Hey everyone. Yes, it has been forever. To be honest, this chapter was finished like a year ago but I was too scared to post it so I gave up on it. I hated the chapter and I had gotten a string of hateful messages and it really messed with my self-esteem. I was dealing with severe depression and anxiety and medical issues that had me constantly in the hospital.

I still deal with depression every now and then but, my medical issues were solved and I picked myself up about a year ago and went back to college. I am now a paramedic with a 911 service (which was my dream job that I thought I could never do because of health reasons) and I love it so much. I'm still in college right now, pursuing a critical care certification so that I can eventually work on a MICU.

Anyways, this story for me was a sort of therapy. The things Harry's going through, are things that I've dealt with in the past or are still dealing with. I had uncontrolled seizures for the longest time, and struggle with depression. I grew up in an abusive house hold and writing this story, has helped me work through some of this—even though I set up for Harry a family I wish I could have had.

I started writing this again but of the wonderful reviews I still continue to get! It surprises me that people like this story so much, but it gave me the courage to keep writing it—so thank you to everyone!

So, I'm back, and here's a heavy chapter to welcome you all. Lol

Warning: there is the briefest mention of self-harm, and suicide in this chapter but it is very brief.

Also, I messed up Sentimus Moss' character. I went back to fix it—he was originally supposed to have a stutter but I forgot about it until I was rereading over my notes. Oops. Lol

This chapter was not beta'd.

Hope you guys like it.

It was a frosty early Saturday morning with a dreary gray sky and wisps of fog hugging the frozen ground. Even so, Harry sat huddled stubbornly up in the bleachers, hands stuffed into the front pocket of the hooded jumper Lily had gifted him for his birthday. He had worn the jumper multiple times per week between classes, despite the curious looks he received from Sirius. It felt safe, somehow. Harry shifted uncomfortably on the hard seat and pulled one of his hands free of its warmth to tug his knitted cap back over his ears. It did little to stave off the cold.

Harry couldn't care less though. He had his eyes fixed on the small lineup of hopeful students trying out for the two open positions on the Gryffindor quidditch team. With clenched teeth, he watched Ginny Weasley as she flitted effortlessly about the quidditch pitch, having already caught the snitch twice.

Harry tried not to feel too jealous. It wasn't her fault that the effects of his scar were out of control, despite the continued efforts of both Sirius and Snape. Besides, if anyone was going to fill his spot, it might as well be her, one of his close friends.

Another person in the lineup that had initially surprised Harry but he should've been expecting was Ron, who seemed quite anxious as he waited his turn, dancing from one foot to the other and occasionally looking up to where Harry was sitting with a visible grimace of panic. Harry shot him a thumbs up whenever their eyes met, trying to be encouraging to his best friend at the same time he was trying to push down the bitter feeling that rose up within him.

"You know, P-Potter, wallowing in self-p-p-pity isn't a very attract-attractive look."

Harry rolled his eyes up towards the sky as Sentimus Moss dropped onto the bleachers in front of Harry. Ever since their initial encounter, Sentimus had approached Harry on a number of occasions, whether it was just to say hi or to walk with Harry wherever he might've been going. Harry had yet to figure out what the Slytherin wanted from him, but up until this point, he had seemed to mean no harm.

The sixth year leaned back and rested his elbows on the wooden bench next to Harry.

"What are you doing at a Gryffindor tryout?" Harry asked suspiciously.

"Scouting out the p-p-potential competition," he answered loftily.

Harry gave him a quizzical look, "You play quidditch?"

"No, why?" Sentimus said cryptically.

Harry couldn't stop himself from rolling his eyes again, deciding not to indulge the Slytherin. "Whatever."

Sentimus grinned, his piercing blue eyes glinting mischievously. He tilted his head appreciatively as Ginny did a series of loops. "Mm-my bets are on the red-red headed girl to fill your sp-spot. What do you th-think?"

Harry gritted his teeth, "Yeah, sure."

Sentimus glanced at him, "Stop being so sour, P-Potter. It's not the end of the w-w-world-you'll survive. There's always next year, when you're b-better, right?"

Harry became defensive, "What do you know about that?"

Sentimus raised his eyebrows, "You th-think I'm a deaf idiot?"

Harry heaved a great sigh. He really shouldn't be surprised; rumors spread through Hogwarts faster than dragon wildfire and Harry knew he was a hot topic as of late. "You think they'll let me have it back?"

The older boy shrugged, "Why wouldn't they?"

Harry contemplated this, not fully convinced but otherwise placated for the moment.

"Anyways, th-there's a Hogsmeade trip next weekend. Maybe I could tag along with you and your s-sidekicks."

"They're not my sidekicks," Harry said in annoyance, wrinkling his nose up. "And why do you want to hang out with us? Don't you have friends in Slytherin to go with?"

The other boy paused for just the briefest of seconds, a flicker of something in his eyes.

"I d-d-don't have any friends—it's the stutter," Sentimus said matter-of-fact, but he looked away as he said this. "And who cares-cares what houses we're in—it's not like its g-g-gonna matter after we graduate."

Harry was stumped. "Well, I—"

"Figured I'd find you here, kiddo." Both of the boys jumped. Sirius had somehow snuck up on them, wearing a black pea coat and burgundy scarf. He wore a scrutinizing expression and was eyeing Sentimus.

The Slytherin looked suddenly uncomfortable. He stood hastily, and brushed off the back of his jeans. "L-let me know ab-ab-about Hogsmeade, P-P-Potter. See you-see you later."

Harry studied the older boy for just a moment, ignoring Sirius. Sentimus seemed harmless and Harry even thought that the Slytherin reminded him a much younger Sirius. He also realized that perhaps Harry's last name was challenging for him to say.

"You can call me Harry," he said quickly just as the boy was about to hop down the bleachers. Sentimus looked startled but then a grateful grin spread across his face, revealing a gap between his front teeth.

"Will do, Harry," he said.

"See you," said Harry, watching Sentimus take the stairs two at a time and then disappear around the stands.

Sirius also watched the older boy disappear before looking back down at Harry. "Does that kid have a stutter?"

"Yeah so?" said Harry.

Sirius shrugged. "Just wondering," he looked back down at Harry and a scolding expression crossed his face. "Where in Merlin's name is your coat?"

Harry gave his godfather a sheepish expression, feeling his face heat up, "I don't have one."

Sirius' face became pinched.

"But I'm ok, really."

Sirius sighed and unraveled his scarf, "Here, before you die of hypothermia." He wound it sloppily around Harry's neck, and then proceeded to take off his coat. "Put this on, too."

"What about you?" Harry questioned half-heartedly, gratefully stuffing his arms into the long sleeves and fastening the buttons. The coat was too big but it did the trick.

Sirius gave him a fond smile, "I'll be alright for now." He settled down next to Harry, pressing close to his side. "Let me tell you, Harry, there's something odd about that Moss kid."

Harry shrugged, "He's definitely odd. But he seems nice to me."

Sirius remained quiet.

"He said he doesn't have any friends."

"Hm." Sirius rubbed his hands together and looked out towards the pitch. "Any good prospects so far?"

Harry looked out at the players as well. "Ginny's good," he muttered. "I think it'll be her for seeker."

"Good for her; she's definitely got the spirit for this sort of game."

Harry made a noncommittal sound and leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees.

Sirius shifted beside him and Harry felt a hand settle on his shoulder, "Buck up kid, this isn't forever."

"Could've fooled me," Harry mumbled. "It was one of my favorite things about Hogwarts."

"What are the other things?"

"My friends," said Harry after a moment. "And the food."

Sirius chuckled. "And look, you're not banned from either of those."

"I know," Harry said quietly. He glanced down at the ratty toes of his sneakers. One of the fraying laces was undone and he stared at the loose threads, unseeing. He didn't know how to explain that it wasn't just about losing his spot on the Gryffindor team. He didn't know how to tell his godfather that it was the feeling that Voldemort was taking another bit of freedom from him. Just like he took his parents, his childhood, his chance for a normal life, and a normal school experience. Just like he took Willow and Cedric. Harry didn't raise his gaze but the feeling of Sirius sitting next to him produced a sudden anxiety.

Was Sirius next? The thought gripped him with sudden terror.

"What is it?" Sirius asked quietly. He must have noticed Harry's sudden shift in demeanor, despite Harry's face being turned away.

Harry clenched his hands into fists within his jumper pocket, relishing in the pain of his fingernails digging into his palms. "I just hate—" he couldn't manage to finish the sentence.

"You hate what?" Sirius prompted.

My life. This stupid hand I've been dealt. My lack of choices. My so-called 'destiny'. "This." Harry finally said. "Just…everything."

Sirius hesitated a moment, as though unsure of what Harry was getting at, then said, "Listen Harry, we're not doing this to hurt you. It's for your safety. If there was a way, we would've done it. It's just…just a game."

"I know," Harry's voice was even quieter still. But didn't Sirius understand? It wasn't 'just a game'. At the very core of it, it wasn't even about the game at all. Harry dropped his head even lower, scuffing the toe of his sneaker against the wood grain of the bleacher. "Sirius?"

"Hm, yeah?"

"Do you ever wish you could…I dunno…disappear?"



Sirius said nothing at first and Harry was sure that the man could hear the pounding of his heart. "Harry," Sirius' voice came out startlingly harsh. "Don't say things like that, alright? You're in a rough patch is all. This is just a Quidditch game—so don't blow things out of proportion."

Harry felt effectively chastised. It seemed as though his heart was in his throat. He couldn't bear to look at his godfather, shame washing over him. Perhaps Sirius realized how harsh he had come across for he sighed.

"Just don't talk like that, okay?" he said in a more even tone. He gave Harry's hair a quick ruffle, and it took every single fiber of Harry's being not to flinch at the unexpected contact in the wake of a tense moment.

"I'm sorry," Harry muttered. Sirius said nothing. Harry's palms felt suddenly slick and he immediately flexed his fingers, realizing he had dug his nails in too deep. They sat in silence for several minutes as Harry stared out at the pitch, seeing but not seeing, trying to keep his breathing as even as possible. Finally, Harry made to stand, needing to escape the cold air and the excited shouts of the Quidditch try outs. "Do you want to go inside?"

Sirius stood as well, acting as though nothing had even happened, "I thought you'd never ask."

Together they descended the stands and made their way up the winding stone steps up towards the castle.

"There's something else as well," Sirius began, seeming determined to move past their tense conversation. "I spoke to the headmaster about us going out to muggle London for a clothes trip and he said I was welcomed to go, but he doesn't want you out there."

"Ugh, that's stupid," Harry felt the sinking sensation of disappointment. He briefly dropped his head back and kicked at some loose stones. "Are you sure I can't come—it's not like you can't take care of me, right?"

Sirius grimaced, "Yeah, sorry about that kiddo. Dumbledore strictly forbade me to take you off of castle grounds unless it was to headquarters for this coming Christmas."

Harry tried not to let his face show how bummed he was about this; he didn't want to upset Sirius again. "Ok. It's not a big deal."

Sirius smiled faintly, "That's the spirit, kid. So, I was planning on leaving for London after lunch and return in time for dinner."

Harry stuffed his hands into the pockets of Sirius' coat, "Ok." The disappointment he was feeling was slowly seeping away leaving behind this odd hollow hole that he had become quite acquainted with this past month or so.

"Christmas is a few weeks away and we'll have a decent break," Sirius reminded him needlessly.

"I know," said Harry.

The dried leaves crunched under their feet as they walked. The sound was soothing to Harry. Methodical. Expected. Sirius rubbed his hands together for warmth.

"What sort of clothes do you like?" he asked after a moment.

Having never been asked that question before, Harry felt momentarily stumped, "Er, clothes that fit."

Sirius gave him a side-eyed glance, "Alright, I'll make sure that one is on the list. Anything else? Favorite colors? Styles? Are you leaning towards a crypt-keeper, Snivellus thing or a garish and blinding Dumbledore-esque style?"

Harry laughed half-heartedly, "I think I'd like to find a happy medium."

Sirius gave him a nudge, "Just making sure."

They continued up the steps for a few moments in silence, Harry's steps getting slower. Sirius dropped his arm from Harry's shoulder and gripped him under the forearm instead, helping him up the remaining set of stairs when he faltered from the exertion.

"Harry," Sirius murmured as they reached the main doors, Harry breathing heavier than he should have been. "On a scale of one to ten?"

Harry paused, trying not to lean too heavily on the man, and looked down at the weathered stone, knowing this question had been coming and yet wishing Sirius' hadn't asked it all the same. It made him feel too vulnerable.

On a scale of one to ten?

That's the first question Sirius had started asking him nearly every time they see each other. It was a discreet system Sirius had created to garner how Harry was managing that day.

Three, Harry would sometimes respond.

So five then? Sirius would shoot back.

That's not what I said.

But it's what you meant.

Harry would never say anything back. He never knew what to say back because he knew deep down that Sirius' uncanny ability to read Harry's physical wellbeing had improved immensely, much to Harry's dismay.

And Harry knew Sirius could see that each day seemed to be weighing heavier and heavier on Harry. He had felt it as well. He grew tired a lot faster than he used to and had frequent bouts of headaches and empty spots in his day. His sleep was usually troubled and more often than not, he was jolted awake by Sirius shaking his shoulders. To cope, Harry had started to think of the passing time in small increments, because it seemed to make it easier to get through each dragging week.

Just make it through this day and tomorrow will be better, would be his mantra.

Just make it through the night and the dreams will stop, he was sure of it.

Just make it through the hour.

Just make it through the minute.

One more step.

One more breath.

Just keep going.

Just keep going.

These days, whenever the thought of the other universe and it's occupants popped unbidden into his mind, he would immediately feel a rush of intense bitterness and resentment. He didn't miss them.

Not one bit.

Curse them.

Fuck them.

He hated them.

Try as he might at controlling his thoughts and clearing him mind, things didn't seem to be getting better. His grades were slipping and he was having increasing trouble staying awake during class. The Professors never said anything to him other than giving him a second chance to take an exam, an extension on his essay, a blind eye when he fell asleep during a lecture. Even Snape had cut back on his insults—though it was probably more of Sirius' doing than anything else.

"Harry?" Sirius prompted when Harry had remained silent for too long. "Are you with me, kiddo?"

Harry sighed, "It's a two today—just a two. I'm fine."

Sirius' eyebrow quirked, "Are you sure you're ok with me leaving for a bit?"

Harry nodded fervently, not wanting to worry Sirius, "I'm sure."

"Ok," said Sirius. "Don't hesitate to call for me if you need anything. I'll only be an apparation away." Harry didn't see the look of affection his godfather sent him but the warmth of the man's hand on his shoulder was enough.

Harry grabbed lunch with Ron and Hermione before spending a frustrating hour writing and rewriting his Transfiguration essay that had been due two days before. Hermione didn't hesitate to help, for which Harry was grateful. Ginny sought him out a while after that, looking somewhat uneasy as she told him she had gotten his vacant spot as seeker for the team.

"You're the best choice," Harry reassured her, maintaining a neutral expression on his face.

She grimaced, "You are actually, but thanks anyways. Once you're able, I'll give the spot back to you, alright?"

Harry wasn't sure what to say but he smiled anyway.

"I've always preferred chaser anyway—that's what I'm going for next year."

Harry perked up slightly at that now knowing that she wasn't trying to pity him.

Ron also had something to be proud of, having secured the keeper's position on the team. Harry could tell that his friend was trying not to be too excited about it in regards to Harry's feelings and that made Harry feel guilty and fond at the same time.

"You don't have to pretend you're not excited, Ron," Harry said after a half hour of Ron twitching in his seat. "I'm happy for you. You're going to do great." Harry, though, failed to mention that Angelina had found him in the common room after try outs and stated that Ron was the only choice they had and that he had struggled throughout tryouts.

"It's a confidence thing," Harry had told her, trying to reassure her.

She had sighed, "Well, we're going to suffer without you but it'll have to do for now. Just try to, like, bolster his confidence for the team's sake, please?"

"How?" Harry had asked, bewildered.

Angelina had glared, "I don't care how, Harry. Just figure it out—I refuse to lose the cup as captain."

Harry had then relayed this information to Hermione who frowned, too focused on the hat she was furiously knitting. "You'll figure it out, Harry."

Harry now laid on the sofa in Sirius' quarters, waiting for his godfather's return, and contemplating on how to do just that and coming up with nothing. He turned onto his stomach and let his fingers brush the cool floor, feeling the sofa cushion push back against him with each breath he took. He focused on that until a fog settled over him and he drifted through a mindless sea. He was floating, floating…and then flying high above clouds with the wind rushing past his face…and then he was running, running down a dark corridor, bluish light flickering around him, hissing whispers in his ears…and then it all went black. He fell into a deep, exhausted sleep, one leg hanging off the couch and head slumped to his shoulder.

Harry was awakened slowly by the sound of footsteps and the clanking of pots. He blearily opened his eyes and saw Sirius looking sheepishly at him.

"I'm sorry, I was trying to be quiet," he said apologetically.

"It's alright," Harry yawned, stretching for the ceiling before rubbing at the indentations his glasses had made. "What time iz' it'?"

"Half past six," Sirius answered. "Shopping was successful—come see."

Curious and a tad nervous, Harry rolled off the sofa and followed the man down the short hall to his bedroom. He stopped in the doorway and gaped, at a momentary loss for words. He looked at Sirius with incomprehension then back at his room, blinking rapidly and thinking that perhaps he was hallucinating.

"This is all for me?" Harry surveyed his bed in disbelief—well, what he assumed was still his bed considering it was currently unrecognizable under the mountain of clothes and other accessories.

Sirius scratched the back of his head uncomfortably, "I may have gone a bit overboard…" he cleared his throat, "But since Dumbledore forbade me from taking you out of the castle grounds, I just took it upon myself to buy some of whatever I thought you might need—it's been a while since I shopped for clothing."

"Some?" Harry echoed faintly, unsure of where to start.

"I figured we can burn those shitty hand-me-downs from your relatives. We can even make a whole ceremony out of it if you'd like. Out with the disgusting, in with the new and well-fitting."

"I'm not sure if that's how the saying goes…" Harry lifted up one of the hooded jumpers and examined it. It was a heathered burgundy and had two buttons at the neck. He looked at the tag and blanched at the price.

"I didn't know what kind of clothes you like, but you seem to wear that blue hoodie an awful lot so I got you several of those kind of things in different colors so that jumper can get a chance to get washed." Sirius was staring at Harry as though nervous for a reaction. "And look—!" Sirius held up a black button up coat. "It's wool so it'll be super warm for those treks to Hagrid's hut and the quidditch pitch."

"Sirius…" Harry's voice caught in his throat. He carefully replaced the jumper back on the bed and looked at his godfather, feeling distressed.

Sirius' face dropped, "What? You don't like it, do you? Shit—well, we of course can exchange anything—"

"No, no, it's…amazing," Harry hurriedly cut him off, face burning. "It's just…a lot."

Sirius looked puzzled. "A lot what?"

"Of-of stuff. And, er, money, you know?"

An expression of understanding came over Sirius, "Ah, I get it," he tilted his head at Harry. "It's not really a lot, Harry—just what every kid your age actually needs to get through a year—not the four measly pieces of rags that you call shirts."

"But the prices…."

Sirius waved him off, rolling his eyes, "Shut-up, Harry—the price is nothing. I already had a small fortune from my Black vault and the ministry paid me a pretty galleon for the 'physical and emotional' damage I received from my years in Azkaban. Besides, it's about time you have more than one thing that actually fits you."

Harry blinked and looked back at the pile of clothing. It made sense, what Sirius was saying, but Harry still felt mildly uncomfortable. "How'd you know my size?"

"Molly actually helped me out on that end."

"Mrs. Weasley?" Harry raised his eyebrows in surprise.

"Yep. I couldn't stop that woman even if I had tried. She was a little too excited to help me shop for you, if you ask me."

Harry finally smiled, letting out a short laugh. He took in a deep breath and turned to fully look at his godfather. "Thank you, Sirius. This…this is great…honestly."

Sirius beamed like a proud sunflower. "You're welcome, kiddo. Now, get changed, gather up whatever Dursley shit you have, and we'll throw it all in the fire before dinner."

Harry grinned; now that sounded like a plan.

Tuesday came about with three feet of fresh snow frosting Hogwarts' grounds in shimmering layers of white. The students moved between classes in huddles in an attempt to keep warm, wrapped up in scarves and hands tucked into mittens.

Out in the courtyard, most of the snow had been cleared away from the stone to allow students easy passage. Twenty minutes before Care of Magical Creatures, Harry, Ron, and Hermione stood in a close circle with shoulders pressed together around a small blue fire that Hermione had conjured.

"I like your new coat, Harry," Hermione said, wiggling her fingers in front of the flame.

"Thanks," Harry said, "I'm still bloody cold though."

"No idea why Sirius can't cancel class," Ron grumbled.

Hermione narrowed her eyes at Ron, as though the thought of canceling class was blasphemous. "It'll get better once we're down there."

"Yeah, cuz we'll be dead."

Harry laughed while Hermione rolled her eyes.

"Hopefully it'll not be this cold this weekend or I don't know if I want to go to Hogsmeade," Hermione said. "It'll be miserable going through all this."

"I'm already miserable now," Ron complained. "How does Sirius expect us to manage to stay out in this for an entire hour."

"He'll probably have some fires going," Harry reasoned.

"Have you heard anything about Hagrid?"

"Nope," Harry stomped his feet in an effort to get the blood flowing. "Whenever I ask Sirius, he always changes the subject. I hope he's alright. It seems like I haven't seen him in forever."

"Hagrid is half giant, I'm sure he'll be fine," Ron said. "Bloody hell, I'm freezing."

"Maybe if we start walking, we'll warm up more; we have ten minutes anyway," Hermione suggested. She conjured up a jar and scooped up the fire. Ron and Harry trudged after her.

"Excited for your 'remedial potions' tonight?" Ron asked, kicking up drifts of snow with each step he took.

"Not in the slightest," Harry said flatly. "I'd rather spend the night with Moaning Mrytle."

"Have you been able to push him out yet?" Hermione asked.

Harry sighed. His sessions with Snape, which had started badly enough, were not improving; on the contrary, Harry felt he was getting worse with every lesson.

Before he had started studying Occlumency, his scar had prickled occasionally, usually during the night, or else following one of those strange flashes of Voldemort's thought or moods that he experienced every now and then. Nowadays, however, his scar hardly ever stopped prickling, and he often felt lurches of annoyance or cheerfulness that were unrelated to what was happening to him at the time, which were always accompanied by a particularly painful twinge from his scar. Along with his blackouts—which were growing in frequency—he had the horrible impression that he was slowly turning into a kind of aerial that was tuned into tiny fluctuations in both Voldemorts' moods, and he was sure this had all started getting worse after his first lesson with Snape.

"No. Definitely not." Harry said flatly. "I've definitely tried but I'm complete pants at it…I hate it; I always feel awful after a session."

"I expect anyone would feel that way if they'd had their mind attacked over and over again," said Hermione sympathetically.

"Yeah," Harry made a face. "I don't see the point anymore. The only things I've gotten out of it are awful headaches and memories that I don't remember happening."

"Memories you don't remember happening," Ron echoed, puzzled. "That's makes complete sense."

"You're telling me."

Ron stopped suddenly, eyes wide.

"What?" said Hermione and Harry at the same time.

"You don't think the old bat is planting stuff into your head, do you?"

Harry looked back at Ron, mortified. "No! Right?" Harry turned his eyes to Hermione, then back to Ron. "He can't, can he?"

"I don't think Snape would do that," Hermione said, though her facial expression was unsure. "I suppose you could just ask him."

"Yeah, I suppose being murdered could be fun," Harry shook his head and starting trudging on again.

"Nah, he wouldn't murder you," Ron said. "Maim you, sure. But I don't think he would murder you for asking."

Smiling to himself, Harry spotted Sirius in the near-distance. The man was outside of Hagrid's cabin, standing uncomfortably close to a fire pit. When they got closer, Sirius waved at them to join him by the fire.

"Freezing my bollocks out here," Sirius said with a pained expression.

Hermione flushed furiously while Ron and Harry laughed.

Sirius actually ended up ended the class after 25 minutes of the fifth years shivering controllably. Lavender Brown was near tears as they all made their way back up to the castle, sure she was close to her death and bemoaning this wasn't the way she was supposed to go.

At dinner that night, Harry reluctantly picked through his food. When he could postpone it no longer, he packed up his things and dropped his bag off at the tower before heading down to the Dungeon for his weekly Occlumency lesson.

The entire lesson was extremely unpleasant. Harry found himself, for the sixth time, kneeling on the floor of Snape's office, trying to clear his head. He had just been forced, yet again, to relive a stream of very early memories he had not even realized he still had, most of them concerning the Dursley's, and some from the moments Harry spent in Voledmort's mind.

"That last memory," said Snape. "What was it?"

"I don't know," said Harry, getting wearily to his feet. He was finding it increasingly difficult to disentangle separate memories from the rush of images and sound that Snape kept calling forth. "You mean the one where my cousin tried to make me stand in the toilet?"

"No," said Snape softly. "I mean the one concerning the dead children in the snow…"

"It's…nothing," said Harry. He tried not to think of those sorts of excursions into Voldemort's minds, though he couldn't escape the nightmares that have been plaguing him since that particular one.

Snape's dark eyes bored into Harry's. Remembering what Snape had said about eye contact being crucial to Legilimency, Harry blinked and looked away.

"What about the one of the child sitting on the porch, Potter?" said Snape.

"It—" said Harry, looking everywhere but at Snape. He knew what the man was talking about. Aunt Marge was visiting that week and Harry had dropped an entire plate of turkey on the floor. His uncle, as punishment, locked him out of the house for the rest of the night in the dead of winter. Harry had been seven. "it was—just a dream I had."

"A dream," repeated Snape.

There was a pause which Harry stared fixedly at a large dead frog suspended in a purple liquid in its jar.

"You do know why we are here, don't you, Potter?" said Snape in a low, dangerous voice. "You do know why I am giving up my evenings to this tedious job?"

"Yes," said Harry stiffly.

"Remind me why we are here, Potter."

"So I can learn Occlumency," said Harry, now glaring at a dead eel.

"Correct, Potter. And dim though you may be…"

Harry looked back at Snape, hating him with every fiber of his being.

"…I would have thought you might have made some progress. How many other dreams about the Dark Lord have you had?"

Harry said nothing for a moment. He could feel Snape's eyes boring into him. Finally, Harry turned back to face the man, taking on defensive stance, "Look, that last one wasn't from Voldemort—" Snape flinched – "It was me. I was being punished. It was stupid."

Snape stared at Harry for an unbearably long time. He pinched the bridge of his nose, jaw clenched before snapping, "Have you not been practicing?"

"I have!" Harry said fervently, using his sleeve to wipe the sweat off his face. "I just…it's not working."

"Obviously." Snape's cold black eyes regarded Harry before he whirled away. "We're done tonight. Same time next week—though I doubt there will be any improvement."

Harry gritted his teeth and snatched up his wand which had fallen to the ground. His head thumped painfully with each step he took. He stopped at the door, his heart suddenly pounding quite furiously. He turned and rested his hand on the door frame. Snape was back at his desk, quill scratching on parchment.

Harry swallowed hard, trying to gather whatever Gryffindor courage he could muster.

"Do not linger in the doorway, Potter," Snape's sneering voice startled him from his internal debate. "Say what you must; otherwise, leave."

Harry took in a breath and stepped back into the room, "I need to ask you something."

Snape narrowed his eyes and waited.

"Some…some of the things I've been seeing—er—well, I don't remember them happening and—"

"And you dare accuse me of somehow planting these memories into your subconscious?"

"No, I—"

"Your arrogance never ceases to astound me, Potter, and I knew your pompous father. Just because your small mind does not remember an event, it will still be nonetheless stored into that mediocre brain of yours. Legilimency will bring forth memories long since forgotten or…buried. There are no secrets within it."

"So, everything I see, has happened—even though I don't remember it happening?" Harry reiterated slowly.

"Didn't I just confirm that? How you have managed to get this far into your magical education continues to baffle me."

Harry gritted his teeth, glaring furiously at Snape, "My apologies for asking a question."

"Mind your tone, Potter. My patience for your disrespect is wearing thin."

"I'm not trying—" Harry clenched his fists and struggled to fight down the flare of temper. He huffed out a breath. "Whatever." He turned to leave.

"Is this about the memory of your aunt attempting to drown you?" Snape's voice was cool and level.

Harry spun back around. Snape was regarding him emotionlessly over his steepled fingers.

"My aunt didn't try to drown me," Harry retorted.

"Your memories prove otherwise."

"Well, I don't even remember that happening."

"Did you not listen to what I just said?"

"I listened—I'm…just not convinced."

Snape glared at him, though the glare wasn't as withering as it usually was. The man suddenly stood and Harry took a step back in surprise. Ignoring him, Snape swept across the room to a row of cabinets and selected a small vial from its contents.

"Here, Potter," The potion's master handed Harry the vial, staring down his hooked nose. "Drink this before you sleep tonight."

"What is it?" Harry asked, holding the vial away from his body, worried the thing might explode or something.

"Dreamless sleep. It will allow you to rest."

"Oh," was the only intelligent thing Harry could think of for a moment. He looked up, "I have another question."

Snape looked as though he might throttle Harry, "What. Now."

"You've been back and forth between dimensions like me, right?"

"Where are you going with this, Potter?" Snape gritted out.

"I was…just wondering how you did it?" Harry inwardly cringed at the expression that now twisted the man's face.

"Get out of my sight."

"What? But, Professor—"


Harry didn't need to be told twice. He hurriedly escaped the classroom, not sparing a glance back.

The next morning after Occlumency, Harry awoke abruptly in Sirius' quarters, blankets completely kicked off the bed and he was immediately met with the impressive feeling that his head was close to exploding. Body aching and sweaty, he tried to move and roll over to retrieve his sheets, but the moment he moved an inch, the pain in his head increased tenfold so Harry immediately went limp, breathing shallow and staring up at the cracks in the stone ceiling, wishing in that moment he was anyone but himself.

He wasn't sure how much time had passed but he heard a knock at the door after a while and it opened, pulling him from the semi dissociative state he had been floating in. "Hey, kid, you're running a bit late this morning. Class starts in twenty minutes."

Harry drily swallowed, "I can't," he whispered, grimacing at the pain that little movement caused.

"You can't what?"

Harry closed his eyes and then slowly reopened them, "It hurts to move."

He heard Sirius move deeper into the room. The man carefully sat down next to Harry; his face creased with worry as he bent over his godson. He placed his cool hand on Harry's forehead, "Where does it hurt?"

"My head," Harry answered hoarsely, his voice even quieter still. "If I move…it gets worse…"

"Scale of 1 to 10? Be honest."

"Seven," Harry's lips barely moved. He shut his eyes and heard Sirius stand, muttering under his breath. The man returned in a matter of a minute.

"Drink this, it'll help."

Harry cracked his eyes and allowed Sirius to help him down the bitter potion. He slowly moved a hand up to cover his eyes, the added darkness helping just a bit. There were several minutes of quiet.

"Any better?" Sirius finally asked, his voice low.

"No," Harry murmured. "Is that normal?"

Sirius' answering silence boded him an ominous feeling.

Harry removed his hand from his eyes, "Sirius?"

Sirius brushed some of Harry's hair free of his forehead, "Your scar is raw," he said with a frown. "Was Occlumency rough last night?"

Harry placed his hand back over his eyes, swallowing thickly against the faint nausea that the pain was creating. "Same," was all he managed.

"Same as usual?" Sirius clarified.

Harry raised his index finger up an inch to indicate yes.

"I will get you something stronger," Sirius said after a moment. "Hang tight."

It took Sirius longer this time and by the time he had returned, Harry had retched twice over the edge of the bed, his pain escalating, and sweat making his tee shirt stick to him. Sirius banished the mess and helped Harry into a sitting position. "Damn, Harry, I haven't seen you this bad for a while," he said, popping open a cork from a small vial. "This stuff is pretty…potent. It'll probably knock you out."

Harry couldn't give one iota if the stuff made him float ten feet in the air and do somersaults, if it could take away the agony bisecting his skull. He drank it in three gulps, surprised by its spicy-sweet taste and fell back against his pillows. The potion's affects took hold of him almost immediately. The pain began to fade slowly, like a sponge being drained of water. A heavy lethargy weighed down his limbs and his mind seemed to be wiped clean of fear and stress. He felt more relaxed than he ever had been before.

Sirius watched him carefully, looking unsure, "Is the pain gone?"

"Very yes," Harry slurred out.

"Do you think you can stand for just a moment so I can change the sheets?"

Harry nodded heavily and allowed Sirius to help him out of bed. While Sirius deftly changed the sheets, Harry clumsily changed into a fresh set of pajamas.

"Let's get you back into bed before you fall asleep on the floor," said Sirius. The man gripped Harry's arm as the boy climbed back into bed. Harry sighed gratefully, letting himself sink deeply into his mattress. He had never felt this comfortable before in his life. Wordlessly, Sirius pulled the clean blanket up over Harry.

"Will you be all right while I'm in class?" Sirius asked, still looking wary. Harry wasn't sure why his godfather was looking like that—he had never felt such a euphoric feeling before. All wrapped up and warm, Harry's eyes drooped.

"'m fine, Siri…jus' sleepy…"

"All right, then," Sirius said, his voice sounding very far away. "I'll be back to check on you in a bit. And don't ever call me Siri again."

"'k…" Harry whispered before slipping completely and totally into wonderful darkness.

Harry woke what seemed like hours later, feeling fuzzy and uncoordinated. He looked blearily around the room and gave a start when someone moved in his peripheral vision.

"Sorry," said a low voice. "I was just checking on you."

"Sirius?" Harry muttered. He slowly rolled onto his back and stretched out all four limbs and then found he couldn't find it within himself to sit up. In fact, he could go right back to sleep.

"No, it's Remus," the man stepped closer, the low light of the flickering candle. "Sirius was concerned about leaving you alone, so he asked me to come check on you. How do you feel? Any pain?"

"No," Harry said, blinking heavily. "Just feel funny."

Lupin gave him a wry smile, "That's quite normal. The pain potion Sirius gave you is usually only used in severe cases and can be quite addictive if not dosed out correctly."

"Hm," Harry closed his eyes. "What time is it?"

"Just after 2pm. Go back to sleep—I'll be out in the kitchen if you need anything."

Harry was already blissfully unaware. Lupin quietly backed out of the room, closing the door with a gentle click.

It took Harry nearly two days to feel normal again and no longer deeply lethargic. The rest of week passed steadily by and the morning of the Hogsmeade visit dawned bright but windy. After breakfast, they queued up in front of Filch. When Harry reached the odd man, the caretaker gave a great sniff, as though trying to detect a whiff of something from Harry. Then he gave a curt nod that set his jowls aquiver again and Harry walked on, out onto the snow-covered stone steps and the cold, sunlit day.

"Er—why was F-Filch sniffing you?" Sentimus asked who was waiting at the steps for the three to meet up with him.

"Hell if I know," said Harry.

The four of them walked between the tall stone pillars topped with winged boards and turned left onto the road into the village, the wind whipping their hair into their eyes. Sentimus ignored the suspicious looks Ron kept shooting him.

"Where are we going anyway," Harry asked, trying to break up the awkward silence. "The Three Broomsticks?"

"Oh—no," said Hermione, coming out of her reverie, "no, it's always pack and really noisy. I've told the others to meet us in the Hog's Head, that other pub, you know the one, it's not on the main road. I think it's a bit…you know…dodgy…but students don't normally go in there, so I don't think we'll be overheard."

"You sure you want him here with us?" asked Ron pointedly.

"He's fine, Ron," said Harry wearily.

"Yes, he's f-f-fine," Sentimus interjected with a grin. "This is exciting. Defense has always b-b-been my fav-favorite subject, despite the shoddy P-professors we've had-had."

Ron's face showed his displeasure.

"We did say it was for anyone," Hermione interjected.

They walked down the main street past the joke show, past the post office, and turned up a side street at the top of which stood a small inn. A battered wooden sign hung from a rusty bracket over the door, with a picture upon it of a wild boar's severed head leaking blood onto the white cloth around it. The sign creaked in the wind as they approached. All four of them hesitated outside the door.

"Well, come one," said Hermione slightly nervously. Harry led the way inside.

This is going to be a mistake. Harry thought.

More people showed up then Harry had thought would, which was shocking all in itself, and the students seemed, for the most part, genuinely intrigued with Hermione's idea. It seemed as though he had gone through the whole spectrum of emotions throughout the meeting and by the end of it, he finally ended on excitement. He spent the rest of the weekend happier than he had felt all term. He and Ron spent much of Sunday catching up with all the homework Harry had missed, and although this could hardly be called fun, the last burst of autumn sunshine persisted, so rather than sitting hunched over tables in the common room, they sat in Sirius' quarters by the large windows, basking in the sunshine and snacking on biscuits and pumpkin juice. Hermione, having already finished her school work, brought her wool with her and bewitched her knitting needles so that they flashed and clicked in midair beside her, producing more hats and scarves.

When Sirius returned from Grimmuald Place that evening, Ron and Hermione bid Harry goodbye and promised to stop by later after dinner to play a game if he wanted.

As Harry set the table and Sirius finished reheating a stew Mrs. Weasley had sent along with him to bring to Harry, Sirius asked how the Hogsmeade trip went.

"It was fine," Harry said noncommittally, careful to keep his face turned away from his godfather.

"Did you get a good turnout for your secret Defense Against the Dark Arts groups?" said Sirius.

There was a short pause.

Harry dropped the napkins he had been grabbing and whirled to face the man. "How did you know about that?" He demanded.

"You want to choose your meeting places more carefully," said Sirius, grinning broadly. "The Hog's Head, I ask you…"

"Well, it was better than the Three Broomsticks!" said Harry defensively. "That's always packed with people—"

"Which means you'd have been harder to overhead," said Sirius.

"Who overheard us?"

"Mundungus, of course," said Sirius, and when Harry looked puzzled, he laughed, "He was the witch under the veil."

"That was Mundungus?" Harry said, stunned. "What was he doing in the Hog's Head?"

"What do you think he was doing?' said Sirius impatiently. "Keeping an eye on you, of course."

"I'm being followed?" asked Harry in a spark of anger.

"Yeah, you are," said Sirius, "and just as well, isn't it, since you go off and organize an illegal defense group."

But he looked neither angry nor worried; on the contrary, he was looking at Harry with distinct pride.

Harry sank into the kitchen chair, watching Sirius ladle up a heaping portion of stew into Harry's bowl.

"I'm not in trouble?" Harry asked after a moment.

Sirius settled into the seat across from Harry; the man rolled his eyes, "Why would I be? Your father and I did way worse when we were in school, for a lot less noble reasons."

"Noble?" Harry echoed with a short laugh.

Sirius made a face, "Well, whatever you want to call it, a defense group is an excellent idea!"

Harry, with a mouthful of stew, could only nod, feeling relieved that Sirius seemed all for the idea.

"So," said Sirius, "Tell me more about this group. How are you organizing it? Where are you meeting?"

Harry told his godfather about how this whole thing came about, "In the beginning, Hermione said it would just be her and Ron, and then it was 'maybe a couple others'…A lot of people came ended up coming and they actually seemed interested in learning. But I dunno…I've never taught anyone anything before," Harry said, frowning. "They don't understand what it's like facing Voldemort—it's not something you just learn in a few lessons."

Sirius regarded him thoughtfully for a moment over his food, "Well, I suppose that's the point, eh mate?" he said finally. "I don't think they're necessarily wanting you to teach them to face Voldemort head on, but to just help prepare them better. You do have experience and you've have had shit luck so far when it comes to Professors."

"I liked Lupin," Harry said. "Do you think that maybe he'll come back?"

A strangely blank expression passed over Sirius' face but it only lasted a moment, "Hm, I don't know. You'll have to ask him that yourself—but anyways, just tutor them a bit. It'll be good preparation for your OWL Practicals. What'll it hurt to try?"

"Nothing, I guess," Harry sighed. He picked at his stew for a moment as he worked up the nerve to ask the question in his head. "You were an auror before…everything, right?"

Sirius seemed surprised by this question. "I was—what of it?"

"Well…could you maybe teach me?"

Sirius narrowed his eyes ever so slightly, "Teach you what?"

"Defense," Harry elaborated with mild hesitancy. "Maybe…maybe dueling?"

"Sure, why not?" Sirius shrugged nonchalantly.

"The other Sirius and the other Harry gave me a lesson in dueling. It was…interesting."

Sirius made a noncommittal noise, as though the topic of the other worldly counterparts made him uncomfortable. "We can definitely do some duel studies. It would be good for you, I think. We'll wait till school break, though, all right? I can give you a few books to peruse until then."

Harry nodded eagerly, unable to express how elated he felt. Finishing up dinner, Harry rose to carry both his and Sirius' dishes to the sink, ignoring Sirius' noise of protest.

"I don't mind," Harry said as pushed up his sleeves and began to scrub the small pile of dirty dishes they had created.

"Alright, I'll get them next time," Behind him, Sirius summoned a stack of papers to work through, presumably grading for his class or lesson planning.

It felt right, in that moment, with just the two of them. They had full bellies, and outside the window, the sky was fading into a blue and purple twilight. The sound of Sirius' quill scratching on parchment and the feel of the warm soap suds sticking to his arms as he rinsed a fork and set it on the drying towel was very domestic and homey and Harry felt…maybe not at peace, but at stillness. Stillness with himself, with the other world, even with the fact that he was barred from Quidditch. There was a deep part of him that would trade anything in the world to continue to have moments like this—to feel like he was home.

And then the cozy room faded.

He was outside, ankle deep in snow, and the sky was black as pitch. His breaths created puffs of clouds in the still air and the only light came from the glow of his wand. He felt calm and in control. Everything was working out the way it should.

He looked down and studied the two bodies lying in the snow, their shoulders already dusted white. The snow around them was turning black.

And he smiled.

Harry shuddered and blinked rapidly, his chest heaving, breathing in strangled gasps of air. His eyes darted around, trying to gather his suddenly blinding surroundings. The vestiges of the bloody bodies lying in the snow was fading into scattered bits.

A man stood in front of him, an intense expression on his face. He was holding a towel to Harry's hand and the towel was turning wet with crimson.

"You're ok, kiddo," the man said when he noticed Harry looking around. "Lost you there for a moment. You with me?"

Harry nodded, finding he was unable to speak. His throat felt swollen and rough. His heart was racing. His breathing sped up, panic reaching out and toying with the edges of his being. Harry's free hand found the edge of the counter and he gripped it tightly, feeling the bite in his skin and using it as an anchor.

"Where—where-?" Harry's eyes wheeled around. Why was everything so bright?

"You killed them too quickly. It's not nearly as satisfying." The snow crunched beneath his feet. He nudged the face of the young girl. Her eyes were wide and unseeing.

"Ok, take a deep breath," the man's voice cut through the blur of images. "You're ok. You're in my quarters at Hogwarts. We just finished eating dinner and you are no longer handling knives as long as I am alive."

Sirius. His godfather. That's who this man was.

Harry tried to slow his breathing, knowing it was too loud and too harsh, echoing in the small kitchen. He looked down at the mixture of blood and soap bubbles on the stone floor. Sirius tossed the towel aside and Harry saw that he had sliced his palm open; it was bleeding quite freely. It had gotten on his new pants and the sleeves of Sirius' shirt.

"Oops," Harry whispered, his voice strained. He was still clutching the counter. He felt incredibly unsteady.

"Oops is right," Sirius sighed. He pointed his wand, hand quivering ever so slightly, and sealed the gash with a couple of quiet spells, leaving behind only dripping blood. He turned Harry back toward the sink and stuck the boy's hand under the still going faucet. Harry stood still, albeit trembling, as the man scrubbed his hand clean of the gore.

"I'm sorry. I'm sorry."

"Don't say that," said Sirius gruffly. "That's a stupid thing to say. None of this is your fault."

"Ok," Harry watched Sirius turn off the sink and grab a clean towel to wipe the blood up off the counter and sink. "Am I late for class?"

"No, Harry," said Sirius flatly. "Today is Sunday. You won't have class until tomorrow—if I let you go, that is."

"Oh." Harry blinked rapidly and looked back down at his pants. "I got blood on my new clothes."

Sirius wiped up the last remnant of red and looked at Harry, "That's okay, Harry. I can remove the stains."

"Its on you too," Harry stared at Sirius' shirt. "Is that all mine?"

"Yes, but stop worrying," Sirius pulled the plug to the sink and watched the pink tinged water drain.

"I think it's hers," said Harry vaguely, looking down at his hands. The fresh scar was already fading to a mere pink line.

"Who?" Sirius abruptly looked at him.

"The woman," Harry whispered. "She's dead."

Sirius face was very tense, "There is no woman, Harry." His voice sounded pulled taut like a rope about to snap. "You were here with me the entire time."

"She's dead," Harry's voice broke over that admission. "I killed her…I killed her for fun."

Sirius gripped both of Harry's arms, "You didn't kill anyone."

Harry breathed in a deep breath, and then another, the world seemed to tilt on his axis and if Sirius hadn't been holding him, he would've fallen. "I want…I want to sit."

Sirius' hold on Harry grew painfully tighter, "Let's get into bed instead, before you fall."

It was as though time suddenly blurred. Harry could feel the snow touching his face, he could feel the heat of blood soaking into his shoes. "Leave the bodies. We have no use for them, now."

And the next moment Harry was in bed, dressed in pajamas and Sirius was standing over him, face unreadable. One of his hands was carding though the wisps of Harry's hair.

It was comforting.

"There you are," he said softly. "I lost you again."

Harry blinked and stared up at the ceiling and then rolled his head to look at his godfather. "Where'd I go?" he mumbled.

"Far away," Sirius said after a moment. "But you're back now."

Lucidity was returning to him too rapidly and it made him dizzy, even though he was laying down. Harry turned his eyes back up towards the ceiling, fighting the strong emotion that was suddenly wrapping around every bit of his being.

"I hate this," he whispered softly, slowly sitting up and propping himself up against the backboard. "I hate this."

"I know," said Sirius, his voice equally quiet.

"I hate doing this," Harry rubbed his scar furiously, his whole body heaving with the effort of trying to reign the flood of emotions that always hit him after an episode. "Sirius…I…I hate my life. I don't want to do this anymore. I-I can't do this…I don't…I don't want to live like this anymore…"

Sirius said nothing. Harry didn't look up. He didn't want to see the expression on his godfather's face. He was embarrassed—he hadn't meant to say all of that aloud.

Smack! The sound of Sirius' hand striking the wall made Harry flinch. Startled, he looked up at his godfather, eyes wide.

"Dammit, Harry! Stop it! Stop talking like that!"

Harry's heart was trying to thud its way out of his ribcage. He felt heat rise up to his face and he immediately looked down. The threads of the blanket blurred. He felt frozen, not entirely sure why Sirius had gotten so angry.

Sirius sighed heavily. "Damn," he whispered. And then the bed dipped beside Harry, who immediately tensed. "Look at me."

Harry didn't. He couldn't.

"Harry," Sirius' tone was unwavering, but level, "I said look at me."

Harry reluctantly did so and saw that Sirius looked almost angry, his eyes dark. It was hard to maintain eye contact with the man.

"Do you not remember what we talked about earlier? I told you to stop saying things like that," Sirius said, his words were quivering as though it took everything he had to keep a calm tone. "Do you hear me?"

Harry glanced away, no longer able to look his godfather in the eye. "Yeah."

"I don't want to hear you say something like that, again. Understand?"

"Yeah. I'm sorry."

Sirius was unbearably silent for a long moment. Then he stood back up, posture tense and unsure. "Ok then. Get some sleep, it'll be better in the morning. Holler if you need me." He hesitated just another brief moment, as though he wanted to say something else and then thought better of it. He left Harry sitting there, shutting the door a little too hard.

Harry couldn't move, staring down at his hands. The words etched into his skin, I must not tell lies, blurred in his vision.

And all of a sudden he felt really, really tired. Like the world had drained him for everything that he had. Harry dropped back against his pillow and rolled onto his side, staring without seeing anything, a strange hollowness opening up within his chest.

Was it normal to so often feel like this? Like everything was happening around him in blurs and colors and noises but he was not grasping at anything—like the world was spinning ahead of him and leaving him behind in a cloud of celestial dust, weightless and unable to move forward or backwards? Was it normal to feel so much in a single moment, like fire and waves and roaring wind, and then nothing, his whole being so vast an empty cavern that the entirety of the universe could collapse within him and disappear without a trace?


That's the word that kept flickering through his consciousness. That's what he really wanted.

To disappear.

It would be so much easier. So much easier than…this. Whatever this was.

He hated this so much. He hated feeling as though he was trapped in an ocean, with the push and pull of life holding him down, keeping him from taking a proper breath of air.

Harry pushed himself up and swung his legs over the bed, toes barely brushing the stone. He sat there for a long moment, slumped, before sliding off the bed and heading for the window where gentle moonlight washed Hogwarts grounds in hues of blues and grays. When he touched the glass, it was icy cold. It grounded him. It was concrete. Uncomfortable, but not painful. He leaned forward and pressed his forehead against the window pane, letting the cold seep through him.

I wish James was here.

Harry abruptly pulled away from the window, furious with himself for thinking that. That man didn't deserve one single second of his thinking. Without a second thought, he seized the nearest item—a small lantern—and flung it across the room and it was satisfying to watch it explode against the stone wall, glass and metal bits scattering on his bedroom floor and winking back at him in the moonlight.

He stared at the mess, every inch of him trembling.

Why wasn't Sirius understanding what Harry was trying to tell him? Isn't that what the man wanted? For him to reach out for help if he needed it? Was Harry not saying the right things? Was he not saying it the right way? Was Sirius realizing that was this…this…mess that Harry was, was more than he had bargained for when agreeing to be a godfather?

Why couldn't he do anything right?

If Sirius had heard the ruckus, he ignored it, for he never came to the door like Harry had been hoping his display of anger would bring, as immature and volatile he felt. Harry walked slowly across his room to the mess. He crouched down and picked up one of the bigger shards of glass and stared at it. The sharp edges glinted at him as he carefully turned it over and over, heart racing suddenly.

It would be so easy…

Harry dropped the glass and stepped away, shoulders heaving. He pointed his wand at the mess and whispered, "Repairo."

All the pieces swirled up and back together, settling with a brief teeter on the floor as if nothing had happened, as if it had never broken. Perfect. Whole.

Carefully, quietly, Harry moved towards his bedroom door and gently opened it just a crack. Nothing happened. He couldn't see or hear anything. Slowly, he pushed it open even and stepped out into the hall. He tip-toed down the short hall and found Sirius passed out on the couch, one arm brushing the floor, still completely dressed. The dying fire glinted off an empty bottle of firewhiskey on the coffee table. Harry stared at it, betrayal stabbing him in the gut. Then Harry stared at Sirius for a moment, willing the man to wake up just from the feel of Harry's gaze. He was too scared to step forward and shake his shoulder.

It didn't work. Harry wanted to break something again, to watch something shatter into a thousand pieces the way he kept on shattering. Over and over. Again and again.

In that single moment, Harry wanted more than anything to disappear. To cease. To stop.

He wanted it all to stop.

And then suddenly, there was a quiet knock at the door, breaking Harry out of the spiral of thoughts he was trapped in. He jumped a foot in the air and whirled around.

Another knock. Louder this time.

Sirius muttered something in his sleep and he shifted.

Harry hurried across the room before his godfather could waken and opened the door ajar. To his utmost surprise, Ron and Hermione were standing there expectedly, both with smiles on their faces.

"What're you guys doing here?" Harry whispered, slipping out of the door and quietly shutting it behind himself.

"We were going to play games tonight after dinner, remember?" Hermione said, looking him up and down.

Harry stared at her.

She sighed, "You forgot, didn't you?"

"Sorry," Harry muttered with a half shrug.

"Where's Sirius?" asked Ron, trying to look around Harry's shoulder.

"He's sleeping," Harry said flatly. As quiet as he could, he slipped out of the door and gently shut it behind himself. He leaned against the frame. "Sorry, we forgot."

Ron and Hermione exchanged glances either at Harry's tone or expression, he wasn't sure.

"You alright, mate?" Ron asked after a moment, appearing hesitant. "You look awful—is something wrong?"

For some inexplicable reason, Ron's question struck something deep within him, a wound that was too raw to explain. A sudden burn came to his eyes, he opened his mouth once, twice, three times but he couldn't get a word out and he looked away, out into the darkened corridor punctuated only with the gentle, flickering firelight.

"Harry," Hermione whispered, sounding strained. "What's wrong?"

"Nothing," Harry managed to say, his voice too raw. "Everything. I dunno—I'm fine. I'm fine. It's stupid." He let out a dark laugh just as a single tear sprinted down his cheek. Mortified, he swiped at it and he turned away. "Fuck."

They didn't deserve to see him like this. They didn't deserve to be constantly burdened with his problems. He braced himself against the wall, trying to swallow back that swell of emotion that had caught hold of him like a steel vise. He should to go back inside Sirius' quarters and lock the door, ready to ride this out on his own, like he had in the past.

But he couldn't. He just couldn't. He stood frozen, staring at the wall, knowing deep down that if he went back inside to be alone, he might not make it.

"Oh, Harry," Hermione grabbed his arm before Harry even had a chance to move away, but he pulled his arm free and let himself slump boneless to the floor, back to the wall. He expected them to stand there and stare at him like he was some sort of oddity they didn't know what to do with, but Ron and Hermione didn't even hesitate to join him on the floor; Ron beside him, Hermione in front of him.

"If you want to talk, mate," Ron said, his brow furrowed, "Then we'll listen. If you don't, that's ok too."

But he couldn't find the words. He had so many thoughts, so many feelings but none of them made sense. How could he begin to explain something that he himself could not understand? Hermione reached out a hesitant hand and touched his, her fingers soft and warm and her touch calmed something within him.

"It was easier before," Harry whispered finally. "I couldn't miss them if I couldn't remember them—how could I miss something that I never had? But now…I know what it's like. And…and I'm just tired all the time and I keep blanking out…and I'm feeling all this stuff and then suddenly I'm feeling nothing…" he knew he wasn't making any sense. Hermione and Ron exchanged glances but made no movement to interrupt him.

Harry ran a shaking hand through his hair, "And I think Sirius is just tired of me, you know? He keeps having to watch my every move and clean up after me and he's constantly worrying about me. I think he's thinking that this isn't what he signed up, you know…? And I get that…"

"You can't know that, mate," Ron said, grimacing, fidgeting awkwardly with his shoelaces. "That's just all in your head. Sirius…he…well…he loves you. He wants to help you."

Harry was unconvinced. "I just…I dunno. Nothing's never enough."

"What's never enough?" Hermione asked quietly.

"I dunno. Nothing. Everything." Me. Harry stared at the wall opposite them, numbering the cracks in the stone until he lost count. Just like the many cracks he tried to hide within. He was losing count.

Harry felt suddenly melodramatic. He let out a whoosh of air, embarrassed, and he stood, wiping his sweaty hands on his jeans. "It's stupid. I'm okay," he said, barely manage to hide a tremor in his voice. "I'm okay."

Hermione, who had followed him to her feet, looked him dead in the eye and then without warning pulled him into a hug so tight, it hurt his ribs. "I know you're not."

Harry didn't return the hug but he slumped into it, arms hanging loosely at his sides, his forehead pressed into Hermione's boney shoulder. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry…" he mumbled into her shirt. His breathing hitched and he abruptly pulled back when the prolonged contact made him uncomfortable.

He couldn't look them in the eye, "I just…I…I just keep seeing these people…I keep killing them, in-in my head and I know, I know, it's not me but…but it-it is…" Harry wiped his nose on the cuff of his sleeve and turned away. "I know I'm being stupid and dramatic and whatever…but…but I can't look on the bright side of things, when-when there is no bright side that-that I can find…"

"I just…I want to disappear." Harry stared at the opposite wall, waiting for them to become upset at his proclamation.

Ron suddenly moved and gripped his shoulder, his expression fierce, "Then we'll stay with you in the dark. We'll help you find your way out. As long as it takes."

"You're not wrong for feeling the way you do," Hermione said; she was shaking but her voice was firm. "No one blames you for it. We're not going anywhere, Harry. You just have to promise us the same thing."

"I can't," Harry whispered. "One way or another, I'm going to die. I can't beat Voldemort; I'm nothing against him."

"Well, it's a good thing you're not going to fight him alone," said Ron.

"Please Harry," Hermione pleaded. "Promise us. You say you're all 'messed up'—but all I see is resilience. You're allowed to feel messed up and inside out, Harry. It doesn't mean you're defective—it means you're human. Just as human as the rest of us who can be just as messed up as you."

Harry processed this, finally meeting Hermione's eyes and, instead of condemnation or fear, all he saw was strength. Ron's hand was still gripping his shoulder, supplying a comfort that allowed him to breathe properly. He swallowed hard, "I promise, guys. I'm here for you and you're here for me."

"Always," she whispered. "Come on, now—group hug."

Harry groaned, but didn't mean anything by it. Ron snickered as the three friends looped their arms around each other, finding resolve in each other's presence.

"I'm sorry," said Hermione suddenly as they all pulled back.

Harry glanced at her out of the corner of his eye, "For what?"

Hermione sighed, "I'm sorry you're going through all this. I can't imagine…"

Harry wasn't sure how to respond to this. He scratched the tip of his nose. Once more, Hermione touched his shoulder with her fingers and then quickly withdrew them.

"You're doing better than you think you are, Harry," she said. "Keep going."

That night was probably the most fun Harry had had in quite a long time. The three had decidedly snuck down to the kitchens for food and then had quietly tip-toed past Sirius, who was still asleep on the couch, and had proceeded to spend most of the night gorging themselves on desserts and playing games. Hermione fell asleep half past four in the morning, curled up on her side, face buried in Harry's pillow. Ron followed soon after, having dropped off in the middle of a chess game at the foot of Harry's bed, gangly legs hanging off the edge of the mattress.

Feeling a certain that Harry had the best friends in the entire universe, he quietly swept up the chess game and climbed into bed, not bothering to remove his glasses.

He didn't even dream that night.

***Canon Sirius, Canon world***

Sirius had a pounding headache when he joined Remus at his kitchen table the next morning. Remus eyed him over the top of the Quibbler, watching Sirius pour himself a black coffee before he dropped into the chair across from the werewolf.

"Don't look at me with those judge-y eyes," Sirius muttered. "It's too fucking early."

Remus snapped the newspaper shut and tossed it aside; he tilted his head, "What on earth would make you think I'm judging you," he asked a little too calmly. The man reached down towards the ground next to his chair and lifted up a brown bottle. He set it on the table in front of Sirius. "It couldn't possibly be the completely empty bottle of firewhiskey I found next to your person—a bottle meant for three?"

Sirius sighed, "Your passive-aggressiveness is unbecoming."

Remus' eyes narrowed ever so slightly, "Don't make light of the situation, Sirius. You said you had stopped drinking for Harry's sake."

"I did—I have!" Sirius rubbed his face in exasperation. "I've been having trouble sleeping this past week. It…it helped me relax so I could rest a bit."

Remus' face twitched, "Well, next time you are having trouble sleeping, owl me, and I will come and hit you in the head with a beater bat."

"What the hell is your problem, Moony?" Sirius snapped. He stood from the table and forcefully opened one of the cold cupboards. He snatched the jar of jam, butter, and two slices of bread. "You never gave two shits about my drinking before."

"That's because you never had a child under your roof," Remus said through clenched teeth. "You are now an influence—whether you realize it or not!"

"No, no, no—" Sirius jabbed a finger at his friend, struggling to not raise his voice and wake Harry. "You do not get to lecture me like-like you're my superior or whatever. You have no idea—no idea—what I've been going through with Harry—and I'm doing the best that I can to manage it all! So why don't you fucking back the fuck off and get off my fucking case!" He slammed the cupboard shut, unscrewed the jam jar and tossed the lid onto the counter where it clattered loudly. "For fuck's sake, Remus."

When he turned back around, Remus was watching him with a frown. He was silent for a long moment.

"No, don't. Don't look at me with that face," Sirius sighed wearily.

"What face," asked Remus.

"That face you have on right now. I don't like it. So stop."

Remus merely raised his brows, saying nothing in response.

"You've no idea," Sirius continued. "No fucking idea. While you've been off doing your…little missions…for Dumbledore, I've been here trying to help Harry at least make through another fucking day with at least a tiny bit of his mind left."

"I'm sorry, Sirius," Remus said, cutting off Sirius' tirade, still frowning. "I should not have spoken so…harshly. To be honest, I am…overly stressed. I got here late last night and happened to overhear a conversation outside the door between Harry and his friends."

"A conversation?" said Sirius impatiently.

Remus looked down, his fingers tapping nervously on the table top. "Has…has Harry said anything…worrisome to you lately?"

Sirius stilled. His fist tightened around the butter knife he was holding. "Why?"

Remus seemed to be trying to choose his words very carefully. "What I've come to see is that Harry can be so quiet about his pain at times, that you forget that he is hurting. That is why it is so important to question him. Because…because if you don't, he'll disappear and you won't even know it."

"Don't say that word," Sirius ground out.

"What word?" asked Remus, startled.

Sirius dropped the knife into the sink, no longer hungry. "I'm aware—I'm aware Harry is… struggling—I'm not a fucking idiot. He's…said some things."

"Like what?"

"Does it matter?" snapped Sirius. "I shut him down. I told him to stop talking like that. End of story."

Remus stared at him, appalled. "And tell me how you think that was the right choice?"

Sirius turned away and rested his hands on the curb of the sink, head dipped. "I can't do this." He whispered. "I can't do this anymore."

"Sirius…" Remus' voice trailed off, as though unsure of what he wanted to say.

Sirius scrubbed his face with hands and turned back around. "I'm not right for this, Moony. I'm not. James and Lily made a mistake making me his godfather—they're probably rolling in their graves right now. I don't have any idea what I'm doing and I'm so fucking scared. I can't—I can't, Moony. I can't do this. I can't find Harry, the way I found James."

Remus was staring at him, lips parted, and his face bloodless.

"Do you remember sixth year? Do you remember? Do you remember how it was me who found James in the shower covered in blood? He wasn't even fucking breathing!"

"I…I had forgotten that…" Remus murmured.

"Easy for you," Sirius snarled. "I had to relive it every day for thirteen fucking years! And the bastard never even told us he was having problems!"

Remus pressed his lips together, brow furrowed.

"It was—that was one of the most terrifying things I've ever…" Sirius' words caught in his throat.

Remus stood from his chair, "I know, Sirius," he whispered. "I know but this different. Harry has said something to you. He has reached out to you…and telling him to stop talking like that…well, it definitely is not going to help. He actually will stop talking about it and…" Remus' voice trailed off, his face pained. "I don't want to finish that sentence."

"What did those three talk about last night?" questioned Sirius after a moment of tense silence.

Remus scratched the back of his head. "I should not have overheard what I did last night. It wasn't for my ears…I think Ron and Hermione handled it beautifully, though. He's lucky to have found such great friends."

"Hmph," Sirius grunted noncommittally and took a long drink of his cooled coffee. "I feel like I'm failing him."

"Don't say that Sirius," said Remus with a grimace. "Harry isn't exactly a typical teenager."

Sirius didn't reply.

"And you're not the typical godfather."

Sirius glanced at the werewolf, "You say that like it's a good thing."

Remus gave him a wry smile, "Well, I know it's not a bad thing."

"So somewhere in the middle then," said Sirius.

"You said it, not me," Remus let out a short laugh. The man freshened his cup of tea and settled back at the kitchen table. "So…what are you going to do?"

"Make it through this day," said Sirius, taking a bite of his soggy toast. "Then start over tomorrow, I suppose. It's how I've managed to keep my sanity so far."

"That's one plan," said Remus. "Are you going to talk to Harry about…er…everything?"

Sirius sighed and rubbed his face, "I'm going to have to, yeah?"

Remus tilted his head to one side, looking contemplative, "Do you feel like you have to, or do you actually want to?"

"Oh, shut up," Sirius rose from his seat and dumped his half-eaten toast in the sink.

"Sirius?" said Remus after a brief pause.


"Trust yourself. You've survived a lot. You'll survive what's coming."

Sirius let a weak smile break across his face, "Let us hope. I'm going to go check on Harry to see if he feels up for class."

Sirius left Remus to ponder his next thought-provoking monologue he wanted to knock over Sirius' head and made his way to Harry's room. He rapped lightly on the wood frame and gently opened the door when there was no answer.

The sight stopped him in his tracks and made him smile.

There were several candles still lit and burning low on the dresser by Harry's bed. Ron lay flat on his stomach at the foot of the mattress, snoring softly, his feet hanging off the edge, shoe laces undone. Hermione and Harry lay curled up, back to back. Harry's glasses were still on his pale face and one of his arms hung off the bed.

Sirius quietly made his way into the room, stepping over candy wrappers and empty butterbeer bottles. He didn't hear Harry's two friends come in last night, but Sirius was glad the two had been there for Harry.

"Ron," he whispered, gently giving the kid a shake. "Wake up."

The red-headed boy stirred and groaned. He pulled himself slowly up, wiping drool from his face and looking around as though he was unsure of where he was.

"Look alive, kid," said Sirius. "Class starts in an hour."

"Bloody hell," grunted Ron and slid boneless to the floor where he proceeded to lace up his sneakers.

Hermione woke to the sound of their voices. She popped up, looking caught, her bushy hair in wild sprigs sticking out from her head. "What time is it?"

"7am," said Sirius. "You best get going if you want to have time for breakfast."

The two Gryffindors quietly gathered up their things and bid Sirius a sleepy goodbye. Sirius waited until Hermione had quietly shut the bedroom door before turning to Harry. His godson had been increasingly difficult to rouse in the morning. Sirius had learned the hard way that startling Harry awake caused the kid to often times become agitated and aggressive. It was almost as though Harry's ability to grasp lucidity and situational awareness was decreasing little by little.

Sirius was terrified that one day Harry might wake up and be permanently gone.

Sighing heavily, Sirius took a moment to extinguish the candles and open the curtains to allow pale sunlight to filter in. the cool light fell in leafy patterns across the bed. He settled on the edge of the mattress, with a deflating breath, and briefly studied a book on the night stand. The Mediwizard's Steps to a Career. Sirius furrowed his brow, wondering why his godson was reading the study guide of a Healer's. Shrugging it off, he turned and let the tips of his fingers trace a line up Harry's spine.

Harry's back immediately flexed and he shifted, his legs stretched out.

"Hey buddy," Sirius whispered; he gave Harry a gentle tap on the cheek. "Hey, kiddo, rise and shine."

Harry's eyes flickered, eyelashes brushing freckled cheeks, and then he grew still once more, his chest rising and falling with slow and steady breaths.

"Harry…you lazy bum…it's time to get ready for class," Sirius gave Harry's shoulder a slight shake. That seemed to do it. Harry twitched and mumbled something incoherently. With blinking eyes, he turned his head to the side, looking around sluggishly, before he settled his gaze up at Sirius with a disgruntled expression.

"Sorry," said Sirius with a slight smile. "You up for class? It stars in an hour."

Harry grunted as he struggled into a sitting position, his hair messier than usual, and he nodded, "I'll be out in a minute," he muttered.

"Okay, kiddo" said Sirius, mussing Harry's hair affectionately. "Take your time. I'll whip up a quick breakfast for you."

Sirius' head was deep in the cupboard when he heard Harry's footsteps on the stone.

"Hey kid, do you like strawberry or blackberry jam on your toast? How about some cocoa with that, too? Nothing like a rush of sugar to start your day."

Harry didn't answer.

"Harry—strawberry or blackberry, mate? I'm a blackberry fella myself, but it's your choice."

Sirius set the jam aside and picked up the mug of steaming cocoa he had made for Harry. He looked towards the kid, who had paused in the small hall. Sirius' heart skipped a beat at his godson's stillness. "Harry…you good?" He heard Remus get up behind him.

Harry's off kilter gaze was familiarly vacant, and he stood in the narrow corridor, right hand slightly extended in front of his chest and fingers twitching spastically.

Shit. Sirius turned and shoved the mug into Remus' unsuspecting hands, liquid slopping over its edge, and covered the distance between them faster than he thought was possible. "Kiddo, you with me?" He grabbed Harry's chin and peered down into his wide eyes.

"Street…up street—it's-it's gone…" he mumbled in return. "All…all inside…"

"Yeah, that's a no," Sirius muttered.

"Is he alright?" Remus asked uneasily, not having moved from the kitchen.

What do you think? Sirius sighed heavily and gripped Harry by the upper arm, practically dragging him back into the lounge area.

"Looking…looking…" Harry slurred, hardly more than dead weight on Sirius' arm.

"Ok, kid, you can look later. You're good, just take a seat—I've gotcha," Sirius said, knowing he was slightly rambling. He let Harry slump to the floor against the sofa, mouth slack and head tilted back onto the cushions. "You going to make it?"

Sirius studied Harry, but he didn't really expect him to respond. Not when he was staring through the ceiling like he was on a spirit quest. For all Sirius knew, the kid was.

"How long does it last?" Remus asked, staring at Harry, his face creased. He had set down the mug, but the front of his sweater had chocolate stains trailing down it.

"Depends," Sirius answered flatly.

Remus moved around the sofa and stood over Harry for a brief moment before crouching down. He dropped a careful hand on Harry's forehead, as though checking the kid's temperature. His fingers dropped down and he peeled Harry's eyelid back.

"He's not even reacting to light," the werewolf commented, voice strained. "Can he hear us?"

"I don't know," Sirius dropped to the stone across from Harry, ready to wait it out. He rested his forearms on his knees and watched Harry closely, heart beating a little too fast, praying the kid wouldn't succumb to a full-on fit. "Sometimes I think he can. I'll say something, and he'll snap out of it—other times it's like he's completely gone and there's nothing in there."

Remus frowned, straightened, and stepped back, "That can't be a comfortable position for him."

"It's not like he can feel it," Sirius said wirily.

Remus pulled a face, "He will after." He made a show of using a pillow to prop up Harry's head to take the strain off his neck and Sirius felt suddenly jealous. Why didn't he have instincts like that?

"How often is this happening?" Remus asked when he was satisfied that Harry wouldn't feel any added discomfort after his return.

"This is the fourth time since Friday—that I know about," Sirius said bluntly.

Remus swung his gaze around, alarmed, "That often?"

"Sometimes it's only a minute or so, but I can tell when it's happening. He gets this weird look on his face and sometimes says things that make no sense. Probably talking about whatever he's seeing."

"I thought his occlumency lessons were supposed to be stopping this?"

Sirius shrugged.

"Has he been practicing and studying?"

Sirius glared at the werewolf, "The kid can barely remember the day of the week anymore. I think we've surpassed occlumency lessons as being something helpful."

Remus said nothing in response, his face creased with worry.

Harry didn't blink for a solid five minutes, pupils blown, face bloodless, and fingers randomly twitching. It was a hard thing to watch and when the minutes stretched too long, and Sirius' heart began to thump too hard against his ribs, he reached across the small space, taking Harry's cold hand in his. He rubbed his thumb against the scar on Harry's hand in what he hoped was a soothing sort of gesture.

"Should we get someone?" said Remus, voice strained.

Sirius ignored him, speaking to Harry urgently, "Harry, you're alright. You're safe. I'm right here with you—can you hear me? Do you understand what I'm saying? Just try to fight it—I know it's scary, but you can do it."

Harry made a small gurgling noise in response and a thin line of blood slipped from his left nostril, eyes disappearing into the back of his skull.

Shit. Shit. Shit. Sirius scrambled to Harry's side, stomach twisting. "Hey, hey, don't you do that," Sirius demanded breathlessly. He gripped Harry by the shoulder, thumb pressed into his godson's collarbone, keeping the kid upright. "You can fight this. Just listen to my voice. Harry? Harry! Push that bastard out!"

Harry shuddered, head lolling, but his irises reappeared and for the first time in almost ten minutes, he seemed to focus on Sirius' face, a semi-awareness returning to him.

"Hi, there you are," Sirius said hoarsely, hoping his voice will help keep the kid grounded. "Look alive, kiddo, your breakfast is getting cold. I don't know about you, but hot chocolate is gross when it's cold. And Remus here came to see you cuz he has a surprise for you."

Harry seemed to be somewhat tracking Sirius' movements, though sluggishly, chest rising and falling slowly, deeply, like he was close to sleep. His lips parted as if to speak but only a huff of breath escaped.

"You coming back to me?" Sirius swiped back Harry's damp hair and gave him a pat on the cheek, trying to rouse him closer to lucidity.

Harry's eyes rolled to one side than the other, looking for…something, before settling back on Sirius' face and the man could tell the kid was returning.

"Wh-where…?" Harry managed, trying to straighten.

"Wait, wait, just-just be still for a few more minutes. You're safe, you're with me—Sirius," Sirius kept his voice low and free of any anxiety, not wanting to give Harry any reason to become alarmed. "It's Monday. We're at Hogwarts, in my quarters, and we were about to eat breakfast. Do you remember anything?"

Harry's eyes shut once, twice before refocusing again. "Am…I late…?"

"Late for what, kiddo?"

"Class?" Harry tried to straighten up again and Sirius let him. The last time Sirius had restrained Harry for too long after an episode, Harry grew agitated and tried to fight Sirius off.

"There is no class today," Sirius lied patiently, not wanting to agitate his godson.

"You sure?" Harry looked around again, slightly off tilt.

"Very sure," Sirius said. "My days of skipping classes and assisting others in their downfall are over."

Harry didn't laugh, and Sirius wasn't sure that the kid really got the joke. He watched as Harry pushed a sweaty palm against the floor and attempted to hoist himself up. Sirius immediately helped as soon as he understood what Harry was doing. He placed a steadying hand on his godson's shoulder, alert incase Harry decided to swan dive for the floor.

"You good?" asked Sirius after a few minutes.

Harry released his grip from Sirius' forearm, disheveled and becoming red-faced with embarrassment.

It's ok, it doesn't matter," Sirius was quick to say when he saw Harry's twisted expression. "There's no reason to feel bad."

Harry shrugged Sirius' hand off his shoulder and situated his glasses, his face still extraordinarily pale. "I'm fine, I'm fine," he insisted hoarsely. He hesitated a moment, then: "B-breakfast?"

"Yes, breakfast," Sirius reiterated. "Do you want to eat here on the couch or at the table?"

Harry glanced at Sirius than away, eyes roaming around the room sluggishly, "Yeah."

"Couch it is," Sirius guided Harry into sitting down onto the cushion. He immediately slumped into the back of the couch, eyes already drooping. "Hey, if you're going to sleep, lets lay you down."

He coaxed Harry into a more comfortable position. He removed the kids shoes and glasses before dropping a warm blanket that Remus handed him up over Harry's shoulders. With him situated, Sirius took a few steps back and rubbed his face, shoulders drooping.

That familiar panic was beginning to edge back in. That feeling of inadequacy and uncertainty threatened to take hold of him once more.

He knew Harry was on a rapid decline. He had watched the kid up close and from afar, and each day he seemed to get a bit paler, a bit slower, a bit more less 'Harry'.

And Sirius was terrified.

"Has this been the normal for Harry?"

Sirius had forgotten that Remus was standing there. He turned to looked at the other man, "What do you think?" he lashed out, trying to hide the fear he was feeling.

"Sirius, breathe," Remus reminded him, his face lined with stress.

"I know, I know," said Sirius, running a rough hand through his hair. "I'm just…I'm at a loss." Sirius took long strides to the kitchen, meaning to make a strong cup of tea to still the shaking of his hands.

Remus followed him, looking very disconcerted, "And Dumbledore hasn't figured anything out?"

"Fuck, Dumbledore," snapped Sirius. "He's barely said a word to me, let alone Harry. And don't think Harry hasn't noticed the way the old coot has been avoiding him."

"You know why he's doing that," said Remus.

"Yes, I know why—doesn't mean I fucking agree with him."

Remus pinched the bridge of his nose and drew in a slow breath, "It might be beneficial to pull from classes for a while; at least until all of this is resolved."

"I can't do that to him," said Sirius, shaking his head. "He's already devasted with everything else we've taken from him."

Remus said nothing in response.

Sirius took a gulp of black tea, scalding his tongue in the process but not caring. He was exhausted. Deeply, deeply exhausted. Not the kind of exhaustion that comes from a sleepless night or too long of hours at work, but the kind that comes when the mind is on constant alert, waiting for the other shoe to drop and not knowing it will happen, but knowing it was going to no matter what.

Movement in his peripheral made Sirius look back towards the sitting area. To his surprise, Harry had awoken and had stood up. The kid usually was out for hours after an episode. He stood up to move over to his godson.

"What're you do…" Sirius trailed off, immediately recognizing Harry's rigid form and what it meant. He halted where he stood, and said, "Hey, kid, you with me?" just in case.

No answer. But that was not a surprise. Sirius studied the kid for a minute, waiting to see if Harry would snap out of it.

"Shit, is it happening again?" Remus whispered, shocked.

A few moments ticked by and Harry made no movement that showed he was aware. He stared unblinking at the opposite wall, watching something that Sirius couldn't see.

Sirius sighed, internally cursing, and walked towards Harry, "Hey, kid, please don't do this ag—"

Harry whirled abruptly upon Sirius with his expression twisted into such a hatred that Sirius had never seen upon the boy's expression before.

And then Harry raised his wand.


To lose one's self is to lose one's semblance of humanity; but it is only human nature not to be able to control our demons.

Whew, that was a lot. Hoped you guys liked it—I'm a little rusty, but we're finally getting close to the point where there's a 'clash of worlds' so to speak. I'm super excited about that.

Song that inspired most of this chapter: Head Above Water by Olive James

Until next time and Happy Literacy