What You've Given Me
Story Notes: Takes place after Molly has informed everyone in Grimmauld Place of Arthur's expected recovery from Nagini's attack. Written for prompts given by JadeSullivan and PadyandMoony on our mildly obsessed Sirius yahoo group. Beta'd by JadeSullivan. Characters and settings belong to JK Rowling.
Harry watched the Weasleys as they crowded around their mother. He caught Sirius' eye and could see that his godfather felt just as much an intruder as he did. Mrs. Weasley was dabbing at her eyes and nose in the next moment though, announcing that they all needed to eat. As the ginger group broke up, Sirius began pulling pots and pans out of cupboards, Harry moving to help.
They reached for the same skillet and Sirius immediately froze. "Harry…"
Harry glanced up at him, the whisper startling him more than a shout would have. Sirius was staring at the skillet... at his scarred hand, Harry finally realized as he followed Sirius' gaze. Harry yanked his hand away from the iron, but it was too late. Sirius was gaping at him.
"Your hand… What happened?"
"Nothing." Harry jammed his hand into his pocket and turned away. But Sirius moved with him, blocking his retreat. "Sirius," he said, unable to look at his godfather in the eye, "it's nothing. I'm all right—"
"There are words carved into your skin," Sirius whispered fiercely and Harry's eyes flicked up. Sirius drew in a slow breath, his lips mashing together. "Who did this?" he finally managed.
Harry weighed the truth against the possible outcome of his honesty and shook his head. "It doesn't matter," he said, hoping he sounded just as indifferent as he meant to. Sirius' chest heaved, his jaw so tense, it looked painful. Before Harry could protest, Sirius took his arm, and under the eyes of the grieving Weasleys, his godfather pulled him without interference into the library.
His face was perfectly still when he turned round to face Harry. "It matters a great deal to me," he said, his voice so composed, it was eerie. "Who did it?"
Harry's chest deflated, his shoulders slumping. "Umbridge."
Several spasms pulsed along Sirius' jaw, but other than that, he made no movements at all, save his lips. "Why?"
It was effort to speak the words, but Harry said them anyway, "Because I wouldn't say that Voldemort hasn't come back. She wanted me to admit that I had lied about all of it… but I wouldn't." Harry clenched his fist inside his pocket. "So she made me write lines with a Blood Quill in detention."
Sirius stared at him as bright pink began bleeding across his cheeks. "She…" He had to clear his throat to make the next words audible. "Why didn't you tell me?"
Harry ignored the guilt making his stomach churn and shrugged. "I'm all right," he tried again. "I haven't had detention with her in a while and—"
"A while!" Sirius echoed hoarsely. "How many detentions has she given you?"
"I don't know," Harry lied, rushing on to add, "but it doesn't matter. I mean, it's not so bad, and Hermione made a salve, so next time it happens, I'll just-"
"Next time?!" Sirius had gone pale. "There isn't going to be a next time!"
Harry almost laughed at that. "She hates me, Sirius," he scoffed. "And I'm not going to tell her Voldemort isn't alive—"
Harry's lips parted, too surprised to find an answer.
"He is still alive," Sirius said quietly; insistently. "Whether or not you make certain everyone knows it."
Harry gawked at him. "I'm not going to lie! Voldemort's back. I saw Wormtail kill Cedric, and I can't just pretend that didn't happen! How can you think I should?"
"Because," Sirius said simply, "it isn't worth it."
Sirius held up a hand before Harry could protest. "Hear me out, Harry. Sometimes," he began with a little nod for Harry's silence, "the fight is absolutely worth it. If you were insisting that Voldemort is back in an effort to save a friend—even to defend a friend, I would understand." He ducked his head and pinned Harry with his grey eyes. "But this—" He picked up Harry's scarred hand and held it up, "—isn't to save a friend; it isn't even to save yourself. And it isn't just a little pain. Umbridge is torturing you, and I'm beginning to realize, Harry, that you think you deserve it."
"What?" Harry spluttered. "That's ridiculous!" Harry tried to yank his hand away but Sirius held tight.
"Is it?" Sirius asked calmly, and Harry's heart began to beat faster in counterpoint. "She did this to you long enough that it's scarred you, and you didn't tell me—or Dumbledore—"
"Dumbledore isn't around!"
" And what about me?" Sirius asked quietly. "You could have told me in one of the letters you've sent."
Harry tugged against Sirius' hold again, but his godfather didn't budge.
"Why didn't you?" Sirius asked, his voice still quiet but more insistent this time. Harry looked away from the accusation in his eyes.
"I didn't want to bother you…"
"Have you ever bothered me?"
Harry glared at Sirius now, annoyed at the frustrated question. "I don't know," he said, bitterness marring the words. "I haven't been around you enough to know what's a bother to you and what isn't, have I?"
Sirius swallowed and Harry was certain his hand would finally be released, but Sirius' fingers curled around it instead, gripping it now. "Fair enough," Sirius said gruffly. "Except that I spent the majority of last year living on rats so that I could be near you."
Harry clenched his teeth briefly and ordered his throat to open. "I didn't make you," he finally muttered.
"You didn't have to." Sirius nudged his chin toward him so that Harry was blinking at his grey eyes again. "I wanted to be there, Harry, to make certain that you were safe. And I need to make certain that you're safe now."
Harry wanted to look away, but he couldn't quite manage it.
Sirius' thumb brushed delicately over the words now engraved into Harry's skin, prickling gooseflesh along his arm. "You did not deserve this," Sirius said, his words full of soft conviction. "It is not a punishment for Cedric." Harry's stomach twisted. "It's abuse, Harry, plain and simple, from a cruel woman who obviously derives sick pleasure from the control she's been given."
With Cedric's vacant eyes haunting his vision now, Harry said hoarsely, "You couldn't have done anything—"
"I would have done everything," Sirius interrupted, his voice rasping over Harry's. He grasped Harry's chin and tears pricked the green eyes. "You don't seem to understand exactly what you've given me for the past year and half. On the run last year and now… trapped here. This is no sort of life. You are my only reason for living now, Harry. And I don't care what I would have had to do, but I would have put a stop to it."
Harry shook his head soundlessly, his chin still in his godfather's grip, until a few words escaped, "… get into trouble, not for me."
Sirius stared at him, his lips pinched together. "Is that why you didn't tell me?" He closed his eyes briefly but when he opened them again, his pain was closer to exasperation. "I could have told McGonagall or Dumbledore… without any risk to myself," he added pointedly. "Neither of them would have allowed it to continue. What she did was illegal, and in case you haven't noticed, we have two Aurors flitting in and out of this house on a regular basis. And Molly and Arthur certainly wouldn't have stood by and let it happen, had they known-"
"I don't want anyone else-"
"To what?" Sirius demanded softly. "To care about you? To take any sort of risk on your behalf?" Harry didn't answer. Couldn't.
"That isn't your decision to make, Harry."
"Yes it is!" Harry jerked himself back, but even then Sirius didn't lose his hold. "I won't let anyone take any other risks for me! Especially not you," Harry said furiously. "Not when you're the only family I've ever…" His throat swelled too much to finish and he stood there, his eyes burning and not knowing where to look.
Sirius took his upper arms, and Harry blinked several times as he forced himself to look at his godfather. "And you think I feel any differently?" Sirius asked softly. "Do you think I can allow someone to hurt you and do nothing?"
"But you can't," Harry croaked. "Please-"
"I promise I won't make myself vulnerable, but I'm not going to let her do this again." Sirius smiled faintly. "We'll get the twins to help." Harry wanted to protest even that, but Sirius put his arms round him then, pulling him close. "And I want you to promise you'll not keep anything from me; not ever again. Knowing I could have helped you sooner, Harry…" Sirius tightened his arms and Harry found himself nodding against his godfather's shoulder.
Sirius squeezed the back of his neck lightly and Harry let himself relax in the embrace for a long moment. Sirius was smiling thoughtfully when he finally let Harry step back. "Your dad and I spent so much time in detention that we invented a way to talk to one another when we were separated."
"Yeah?" Harry's eyebrows rose in interest even though he was confused by the abrupt change in subject.
"Mirrors," Sirius said with a nod. "You can have your dad's. And that way, you'll be able to contact me straightaway."
Harry's stomach did a little flip as he asked eagerly, "You still have them?"
Sirius grinned. "Up in my room." He gestured with his head toward the door. "Let's find them, shall we?"
Harry smiled for the first time in a long time. Still grinning himself, Sirius put an arm round his shoulders and together, they went upstairs.
Inspired by the performances of Dan Radcliffe and Gary Oldman in the OotP movie.