Curing Insomnia

by Erik's Angel

Disclaimer: I am not, nor do I dare to imagine that I am JK Rowling. She created these characters and this universe. I just like to play with them. I mean no harm.

Summary: Ficlet in which sixteen-year-old Sirius falls in love with a girl in his year. Pure fluff. I thoroughly enjoyed writing this one.

Author's Note: This fic was originally one of many that I had planned for a giant collection of short stories called The Marauders. That idea fell through, and so I'm publishing the individual pieces as stand-alone fics. Oh, and Natalie Dubarc is an original character - I created her to be Lily's best friend in The Marauders. Don't flip out when she shows up. Finally, thanks must go out to my fabulous beta-reader, JK, for all her helpful suggestions and friendly support.

Black's gaunt face broke into the first true smile Harry had seen upon it. The difference it made was startling, as though a person ten years younger were shining through the starved mask; for a moment, he was recognizable as the man who had laughed at Harry's parents' wedding.
- Prisoner of Azkaban

Natalie sat alone in the Gryffindor common room. It was late, probably around one in the morning, but she didn't feel much like sleeping. She had a lot on her mind. She heard the sound of someone coming down the stairs of the dormitory, but she didn't turn around to see who it was. She didn't care.

"Want to go for a walk?" a familiar voice breathed in her ear.

Well, maybe she did care. It was Sirius...and his voice sent shivers down her spine. She turned and looked into his deep, dark, midnight blue eyes. "Sure," she said, trying to sound nonchalant.

"Come on."

They snuck out past the Fat Lady, who was too deeply asleep and snoring too loudly to notice that they had opened the portrait hole. They shrank into the shadows, hoping Filch wouldn't catch them, and (fortunately) avoided what might have been a nasty encounter with Peeves the Poltergeist.

It was a new moon, so the night was dark as well as usually warm for October. Natalie and Sirius began walking around the lake. It was a long time before Sirius spoke up. "What's on your mind, Natalie?"

She stopped and looked up at his concerned face and quickly looked away again. She absolutely could not tell him everything that was bothering her, but...well, she could ask him about one thing. "Sirius...what's wrong with Remus?"

He stiffened and ran his fingers through his already tangled black hair. He sighed heavily and looked at Natalie as if sizing up her character. "Natalie," he started, then faltered. He cleared his throat, then started again, "Remus...he's a...a -"

"Werewolf," she finished for him. "I know."

He looked at her in surprise.

"I figured it out in our second or third year. No, I meant…what's bothering him?"

Sirius looked away again. After a moment, he said, "Do you remember that Ravenclaw girl he's so crazy about?"

"Who, Christa? Aren't they dating?"

"They were," Sirius replied bitterly. "He trusted her enough to tell her the truth about himself. She dumped him."

Natalie stopped dead in her tracks. For Remus to tell Christa the truth, she thought, sadly, he must have really loved her. "Oh God, poor Remus..." she said quietly. "No one's ever given him a real chance."

"Except Dumbledore," Sirius pointed out.

"And you, James, and Peter," Natalie added.

They were silent for a while then, but eventually Sirius's concerned eyes turned to her again. "Is that all that's bothering you?"

It's you! she thought desperately. You're the one that I was thinking about tonight! You're the one who is slowly breaking my heart to pieces without even realizing it! How can you not tell? But all she said was, "Yes, that's all."

He grabbed her arm and turned her to face him. He stared straight into her eyes. "You can't lie to me, Natalie," he said in a strange, gruff voice that was charged with emotion. "There's something else that's driving you mad, and you've got to tell someone about it, whatever it is."

She quickly looked away. She couldn't tell him. He wouldn't understand. "There's nothing," she said.

He sighed, and the concern in his eyes deepened. "You're not going to tell me, are you?" She didn't reply. "I'll take that as a no." He paused. "Natalie, do you know why I couldn't sleep tonight?" She merely shook her head but didn't look at him. He lifted her chin so that she could see his face. "Oh, Natalie," he said, his voice barely a whisper, "can't you see how worried I am about you? Please tell me...please..."

Something in Natalie finally exploded. "Damn you, Sirius!" she shrieked. "Just how strong do you think I am?" Tears began to well up in her bright blue eyes, and she let them roll down her face unchecked. "Don't you realize what you're putting me through? A month ago, you seemed so interested in me. And then it seemed like we were only friends. And it's been back and forth and back and forth, and I can't take it anymore! You're driving me out of my mind." She stopped and stared at Sirius's bewildered face, then continued. "It's as though the four of you - you and James and Remus and Peter - are off in your own world. There's no room for anyone else in that world. No room for...for me." She stopped and stared at the ground, embarrassed at how much she'd let herself say, tears streaming down her cheeks.

Sirius, who was quite taken aback by this sudden outburst of emotion, felt the need to comfort her...but he wasn't sure how much he could do, since he was part of the problem. His instincts and his heart won the inner battle, and he wrapped his arms around her and pulled her to him, holding her gently, hoping that he was offering her some form of comfort.

Natalie buried her face in his shoulder and sobbed. He simply held her and stroked her auburn hair and waited for her to cry herself out. When her tears had died down a little, he pulled her slightly away from him and lifted her face towards his.

Brushing the leftover tears gently from her cheeks, he said softly, "Natalie, I have no words to apologize to you. I'm so, so sorry...I had no idea what was going on...no idea how much you were hurting. James and Peter and I...we're, well...hang on." He backed away. Natalie blinked, there was a small popping noise, and suddenly a large, shaggy black dog was standing exactly where Sirius had been.

"Oh my God!" Natalie cried. "You're an Animagus! How on earth did you pull that off? And you're not registered! Sirius...that's illegal! Actually...come to think of it, that wouldn't mean much to you, would it?"

The black dog looked innocently up at her, and Natalie laughed. It was the first time she'd really laughed in weeks. At this, Sirius turned back into himself again, accompanied by another popping noise.

"You see?" he said. "James can turn into a stag...Peter into a rat. That's where our nicknames come from."

"Moony for Remus, because he's a werewolf, that much I knew already...Wormtail for Peter, who can turn into a rat...Prongs for James, now that's pretty clever...and then you're Padfoot. How fitting."

Sirius smiled warmly at her. "So you see, when we're animals, we can accompany Remus on the nights when he transforms. So, when we seem to be in our own world, we're actually planning our next adventure. And now you're in on the secret...so you can feel part of it. And I want you to be part of it...Natalie, I'm glad you told me. Because I-I would never want to hurt you. I...I love you. I always have." And with those words, he cupped her face in his hands and kissed her gently.

Natalie, who was now trembling said, in an almost inaudible voice, "I love you, too." They kissed again, and this time when they broke away, Natalie pulled back. "Can you believe us? We're acting just as horrible as Lily and James always do."

"Hmm...how could we change the mood?" replied Sirius, who was suddenly flashing Natalie his characteristic broad grin, which could only mean mischief. "How does a little swim sound?" And before she could do anything about it, he'd picked her up, flung her over his shoulder, and was attempting to toss her into the lake.

"Don't you dare, Sirius Black!" she screeched. Thinking quickly, she reached for her wand, pointed it directly at his back and said, "Impedimenta!" The Impediment Curse did the trick, and Sirius slowed down long enough for her to free herself. She sprawled out on the cool grass, laughing at him as he continued to move in slow motion until the curse finally wore off.

When it finally did, Sirius turned to glare at her. "I'll get you for that!" he said. But then, he seemed to lose steam and looked quite tired. That makes sense, Natalie thought, since neither of us has been sleeping lately. "But...not tonight," he said. "We both need to get to bed. And I need to figure out what I'm going to tell the guys in the morning. Just you wait until they realize we're 'officially' more than just friends now." With those words, he helped her up and touched her cheek gently. "I'll never hear the end of it."

They started meandering back up to the castle, Natalie saying, "Well, James certainly can't say anything...not the way he and Lily have been acting."

"That's true enough," he replied. "I just hope Remus gets over that Christa girl soon. She was such a waste of his time. And Peter couldn't get a girlfriend if his life depended on it."

"See?" she said. "You've got plenty of ammunition now."

They were silent until they reached the Gryffindor common room once more.

"Sirius?" said Natalie. "I have one more question for you. Were you ever mad at Remus for lying to you about . . . you know."

"Maybe at the beginning, but not anymore. I mean, he had his reasons, didn't he?"

"I just feel like sometimes he still feels guilty about it, even after all this time. I don't know. Maybe I'm just reading too much into things again," she finished with a shrug.

"Well...I don't know..." Sirius said through his yawn. "But I do know that it's time to go to bed, for both of us," he said, tapping her on the nose in an affectionate way. "I'll see you in the morning." He kissed her swiftly, gently, and then they parted, each for their respective dormitory staircases. And for the first time in several nights, both of them fell asleep without any trouble.

Please remember that, like any other author, I live off your feedback. Please take a few moments to review or email me (Aly3285 ) and let me know what you think of my story.

Thank you for reading,
Erik's Angel