At Least For Now
Story Notes: Takes place in Goblet of Fire after Harry has been given his first dreamless sleep potion in the infirmary, before the Minister arrives.
Written for the "Missing Moment" challenge prompted by the SiriuslySirius Yahoo group. Thanks, oh fellow obsessed ones, for all of the encouragement!
Summary: Sirius helps Harry face his demons after Cedric is killed.
Beta: ObsidianEmbrace (Thanks, Tab!!)
Harry blinked up at the ceiling. His heart was still pounding as he emerged from the warmth and fuzziness of deep sleep. It took him several long minutes to realize he was in the infirmary… and another to realize it was not yet morning.
Soft snores buzzed around him.
Slowly, Harry pushed himself up with his elbows and reached for his glasses on the night table. The room was dim, but a low candle still burned weakly inside a smudged lamp at his bedside, its holder caked with dried drips of wax.
He glanced around. Mrs. Weasley was asleep in a chair next to his bed, snoring lightly, her chin touching her chest. A giant black dog was curled up on the chair opposite Mrs. Weasley's.
Harry stared at his godfather, sleeping soundly in his Animagus form; he hadn't realized that Sirius would be spending the night with him—Harry hadn't expected Mrs. Weasley to either, but her presence wasn't nearly as surprising.
Peering into the darkness of the infirmary, Harry spotted two more occupied beds. Ron's feet were sticking out of the end of his blanket, and next to him on her own bed, Hermione's bushy hair was visibly sprawled on her pillow.
Harry continued to balance himself on his elbows for another moment and then suddenly, everything washed over him with a sickening rush. His stomach lurched and his skin prickled hot, his chest tightening with panic. It was dark in here—too dark. Harry rubbed at his forehead, which was still sore from Voldemort's icy touch; he squeezed his lids shut, willing the memory of the graveyard to disintegrate. Cedric's unseeing eyes.
Dropping his head back onto his feather pillow, Harry breathed carefully through his nose, waiting for his heartbeat to slow. Waiting for the fog of sleep to carry him away again…
Someone sniffed deeply.
Palm still clutching his sweaty forehead, Harry flicked his eyes toward Mrs. Weasley. She let out another snore, her shoulders rising and falling peacefully. From the other side of the bed, however, Sirius was gazing at him, his ears perked up. The wispy candlelight flickered in his moist, round eyes.
Harry took his hand away from his fringe. They stared at each other for a long instant. And then very swiftly, very quietly, Sirius stood on all four legs, stretched, hopped off of his chair, and, in the shadows, transformed into his human self.
Harry's breath caught in his chest, his eyes growing wide. He jerked his head toward Mrs. Weasley again. Another soft snore. She was sound asleep.
When he glanced back toward the foot of the bed, Sirius was standing, fully clothed; he hunched down a bit, so Harry could see his face in the dim orange ring of light and put a finger to his lips.
Harry nodded. He used his elbows to raise his torso from the bed again as he watched Sirius move forward with careful, noiseless steps and crouch down beside him, slowly pulling a wand out of his sleeve.
He spared Harry a warm, crooked smile before waving his wand around both of their heads, twice.
"What are you doing?" Harry's whisper was full of worry as he waited for Sirius to replace his wand. He looked over at Mrs. Weasley once more; she was still snoring. "Sirius?"
"Shhh," Sirius shushed him and pressed his palm down on Harry's chest. "Lie back down," he murmured. "It's very late."
"She won't wake," Sirius said calmly, nodding once in Mrs. Weasley's direction. "Madame Pomfrey insisted she take a rather strong calming draught herself." His eyes shone with reassurance... and slight mirth. "Only took her three hours to finally swallow it…"
Harry tried a smile, but it wouldn't quite work.
"And," Sirius added, "I've just cast a silencing charm. No one will hear us; it'll last for as long as I need it. Go ahead and lie back."
This time, Harry obliged. The dent in his pillow was cold from the sweat that had cooled on the fabric. He waited while Sirius gave a quick tug at the covers, tucking the folds back underneath his armpits.
Crossing his forearms over his knee, Sirius sat back a bit on his heel, carefully surveying Harry's face, as if he were waiting for him to say something. When Harry didn't, Sirius licked his lips and grinned softly. "You were supposed to sleep all night—Pomfrey will be disappointed."
Harry stared at the tiny hills his toes made in the sheets at the foot of his bed. The image of red, bloodshot eyes, surrounded by skin whiter than death, flashed to the front of Harry's mind, threatening to engulf him with cold sickness. He longed for another potion—didn't want to think anymore.
Ron's other foot poked out of his blankets from across the room, and then settled by his shin, still once more.
"It was very brave of you to tell Dumbledore everything that you saw in the graveyard, Harry," Sirius said, shifting a bit in his squatting position. He looked at Harry somberly. "That couldn't have been an easy thing to do."
Beady eyes, wet with tears of pain and sickening admiration…
Void, blood-red slits.
Harry swallowed, closing his eyes briefly and then forced them to lock with the calming gray. "It's fine," he said through a dry throat. "I'm glad I did…" It was a lie. He had thought it would be good to put it out of his mind then. But only sleep had made the memory fade away; like smoke.
Now, it was smoldering him.
Harry clutched the folds of his blankets in his fists. "Have you seen Mr. Diggory?"
Sirius examined him, his forehead creasing. He shook his head. "I haven't. But I'm sure he's with family…"
A pause. The wind howled in the trees, waving arm-like branches in the sultry blackness of the June morning.
"Everyone wanted Cedric to win, I think." Harry found himself whispering now. "But I don't think he minded much."
Sirius continued to watch him, barely moving, as though he were holding his breath. But Harry wasn't really looking at him anymore.
"It was my idea to take the cup at the same time," Harry continued, his brittle voice sounding odd in his own throat. "I should have just gone for it."
Pale eyes; glassy, sightless eyes.
"Oh, Harry…" Sirius said sadly.
"It was stupid, really." Wide shadows quivered on the ceiling. Harry's vision blurred.
"It wasn't your fault in the least…" But Sirius' voice sounded far away.
Harry squeezed his eyes shut, pressing his knuckles into the lids… as if to stopper the tears that immediately slid down over his earlobes and bled onto the pillowcase.
After a moment, he felt an arm stretch tightly across his chest, but Harry wouldn't open his eyes for anything. If he moved a millimeter, he might combust.
He sniffed spasmodically, his nose dripping, as he tried to stop the tears from racing down his temples.
The only noise in the room was the quiet crackle of the dwindling flame, broken by Harry's deep, involuntary sniffling. His whole body burned with shame… or perhaps relief.
They waited it out for the longest of moments—the two of them.
"When I was in Azkaban," Sirius began quietly, patiently, "there were days where I thought I wouldn't be able to eat… or drink… or stand up, even. I missed your dad so much, it hurt. And I couldn't stop myself from thinking about what had happened to them… and that night…" Sirius trailed off, swallowing audibly.
Harry sniffed. He felt his glasses lifted from his forehead, but he let them be.
"The pain of the memory will fade over time," Sirius continued, "but you must understand that you couldn't have done anything differently if you'd wanted to… You were more than brave."
Harry swiped his wrist across both eyes, wiping his nose with the back of his wrist. He blinked up at the wooly ceiling with swollen lids.
"You have many people who care about you—Molly and Arthur…" Sirius nodded toward her sleeping form. "…and Ron and Hermione," he added, his voice taking on the slightest of smiles. "He fought his mum tooth and nail to stay here with you…"
A watery half-grin tilted Harry's lips.
"And you've got me."
Harry stared at the blurry image of Sirius' thin face; the corners of his eyes pricked hot again.
Swift, gentle knuckles caught the new tears before they flowed into Harry's ear canals. Sirius pushed Harry's glasses back onto his nose. He gazed warmly at Harry for a long while, tugging the blankets tightly once more with the hand still draped across Harry's middle.
Even though Harry was sweating underneath his covers, he said nothing.
Sirius waited until Harry had wiped every last trace of wetness from his face. And then he nodded once. "Everything will be all right," he said softly. "I promise."
Harry swallowed; for one blissful moment, his mind was only preoccupied with the memory of someone voluntarily wiping away tears that rarely came.
Finally, he nodded as well, believing with all his heart, at least for now—warm and safe, surrounded by nearly everyone he loved—that Sirius meant every word.
Author's Note: I couldn't resist this bit of necessary catharsis for Harry. You know me and the angst… :-) Thanks for reading!