eat.
"I'm very sorry, Harry," he replied apologetically, reaching over and gently prising the fork from the boy's nervously clenched hand. "I'm not myself this morning, as you can see."
Harry frowned, nodding slightly. He was very fond of Remus and he wished there was some way to keep the affable man from suffering so. But the wording of the man's rebuke did not go unnoticed and Harry hung his head in shame.
"You know, don't you?" he whispered, his face blushing. "About last night."
Remus confirmed his suspicions with a single nod, the older man looking at him with sorrow in his eyes.
"Everything?" Harry asked, not really wanting the answer.
Harry's face flushed even more with the confirmation, but subconsciously he had expected no less. Besides the fact that Remus lived with them now, he was also Sirius' closest confident, and Harry himself held a huge measure of respect for the man.
Neither spoke for a moment as Remus took a large draw from the goblet, shuddering involuntarily from vile acidic taste. Harry sat with his eyes downcast, fiddling with a fraying edge of the cloth napkin next to his plate.
"I am sorry," he finally muttered quietly in Remus' general direction. "I didn't really think it would be such a big deal."
Remus reached over and tapped the boy's chin, forcing his head up. "Well, that's the problem, isn't it?" he said gently. "You didn't think."
Harry hesitated a fraction of a second and the shook his head slowly. "No, sir."
"No," Remus agreed. When Harry tried to turn his head away in shame again, Remus cupped the right side of the boy's face to keep his attention. "Do you know what it would have done to him if anything had happened to you last night?"
Harry's eyes began to tear. He knew how much his godfather loved him. Sirius would do anything for Harry. He would die for him, just like his parents had. And if something had happened last night, it would probably have killed him. The tears beginning to fall, Harry nodded slowly, his green eyes full of pain and remorse. Sirius had gambled his very magical essence on Harry's safety.
Remus scooted his chair closer to Harry's and he took the boy into his arms, holding him closely to his chest. Harry buried his face into the man's shoulder, quickly soaking his shirt.
"Where is he?" Harry asked again, his words muffled by the fabric.
"Fighting some personal demons," Remus answered quietly, stroking the back of Harry's head. "Forgiveness can be an elusive little beast."
Harry felt his chest tighten. He knew that he so many transgressions to make up for, but he just didn't know how to begin.
"What can I do?" he asked, gripping Remus' shirt a little tighter in desperation. "What can I say to make him forgive me? He wouldn't even look at me after it was over."
He felt Remus stiffen, making him pull back so he could see what had made the man react so. The kind amber eyes were sad and he was slowly shaking his head, a look of complete disbelief on his face. Remus reached out and cupped Harry's face in his hands gently.
"Ah, Harry. Your godfather forgave you the moment he had you home safely. The forgiveness he is seeking is yours. And...his own."
Now it was Harry's face that was etched in disbelief. "My forgiveness? What for?"
Remus reached for the fraying cloth napkin and used it to gently wipe the tears from the young boy's face. He couldn't bear to see them.
"For acting like a father last night," he answered, his face pinched. "Or, more specifically, for acting like his father."
Harry pulled away, shaking his head. He had heard many stories about the harsh and ruthless Orion Black and none of them rang true with his idea of his beloved godfather.
"No," he said with conviction. "Sirius isn't like his father."
Remus smiled at him, glad that Harry could determine that for himself. "I agree," he replied. "But Sirius does have his father's temper, and he does worry that he can't always keep it under control. He scared himself last night, and you too I think. Yes?"
Harry hesitated a moment, not liking to share intimate details. It almost felt like a betrayal of sorts. But he trusted Remus, so he gave him a brief nod admitting his fear.
"Know this, Harry. If it had been Orion Black that you had defied last night, you would have spent the next couple of days not being capable of even leaving your bed without excruciating pain. We saw it more times than I cared to stomach while Sirius was growing up."
The words made Harry's heart bleed for the beaten child that his godfather had been. Sirius was good and kind and loving. No one deserved such brutality.
"Sirius' anger last night was a byproduct of his crippling fear and frustration that he can't keep you safe from the things that want to harm you," Remus continued, determined that the boy would know all the facts that Sirius wanted to spare him from. Waggling a finger at Harry he scolded "You do not make that any easier on him, young man, do you?"
Stung by the rebuke, Harry physically winced and shook his head. "No, sir."
"Sirius' biggest fear always was turning into the father that he hated," Remus said, sadly. "He worked very very hard to purge himself of any similarity to the man. And your father and I always believed that he never settled down after school because he didn't want to risk history repeating itself through him."
Looking at the chastised boy, Remus softened, tapping Harry lightly on the chin. "And he couldn't look you in the eyes last night because he was too ashamed of himself."
Harry winced, feeling a sharp pain of guilt in the pit of his stomach. He should have gone to his godfather instead of retreating into his room like a coward.
"Ashamed of what?" Harry asked, confused.
Remus turned away, his pale face pained.
"He never counted on being your father, Harry," he heard Remus say softly. "To have ever thought of that would have been to imagine the most horrible of futures. But one day, there you both were. And you were already on your way to being grown. Reckless like your father and headstrong like your mother. Sirius' biggest fear then became losing you, and that fear dictates every breath he takes. It consumes him. But when he caught himself losing control with you, the very reason for his existence, well..."
"But I deserved it!" Harry protested, grabbing Remus' arm, making the man look at him. "Sirius was right to punish me."
Remus placed his larger hand over the small one that was gripping him tightly.
"Oh, yes. You did deserve punishment," he scolded, making Harry drop his head in shame. "By now, you know better than to pull the kind of stunt that you did last night. Believe me. I wanted to put you over my own knee when I found out how reckless you were. And you would have not found sitting in that chair very comfortable right now."
Harry sniffed and swallowed hard from the stinging rebuke, looking very chastised and very very young, and Remus didn't have the heart to scold him further.
"Sirius is angry with himself because felt himself acting like his own despised father, and not the father he is trying so hard to be to you."
"I need to see him," Harry implored urgently. He turned towards Remus and begged the man with his large green eyes glazed with pain. "Please."
Remus nodded, knowing that the boy indeed needed to reconcile with the only parent he remembered, just as surely as the man needed the solace of his beloved child.
"He's training in the Room of Requirement. He's been there for hours."
The figure in the center of the large room moved with the grace of a classically trained dancer.
Muscles taut and rippling, the limbs extended in low sweeping arches. Reflexes catlike swift and fluid. Blurry dizzying speed with lethal intent.
The ethereal but fairly solidly formed opponents repeatedly struck like hissing cobras, more reappearing each time one was blasted out of existence by the center stage warrior.
He was bare chested, sweat streaming in ribbons down from his head to his waist. His skin was etched on the front with large patches of curious looking symbols, his back a mess of pale criss-crossed ropes of discolored raised skin.
Thin trousers hung loosely around too narrow hips, the bones jutting out sharply from the body being abused by long bouts of malnutrition, but his movements were sheer poetry.
He dodged and flipped and rolled, fluid and sleek, one motion melting flawlessly into another, the wand in his hand casting it's defenses and offenses with unfailing accuracy.
Each movement was made with full commitment and passion, the exertions eliciting ferocious gutteral noises from his throat. Belying mental and physical pain and exhaustion, Sirius warred on, desperately seeking cathartic relief and penance.
Harry had barreled through the corridors, ignoring everyone he came across in his zeal to reach the training room. When he had finally arrived, panting from the effort, the magical door had allowed him entry revealing a frightening scene of his godfather in fierce battle with multiple aggressors. On instinct Harry grabbed for his wand until rational thought kicked in and he realized that what he was seeing was just an amped up version of the training spell that Sirius had conjured for their practices.
He took a shaky breath, sliding quietly into the room, seemingly unnoticed, and slid down onto one of the benches along the far wall as he watched his godfather duel.
It was as if he had never seen Sirius fight before. He had always known that Sirius had been a highly skilled Auror, and he knew, in a generally abstract way, what that entailed, but the man fighting the droves of dark wizards in front of him could have been a complete stranger. His movements were rapidly sharp and terrifyingly beautiful and, for the first time, Harry had a true sense of what his godfather's skills actually were. Clearly he had been holding back when sparring with Harry.
He huffed out a short laugh of mirth, wondering how he could ever have thought that his awkwardly juvenile efforts at combat would have been of assistance, realizing with a sickening wave of inadequacy that his current presence in a battle situation would only have slowed Sirius down.
Harry pulled his knees up to his chest, wrapping his arms around them and sat in rapt fascination, minutes passing and Sirius showing no signs of slowing down.
Only when all the faces of the aggressors morphed into the mirror image of each other, a face that looked eerily like an older version of his godfather, did Harry sit up anxiously as Sirius' attacks grew even more fierce, the magic in the air snapping and popping. The man's body practically radiated power and energy and there was a sizzling sound of static surrounding him. Harry watched, slightly fearful, teeth on edge as Sirius ruthlessly cut down each of the menacing cloned opponents before finally dropping to the floor on his hands and knees, chest heaving.
He didn't dare move for a moment. The intensity of his godfather's dueling had scared him a bit. But when he realized that the heaving of Sirius' chest was increasing, his shoulders shaking, Harry knew that something was wrong. And when he heard plaintive sobs of pain coming from the man, he leaped from the bench and bolted to him.
"Sirius!" he cried, anxiously hovering over the hunched form of his godfather.
Sirius slowly raised his head, his face a mass of tears, sweat and naked anguish. Seeing Harry's frightened and worried face above him, he reached up and pulled him into a frenzied embrace, crushing the child to his chest, his grip urgent and tight, rocking them both back and forth. Harry held him just as tightly, his hands gripping the sweaty skin, his heart breaking as he felt Sirius shake.
They sat on the floor, arms wrapped around each other in sadness and comfort for quite a while, not saying a word. Harry burrowed into his godfather's shoulder, not knowing the right words to help, so he just held tight, hoping it would be enough. And after the rebuff he had felt last night, he was soaking up the affection he was being given, it easing the pain in his own chest a little.
Finally, he felt Sirius pull away and he reluctantly allowed it. His godfather's usually merry silver eyes were red and pained as he looked pleadingly at the boy.
"I am so very sorry, little one," he whispered, his voice wavering and watery.
Harry shook his head, determined to not allow Sirius to shoulder all the blame. He reached forward and threw his arms back around the man's neck.
"I'm sorry you had to," he said sadly, burying his face in Sirius' neck.
Sirius' body visibly relaxed as he held his child closer to him and felt all of his tense energy begin to recede.
"Never again," he vowed to the boy, carding his fingers through the messy black hair. He felt the Harry's head nod, the boy gripping him tighter. "Never again," the small voice promised back.
After a few minutes of mutual comfort, Sirius could feel the cold of the stone floors underneath him and he rose quickly pulling Harry up to stand. He noticed the circles under the boy's eyes and his first instinct was to put him back to bed, but his godson hadn't yet released the hand that had pulled him upright and Sirius realized that Harry needed some more closeness right now.
He smiled at the boy and gently tugged him over to the wall where the towels and clothing were hanging. He released Harry's hand and grabbed a towel vigorously wiping down his face and torso. Harry drew back a little in shock. He had never seen Sirius with his shirt off before and the sight of the webs of mottled scars on the man's back made him want to sick up.
"What happened to your back, Sirius?" he asked without thinking, the sight so perverted it was unnerving him. Sirius immediately stilled, stiffening as he lowered the towel from his face. After a heartbeat of silent contemplation, Sirius turned to look at him, his eyes sad. "My father happened," he answered simply. Seeing the horrified realization spreading over Harry's face, he turned away again and grabbed his black silk button down from the hook on the wall and quickly donned it, cursing himself for being so careless as to let his child see the physical trauma of his own childhood.
Turning back to the boy and seeing that he was dangerously close to breaking down again, Sirius gently grabbed him by the shoulders and gave his child the biggest smile he could force himself to produce.
"I think we both could use some time away from here today," he stated as cheerfully as he could. "What do you think?" Choking back the lump rising in his throat, Harry nodded and attempted a smile of his own. Time away sounded brilliant.
"Okay," Sirius decided. "I have an idea. Go on back to the residence and get a warm coat and then meet me at the front doors. Yes?" Harry nodded, accepting the kiss on the top of his head from his godfather, and headed out and up, sprinting along the passageways.
Inside the residence it was quiet when he arrived, Remus' door was closed indicating that he was probably resting. Harry rummaged through his cupboard, grabbing a heavy windbreaker, and then took off for the front doors. Sirius was waiting for him when he arrived looking considerably more cheerful, wearing a very rugged stylish black leather coat and looking younger than usual. He put his arm around Harry's shoulders and led them off in the direction of Hagrid's hut. Upon arrival, Harry saw the gentle giant vigorously polishing the silver handlebars of motorbike. His godfather greeted the game keeper, a huge smile on his face at the sight of the bike. Pulling Harry over to it, he looked down at the boy.
"Let's go flying."
Harry's eyes widened in excitement and he eagerly jumped on the back of the bike behind his godfather. Sirius half stood and with a powerful motion he kick started the machine, a throaty roar ripping through the engine. Sitting back down on the seat, he threw a happy glance to his godson. "Hold on tight," he instructed, mischief in his eyes.
Harry obeyed, gripping Sirius' waist tightly just in time to brace himself as the bike launched forward, tearing across the grounds to the front gate. A joyful yell ripped out of his godfather's throat as they sped by the gates kicking up leaves in their wake. Once outside the grounds, Sirius urged him to hold tighter and Harry felt the exhilarating thrill of flight as the bike took off into the sky.
They flew for hours over forests and mountains, lakes and coastline, skirting over small towns, and Harry loved every minute of it. He loved the feeling of being in the air, the freedom of the skies, without care, without worry about anything below him. He breathed in the scents of drying leaves and chimney smoke and sea. In the clouds he found peace and calm and they could have stayed up there forever and it would have been alright by him.
Somewhere around tea time however, the late autumn sky darkening slightly, Sirius angled the bike down to the ground and they landed on an empty road with a small bump. They drove for another few minutes before finally entering the outskirts of a pleasant little village, driving slowly up the high street. Sirius finally stopped the bike in front of a cheerful looking little pub and turned off the engine.
He turned around in the seat and saw Harry's face, his smile beaming and his cheeks rosy. "Hungry?" Harry, just realizing that he had not eaten yet that day, acknowledged the roaring pang that shot through him. "Starving!"
Sirius barked out a laugh and led the boy into the pub where they ordered an obscene amount of food and spent the next two hours talking about absolute nonsense. No Tasks, or darkness or danger. Just a normal everyday conversation between father and son.
Eventually, the sky black with night, Sirius pulled a reluctant Harry out of the pub and they remounted the bike, making their way back to the castle. They landed outside the gats and drove through, back to Hagrid's hut, thanking him for taking good care of it and Sirius dragged the tired boy back to their residence.
Remus was sitting in an armchair by the fire, a tumbler of whiskey set on the table next to him, reading a book. He looked up and smiled when he saw them enter looking much better than he had seen either of them that morning. Sirius sent a protesting Harry to his room to get ready for bed, promising to join him shortly.
He flopped down on the couch and reached over and helped himself to a sip from Remus' whiskey glass.
"All sorted then?" Remus asked him. Sirius smiled and exhaled deeply, his eyes losing just a bit of their merriment. "We'll see," he answered sadly. They sat quietly in each other's company in front of the roaring fireplace until Sirius saw Harry exit the bathroom, teeth brushed and pajamas on.
He rose, throwing Remus a half smile and followed the boy into his room, closing the door softly behind him, before making his way over to Harry's bed and pulling back the blanket to allow the boy to crawl inside. The room was a little chilly, so he put a warming charm over his child and Harry snuggled into the covers, clearly worn out. He sat down on the edge of the bed and reached over to brush his fingers over the ebony fringe, gently rubbing his thumb over the scarred forehead. Harry looked so young and trusting as he stared up at him, allowing the physical contact.
Sirius frowned and cleared his throat. They had kept away from the topic all day but he simply couldn't hold back any further. He needed to know.
"Harry," he said sadly. "I need you to turn over and lower your pajamas, please."
Harry sat up, his face surprised and worried. "What?" he asked, confused. "Why? What did I do?" They had had such a wonderful day.
Sirius gently stroked his cheek, his eyes pained. "I need to see what I did to you, Harry. I have to know how much I hurt you."
Instantly Harry relaxed, but his heart broke for his godfather. "I'm fine, Sirius," he assured the man, wanting to ease his worry. "Really." Sirius just shook his head, misery in his eyes. "I need to make sure, little one. I'm sorry."
Harry huffed a little, not seeing the need for Sirius to continue to torture himself, and not really wanting to do what he asked, but he obeyed anyway. He rolled over slightly and tugged his pajama pants down one side, just far enough to convince his godfather that he was unharmed. He heard, rather than saw, Sirius release a huge shuddering sigh behind him. Pulling his clothes back into place, he rolled back over and saw his godfather's eyes glistening.
"You're not your father, Sirius," he stated firmly. "You're mine. And you're a really good one."
Sirius heavily exhaled, taking in big gulps of air. He reached over and gathered Harry into his arms and held him close until they both drifted off into peaceful sleep.