Harry woke up, his heart pounding and his body aching. He didn’t know what was wrong with him. His eyes were blurry, and not just because he wasn’t wearing his glasses. Beside him, Ron snored away as peacefully as he ever did.
Harry’s chest felt tight, his heart felt fluttery. Everything felt off, wrong. It jangled inside of him, discordant notes that he couldn’t begin to explain. Each beat of his heart felt wrong. Wrong. Wrong. He needed…
He closed his eyes and forced himself to take a deep breath. He didn’t need anything. He was fine. This was all in his head. Maybe it was a reaction to what had happened with Voldemort last year, maybe… maybe…
He wondered if it was possible for wizards to get PTSD like Muggles did. Was that a thing? He didn’t know. But then… PTSD had the word ‘post’ there, right in the name. Harry rubbed at his hand. It wasn’t really post if the insanity continued, was it?
He laid back down, tried to go back to sleep. He even closed his eyes, but his heart still felt wrong. Everything felt wrong, and he was so tired of trying to figure out why. It had been all year, even before the strange visions of the door had started, before his Occlumency lessons, before Umbridge. Really, before the school year had even started. Harry thought, anyway. He was almost certain of it.
He didn’t know anything anymore, to be perfectly honest.
He tried to blank his mind, tried to sleep, but it wasn’t working. Ron’s snoring was cutting through him like a knife, and combined with the jangling wrongness inside of him that never seemed to stop, sleep just wasn’t going to happen. With a sigh, tired and unhappy, Harry sat up and reached for his glasses. He hadn’t slept right in weeks, not really. Longer, even. If it wasn’t nightmares, if it wasn’t the strange door dream, it was this. This… wrongness .
He hated it.
It hadn’t happened since he’d come to Grimmauld Place for the holidays, so he’d hoped that it would leave him alone during the holidays. Didn’t he deserve at least one happy Christmas in all of this awfulness? But no. He couldn’t possibly be so lucky.
He slipped out of bed and headed down the stairs, his body aching with exhaustion and the wrong feeling that never left him alone, no matter how hard he tried. He headed for the kitchen, hoping that maybe if he got a drink or something it would go away. Warm milk was allegedly supposed to help with things like this, wasn’t it? Insomnia? Or maybe… maybe Sirius would have a potion that would do something for him, if his godfather was even still awake. It was three o’clock in the morning, after all.
The kitchen was dark when he arrived; Kreacher wasn’t even anywhere to be found. That meant no potion, but it also meant no one to bother him and ask him what was wrong. Harry wasn’t sure, couldn’t begin to explain it, couldn’t explain anything at all, but the thought of explaining what was wrong…
He shivered. He was getting cold, for some reason. It was ridiculous. He was perfectly warm and he knew it. He had on thick pajamas, and thick slippers. And Grimmauld Place was insulated far better than Hogwarts ever could have been. There was no way for Harry to be cold. It was all in his head. Just like the wrongness. Just like the fluttering in his heart, the anxiety, everything.
He forced his breath out through his lips. He was fine, and he knew it. He had to stop worrying like this. It would all be fine as soon as he just got some sleep.
He would never sleep again.
The thought rang through his head with such certainty that Harry couldn’t help but let out a small gasp as his chest seized. He clutched at his heart, which ached more fiercely than it ever had in the past. What was wrong with him? He doubled over and couldn’t help the pained noise that escaped him.
“Harry!” Strong hands landed on his shoulders as his godfather’s voice rang out. “Are you okay? What’s wrong?”
“I’m fine,” Harry gasped out. He was fine. He had to be fine. This would all pass, just as soon as he got some sleep. Merlin, he needed sleep.
“Don’t lie to me!” Sirius snapped.
The words struck Harry like a blow, and he felt his knees giving out. He let out a small, tiny cry, tears welling in his eyes. He couldn’t stop it, no matter how much he wanted to. The tears overflowed, even as he found himself dropping to his knees, his whole body trembling. “I-I’m sorry,” he gasped out around the lump that had formed in his throat. “Sirius, I’m sorry!” He needed Sirius to know. To understand. He hadn’t meant to lie, he hadn’t meant to be bad… he was trying so hard!
Immediately, Sirius’ tone gentled. “Of course you are,” he said softly, sweetly. Sirius followed him to the ground and wrapped his arms around Harry, pulling him into a close, secure hold. “Of course you’re sorry. It’s okay,” he murmured, his embrace strong and oddly grounding.
“I’m so sorry,” Harry babbled, unable to stop himself. Sirius had to know. He had to believe him!
“I do believe you,” Sirius breathed in his ear. “It’s okay, Harry, just breathe for me. Everything’s okay. We’re gonna get you sorted.” His arms tightened even further, almost to the point of pain. Harry should have been uncomfortable. He should have been pulling away, but he didn’t. He leaned even closer. It was so strangely grounding… he couldn’t have pulled away even if his life had been at stake.
“Close your eyes for me, Harry,” Sirius said. His voice was gentle, but firm. The words were a clear order, and Harry found his eyes drifting closed entirely against his will. “That’s a good boy.” Sirius’ voice shook on the last word, but Harry didn’t mind. His breathing was evening out. Sirius was happy with him. He wasn’t in trouble.
He was a good boy. “What’s wrong with me?” he asked, his voice tiny. He had no idea what was the matter with him, but he was an absolute mess and he knew it. Maybe he’d been cursed?
“We’ll talk about this in the morning,” Sirius whispered, his own voice choked. “After you’ve had some rest, and you’re feeling a little bit better.”
“I can’t sleep, Sirius.” Harry knew that he sounded like he was begging, because he wanted to sleep so badly. “I haven’t in forever. I keep trying, but there are the dreams, and if there aren’t the dreams there’s this feeling of wrongness, and I don’t know what’s the matter with me. Sirius, can’t you tell me what’s wrong with me?”
“In the morning,” Sirius promised again. “You’ll sleep for me tonight, Harry, I promise.”
“You’ll give me a potion?” Harry’s throat ached at the thought. He needed it, and knew that he was about to start crying again.
“You won’t need one. You just need to trust me. Do you?”
“Of course.” Harry was offended that Sirius had felt the need to ask. Or he would have been, had he had any energy left at all to be offended about anything. He didn’t. He was so tired, so broken down. He didn’t know what was wrong with him, but he still trusted Sirius.
“Then trust me when I promise you that you’re going to sleep tonight,” Sirius said to him, and Harry felt his godfather’s lips brush against his forehead. “I’ll take care of you tonight.” Then Sirius’ hands shifted, and his hands blocked Harry’s ears. He still heard Sirius when his godfather bellowed, “KREACHER!”
“Master mutt calls for Kreacher?” the elf’s voice hissed out, disapproving as always.
“Gather Harry’s things. All of them. Harry will no longer be sleeping here.”
Harry was confused. Where else would he be sleeping? He hadn’t been sleeping anyway, of course, but that… that didn’t mean that he didn’t want to know where he was supposed to be sleeping. Still, he trusted Sirius. He leaned into his godfather and kept his eyes closed.
He trusted Sirius.
“And where should Kreacher transport Master halfblood’s things to?”
“Take them to the Manor, Kreacher. And you are ordered to not tell anyone where we’ve gone.” There was a popping sound, as Kreacher presumably left to do Sirius’ bidding. Then Sirius stood up, taking Harry with him.
Harry tried to support himself, but found that it was far too hard. He didn’t want to. He wanted Sirius to hold him, but he was too old for that. He forced himself to pull away, but swayed on his feet. He was tired, so very tired. He opened his eyes, finally, and found himself staring at his godfather, who looked just… gutted. He’d never seen Sirius look as sad as he did right then, and Harry ached to soothe him. He didn’t know why, didn’t understand, but there it was.
“It’s okay,” Sirius said, and tried on a smile. It looked awkward on his haggard face, but at least it softened the jagged edges of his sorrow. “We’re gonna take care of you tonight, Harry. And then we’ll go from there, okay?”
“Okay,” Harry whispered. He didn’t know what to say. It was so easy to agree with Sirius. So painless. He swayed forward again.
This time, Sirius’ arms locked around him once more. “I’m going to Apparate us, okay? It’s going to feel odd, and you’re probably not going to like it. But it’s the only way to reach the Manor right now, since it’s locked under Blood Wards.”
Harry didn’t know what that meant, but he nodded and closed his eyes and leaned closer to Sirius. If that was even really possible. He felt something suddenly, a twisting and squeezing sensation that made his stomach churn. It was absolutely awful, and Harry couldn’t help it when he jerked away from Sirius after the sensation ended and threw up what little dinner he’d managed to eat in the first place.
Sirius stroked his hair through it, whispering soothing things, and when it stopped and Harry’s cheeks were flushed with shame rather than nausea, Sirius said to him, “It’s okay. It happens frequently when a wizard first Apparates. It’s nothing to be ashamed of.” As he spoke, he pulled Harry carefully away from the puddle of vomit and steered him from the entrance hall.
Harry knew that he would be interested in wherever they’d wound up later, but not right now. Not when he was so tired and wrong and broken. “You said I would sleep tonight?” he asked, his voice tiny and broken.
“I promised that you would sleep tonight,” Sirius responded immediately. “I promised that I would take care of you, and I’m going to. Don’t worry about it, Harry. It’s all going to be okay.”
Harry let out a shuddering sigh, the words sinking into him with a force he didn’t understand. He allowed himself to be led from the room and up a set of stairs, and didn’t complain as he was led up yet another set of stairs and then into a bedroom. His mouth tasted like vomit, but as he was pressed into a soft, warm, unknown bed, he didn’t care. His limbs felt like lead and his eyes ached from staying open.
He stared up at Sirius as his godfather tucked him under the covers, his eyes fluttering closed entirely against his will when he felt a gentle hand land in his hair and begin to stroke. “Go to sleep, Harry,” Sirius said, his words heavy with a weight that Harry couldn’t begin to understand. “Go to sleep for me.”
Harry didn’t understand why his eyes were now unopenable, why his body eagerly responded to the command. He didn’t know why he found himself spiralling down into sleep, the feeling of wrongness inside of him easing at Sirius’ order. It didn’t make any sense.
But then Harry was asleep, and it didn’t matter anymore.
Sirius continued to stroke Harry’s hair with a gentle, carefully rhythmic hand, that very studiously didn’t shake because Sirius was incredibly focused on making sure that it didn’t shake. As soon as Harry’s eyes had closed, as soon as his breathing had evened out, Sirius found his lips curling into a snarl that he couldn’t suppress.
He breathed through his rage until he was certain that Harry was deeply asleep. Then he set a charm on Harry, so that he would be alerted if his command wasn’t enough, and stood up, his hands shaking in rage. He closed the door slowly, carefully, so that Harry wouldn’t be startled awake, and then Sirius stalked off down the stairs.
He snapped for Kreacher once he reached a sitting room decorated with what had to be thousands of galleons worth of antiques, and when the elf appeared before him, Sirius snarled, “Harry was sick in the entrance hall. Clean it up.”
“Will Master mutt be staying at Black Manor?” the elf asked.
Sirius let out a low snarl and aimed a blasting curse at a vase that sat on a nearby pedestal. It exploded into a million shards, and Sirius felt better for the sight of the destruction. “For now,” he told the startled house elf. “You aren’t to tell anyone where I am, Kreacher.”
“Kreacher understands,” the elf said, and bowed. “If Kreacher may say, it is a pleasure to see Master Sirius acting like a true pureblood, taking care of such a fragile submissive.”
The elf popped away before Sirius could respond, but he aimed another curse at some other undoubtedly priceless artifact with a snarl. It shattered, and Sirius threw another curse as soon as the last one had landed. Then he threw another and another and another, until the room was laid to ruin. His breathing came in harsh pants and his rage still simmered inside of him.
How long had Dumbledore known?
The question wouldn’t leave Sirius alone. His godson was a submissive, and he hadn’t seen it. But then, how could he have seen it? He didn’t know Harry, not really. Dumbledore had always been so very careful to keep him away from his godson aside from occasional conversations that would never have been enough to tell. Not until now, when his godson was sick with what was very likely bondrot. Merlin, what if it was bondrot?
What if his godson had found his dominant, his soulmate? What if that was what was making him so sick? Harry didn’t even have the vocabulary…
But of course he didn’t. Sirius’ lips curled into a snarl and he aimed another curse at an already destroyed couch. It was satisfying to watch the fluff explode into the air once more, but not as satisfying as it would have been to see Dumbledore’s blood flying.
Sirius wasn’t a fool. He knew exactly what Dumbledore had been doing, and he could kill him for using Harry to further his agenda. He’d never been as much of a supporter as James and Lily had, never would have given up his submissive if he’d ever met him or her, never would have…
He breathed out. James and Lily, no matter how much they’d supported Dumbledore, wouldn’t want their son to waste away under the effects of bondrot. No matter what. If that was what it was…
He would figure out a way to explain it all to Harry.
It wouldn’t be easy, he knew, but he would figure it out. He would manage it, because Harry deserved to understand what had happened to him. What was wrong with him, why he felt so sick. And if Harry didn’t understand what was causing it, if they didn’t figure out when it started and figure out who it was connected to, then Harry might… he might die. And Sirius couldn’t tolerate that thought.
His godson was all that he had left. Yes, he had Remus, who was still a friend, but… but sometimes Sirius couldn’t forget how willingly Remus had believed that he’d betrayed James and Lily, had believed that he’d kill Muggles while going after Peter. When he let himself focus on that, it hurt more than anything.
But Harry… his godson had never betrayed him. So Sirius would return the favor. His godson was his world, now, especially since he’d never found his own submissive. He would take care of Harry, the way that James and Lily would have wanted him to if they’d still been around.
It was why he’d been named godfather, after all. They’d trusted him with Harry, and he wasn’t going to let them down. He would die first.
Sirius took a breath and finally got ahold of his temper, just in time for Kreacher to reappear in the ruins of the room.
The house elf didn’t even look startled at the level of damage he found in the room. “Kreacher took the liberty of bringing some of Master Sirius’ things and putting them in the master bedroom. Master half… Master Harry’s things are in a spare room, until Master Sirius tells Kreacher where to put them.”
“Thank you,” Sirius said with a small exhalation of breath. “Clean up this mess, Kreacher. Save what can be saved, and throw the rest out. I’ll be going to sit with Harry until he wakes up. Bring me tea once you’ve cleaned the room.”
The house elf bowed, his ears low on his head. Sirius couldn’t be sure, but given Kreacher’s suddenly changed attitude and the genuine respect in his eyes, at least Kreacher approved of what he was doing. Whatever the hell that meant.
Sirius shook off the thought and started for the stairs, just as the charm he had on Harry alerted him to a change in Harry’s sleep. It seemed that he was starting to wake up, either from a nightmare or from something else. It had barely been an hour.
Sirius breathed out and took the stairs two at a time. It took him only a few moments to order Harry back into a deeper sleep, soothing him with gentle hands on his hair and soft words. As Harry drifted off once more, soon enough that he probably wouldn’t remember the brief interlude when he woke for real, Sirius let himself sag a little bit.
This would be a long night, but he was willing to spend the entire night with Harry just so that his godson could get the rest he so dearly needed.
Ron woke up with a small snort, then sat up and scrubbed at his eyes. He blinked himself awake the rest of the way, then turned to Harry’s bed. He wasn’t at all surprised to find it empty. Harry hadn’t been sleeping well, not since… not since he’d gotten back from the summer holidays, really, not that Ron could blame him.
He wouldn’t sleep well either, not when Voldemort had nearly killed Harry again.
He couldn’t believe how stupid he’d been to be jealous of Harry. What had he been thinking? Fame wasn’t worth all the difficulties Harry had with everything. Ron still wanted to be famous, but not if it meant going through what Harry was going through, what with that madman trying to kill him more often than not.
He stood, stretched, then headed downstairs for breakfast, his stomach growling. He was surprised to find that Harry wasn’t sitting at the table with everyone else, and to find that Sirius was also missing. That was… weird, actually. Very weird.
“Harry didn’t want breakfast?” he asked. Harry hadn’t been eating as much as he might have once, but he hadn’t thought that Harry was skipping meals entirely. At the very least, Harry normally joined them while they all ate.
His mother, though, was frowning. “He’s still asleep,” she said slowly. “We haven’t seen him down here at all today.”
Ron shook his head. “No he’s not.” He looked around again, half expecting to spot Harry skulking in a corner. He did that sometimes. Not often, but sometimes. “He wasn’t in bed when I got up. Honestly, I doubt he slept much at all.”
“And we haven’t seen Sirius all morning, either,” Professor Lupin said slowly, his eyes going dark and his gaze going someplace far away. “What are the chances… Sirius wouldn’t…”
“You think Sirius and Harry snuck out?” Ron’s mother practically shrieked, her hands flying to her mouth. “They wouldn’t! It’s too dangerous! Harry, at the very least, would know better!”
“Yeah, but where could they be hiding?” Professor Lupin pointed out.
There was a long, silent moment as everyone considered the question, and then everyone who had been eating exploded into action, leaving Ron standing in the middle of the room, still half-asleep and a bit confused. Was Harry missing? Is that what was happening?
It wasn’t long at all before it was confirmed. Both Harry and Sirius were missing, and Sirius had probably taken Harry out of the house for reasons that nobody could begin to imagine.
Ron would have been less perturbed at the knowledge if he’d been given time to eat before the worried frenzy had begun, but whatever. He’d be fine, missing one meal. Maybe. He was a growing boy, after all.