Rose sighed deeply as she tossed around in her new bed, not everything was making sense to her, but if the Headmaster had said she must stay here then... she would. Still, it didn’t help her situation that this room was so different from her old bedroom. Rubbing her eyes, Rose sat up and threw the covers off her, there was no way she would get sleep if she was so restless… but what was there for her to do? Hermione and Ginny were fast asleep and she didn’t dare to wake them up, no need to bother them with her inability to sleep. The sounds seemed to have stopped for the night which meant that everyone else had probably gone to bed for the night as well. Climbing down from her bed, Rose walked quietly across the room to the door, standing on her toes to turn the knob open as it swung without any noise.
Peeking out just a little, she scanned the entire corridor and saw that it was empty… and dark. Carefully turning around to check that both the girls were still sleeping, Rose made her way outside and stepped onto the landing, thankful that it was carpeted all along the corridor. There was no need for her to be wandering about aimlessly so late at night in a strange, scary house; if she wanted, Rose simply had to go back inside and jump into bed, hoping that her exhaustion would put her to sleep. And yet, there was something which had aroused her curiosity, which had been on her mind for quite sometime now.
“S… Si… Sir…ius... Sirius…” She whispered the name out loud, remembering it with ease since she’d heard it no less than half dozen times that night.
Who was this person that everyone talked about? Sirius. Rose hadn’t met anyone among the adults by that name; and if she thought for a moment longer, she realized that she’d heard the same person’s name back at the school as well. So where was he? The eeriness all around didn’t bother Rose as she decided to head for the stairs, up to the third floor. Her feet were so tiny and light that even though there may have been a few loose, creaky floorboards, she didn’t make a noise. Climbing slowly, it took several long minutes during which there was no disturbance when she passed the other bedrooms.
“Now what do I do?” Rose said aloud once she’d reached her destination; there was another floor above this, but first she wanted to check this corridor.
As far as she could tell, there were only two bedrooms here and they both seemed to be unoccupied, which wasn’t helpful at all. Just when Rose decided that maybe the upper floor would prove to turn up something, she heard a noise. Frozen in her tracks, she shivered when she listened to the sound once more; it was a thumping of sorts, and the source of this strange noise seemed to be coming from one of the rooms. Now Rose was not a child who got scared by many things, but this being her first night in a new house, maybe it was normal for her to be a little frightened.
"It's okay... I’m not scared." Taking a deep breath, Rose figured that there was no harm in taking a look inside the room and see what had caused the noise.
She walked across the carpeted floor as quietly as she could, very much relieved that no matter how ancient this house seemed, Rose was able to walk up to the bedroom at the far end of the corridor with ease and paused for a second, wondering if she should knock first? Before any decision could be made, she heard that noise again - *THUMP* *THUMP* - and Rose almost backtracked towards her own room. Once again, there was a second, different sound that reached her ears… almost animal-like. That was all she needed to know that her curiosity would get the best of her and the next thing she knew, Rose had turned the door handle open and stepped inside.
Not knowing what she hoped to find behind the door, Rose wasn’t entirely surprised when she saw that the room was bathed in darkness… the only light which filled the room came from a small lantern which hung at the far end. She had barely set foot across the threshold when she sensed something watching her. Looking up, Rose could see a big, very big bulky form of a creature that appeared to be fast asleep. And beside it, was a large shaggy black dog with gleaming wide eyes that stood up almost as soon as Rose met its gaze.
“Doggy!” Rose couldn’t help herself from exclaiming a little too loudly when she saw it standing there, not more than a few feet away.
There was nothing more she loved than dogs, no matter how big or small they may be and though she never had had a dog herself, Rose didn’t feel afraid anymore and took a step forward to get closer to this dog. She didn’t realize that he was watching her carefully, his head slightly tilted to the side; but when she was face to face with him at last, the moment her hand touched his cheek and rubbed the soft fur, the dog let out a small whine as it nuzzled her, making Rose giggle.
“Do you like that?” Moving her hand towards his ears, Rose gave him a scratch behind one before doing the same to the other ear.
He did seem to like her attention, for Rose could feel his nose touching her arm and just then, she felt all her worries and fears fade away. Her moment of wonder at finding a dog that clearly lived in this house was turned into surprise when Rose suddenly felt him turn away from her; and before she could guess what had happened, she saw the dog transform within seconds, into a man. If she hadn’t already seen something similar happening before, back at the school with Professor McGonagall, she may have been shocked or even confused, but this was quite normal for her to witness.
The man that now stood there in place of the dog was tall, with long dark hair and unshaven too. Rose could also see the striking grey eyes that stared at her, almost as if in shock; when he suddenly knelt down to her level, Rose also saw something else in his eyes. If she didn’t know any better, she would have said that… he looked… sad.
“Marlene?” It was spoken so softly, not even a whisper but like a gasp of breath that Rose wouldn’t have even heard it if she didn’t see the man’s lips moving.
“Hello.” She said to him, wondering if this was whom she had been looking for.
And when he heard her speak, he seemed to snap out of his trance-like state and saw that there was a little girl whom he was talking to. Someone he didn’t know and yet was in his house?
“Hello there love.” His voice was much more loud now, all the traces of sadness suddenly vanished and he was holding a hand out for Rose to shake.
“Hello.” Rose said again, taking his hand and shaking it; the change in his demeanor was not lost on her but she didn’t say anything to him.
“May I ask your name?” There was no signs of a smile on his face, but he didn’t seem angry either.
“I’m Rose.” She answered him softly, wondering why he seemed so different from all the other adults she had met in the house earlier.
The man paused for a second when he heard the name; he remembered how once, a long time ago, had a best friend with a flower for a name. This was a little girl also named after a flower.
“That’s a lovely name Rose.” The man said, as he let go of her hand, but now she saw him watching her, as if… he knew her… which was impossible of course. She had heard him say another name before, but didn’t understand why.
“Thank you.” Unsure of what else to say, Rose simply smiled at that compliment. She had always liked her name and he seemed sincere in his words.
“Sirius Black at your service.” He finally introduced himself.
“I know.” Rose blurted out loud before she could stop to think and then speak.
“You do? Well now, that’s something I don’t hear everyday.” There was a hint of sarcasm in his voice, but Sirius brushed it aside, still trying to process the fact that the girl in front of him seemed very much real.
“The others… they were… they were talking about you… downstairs.” She admitted sheepishly, not breaking away from his gaze.
“Ah. I see. They do little else.” He paused to look at this child standing in front of him, wondering who she was and why she seemed to have found herself in his house. “How old are you?” Sirius suddenly asked, confusing Rose a little with his abrupt change in topic.
Rose held up her right hand with four fingers as she spoke, “Four years old.” She said to him happily.
“Four? My, aren’t you a big girl already.” Her age wasn’t surprising, but the fact that she seemed so wise at 4 did peak Sirius’s curiosity, “So… tell me love, what brings you here to my house?”
“Miss Minnie brought me here.” Rose repeated her answer to him just as she had said to Molly. “From the school.”
“Minerva? You were at Hogwarts?” This was not what Sirius had expected to hear, then again, he didn’t know what explanation he had been expecting.
She could hear the shock in his voice, but didn’t know what else to tell him just yet, so she simply nodded her head in response.
“And what of your parents? Do they know where you are?” Sirius was aware that he probably would have to speak to McGonagall about this personally if there was a chance to do so. And soon.
At this, Rose fell silent and hung her head low. No one had directly asked her this question until now, and even though she had just met him, Rose felt that she wanted to tell Sirius. Before she could say anything, he seemed to have understood what her silence meant and reached forward to lift her chin up with his thumb.
“I’m sorry.” His voice was kinder now, and the grey eyes seemed sympathetic as she looked at them.
“I was at home… not… I don’t know… what happened… to my momma and daddy.” She finally said, hoping that she wasn’t about to cry.
“It’s okay, it’s alright… come here love.” Sirius could see that the girl was lost and confused and alone, everything he knew all too well himself, and without thinking, he took her in his arms and hugged her.
Rose wrapped her hands around his neck and buried her head in his jacket, feeling oddly safe. As if all this time she hadn’t truly been. It was hard to explain why she stayed there, hugging Sirius for a few more minutes before pulling back first. Somehow, there was a sense of comfort that she felt just being in his presence; though they had only met a few minutes ago.
“Thank you.” Rose said to him, a little surprised when she felt Sirius taking her hand in his as they both walked towards the back of the room to sit on the floor, leaning against the wall.
“You’re very welcome love,” Sirius said as he observed Rose to see if she was feeling better, “I’ve always found that a hug is the best thing to share when we feel sad. Don’t you think so?” He asked her.
“I like hugs.” She replied back with a smile now, which was enough for Sirius to know that she was going to be okay.
“Now, what brings you up here so late at night?” He was sitting beside Rose and still very curious about her; the similarities that he could see between her and… Marlene… was he just imagining things?
“Err… I… well…” Rose blushed and glanced away for a moment, “I was not getting sleep.” She said and then elaborated before Sirius could ask her for details, “I… I don’t like the… dark.”
It wasn’t really something to be embarrassed about, Rose knew that, but even though she was well aware of the fact that a lot of kids her age had all sorts of things which scared them, she thought that given everything she’d gone through… maybe she would be a little more braver. And somehow, Sirius could sense what she was thinking in that moment; he reached out to gently touch her hand, waiting until Rose glanced up to meet his gaze before he spoke.
“Can I tell you a secret love?” He asked and when he saw her nod, Sirius went on, “I’m also scared of the dark too.”
“I thought grown up people don’t get scared.” Her eyes had widened in surprise when she heard his confession; Rose did believe him when he said that to her, the way he sounded and how she could see it in his grey eyes.
Sirius laughed at that. It was the first time in a very long time since he had laughed and Rose did hear how it sounded a little like a bark mixed in with his voice.
“Believe me when I tell you this, Rose… grown up people get scared of many things.” Sirius said, running a hand through his hair, “We’re just better at hiding it from others.” He admitted softly, making it seem as if he was talking to himself.
“So what do you do when you get scared of the dark?” She asked him, curious to know more.
“Well, I usually just sleep with a light on in my room.” It was the obvious solution and Sirius realized that perhaps Rose could use the same thing to help her get sleep. “Why don’t I come downstairs to your room and leave a light on for you?”
“Oh! Yes, yes… I would like that. Thank you.” Rose brightened up almost immediately at the thought of that; she had always been scared of complete darkness ever since she was a baby and knowing that Sirius was there to help made her feel glad to have met him.
“Shall we, love?” Standing up just then, Sirius held out his hand for Rose and together, they started to head outside, when Rose suddenly stopped and turned back.
“Umm… who is that?” Pointing to the big creature that she had seen on first entering the room, Rose wondered if it was too late to ask Sirius about it.
“Ah, that would be Buckbeak. He’s a Hippogriff.” Sirius said when he saw where Rose was gesturing to, the sleeping figure of his… pet. “It’s an animal like a horse and an eagle.” He explained, wondering how much Rose knew about magical creatures.
“Is he sleeping?” She asked, surprised at the size of this animal, who had not stirred once from his sleep all this while.
“Yep, Beaky a very deep sleeper. I wouldn’t be surprised if you went up to tap him and he still wouldn’t wake up.” The comment was very casual but Sirius realized he probably shouldn’t have said that, “I don’t think that would be a good idea, we should let him sleep.” He quickly added.
Rose simply nodded in agreement… there was no need to wake him up at such a late hour, but she was looking forward to meeting Beaky properly in the morning. Just as Sirius was about to open the door, someone from outside did it for him and when she saw who stood there, Rose seemed glad. Remus hadn’t left for the night and she never did get a chance to say goodnight to him.
“Sirius! There you are.” Lupin exclaimed, sounding a little out of breath but happy to have found his friend. “I wasn’t sure where you were.” He said to him, and from his manner, Sirius could tell that Lupin wanted to tell him something.
“Moony, I didn’t know you were still here.” Sirius commented on seeing him there.
“Yes yes, I just wanted to…” He started to say but then trailed off when he noticed Rose, “Oh, hello again Rose.”
“Hi.” She said softly with a smile.
“Is everything alright?” He asked his friend, knowing that Rose was still by his side.
“Umm… there was something that I wanted to discuss with you.” Lupin had something in his hands but when he saw Rose, the bundle disappeared underneath his cloak.
“Now? Can it wait until the morning? I was taking Rose back to her room; she wasn’t getting sleep.” This was hardly the time for a chat, especially since Sirius had already promised to see that Rose went to bed.
“Well… I… I suppose it could.” The nervousness in his voice was something that Sirius didn’t pick up on, but Lupin could tell that his friend was distracted, and possibly even a little drunk, which wasn’t ideal to discuss the important matter he had shown up for.
“I’ll see you tomorrow then.” Sirius said as he shook hands with Remus to say goodbye.
“Yes, goodnight.” Lupin said to Sirius before turning to Rose, “Take care of yourself Rose.”
“Goodnight.” She replied back and waved to him.
With that, Remus headed out, leaving Sirius to take Rose back to her room at last. The hour was late and he could sense that Rose had pretty much started to fall asleep, but she still held onto his hand; within a few minutes, he had slipped inside and made sure that the other two girls were not disturbed as he tucked her in.
“Thank you.” Rose looked up to see Sirius watching her and for a moment, she thought that he reminded her of her father who always tucked her in at night before she went to bed.
“You’re welcome, get some sleep now. I will see you tomorrow morning okay?” He said and patted her head.
“Okay. Goodnight, Sirius.” She said and then yawned once before reaching for one of the pillows and hugged it tight.
“Goodnight Rose.” He whispered softly, and making good on his promise, he left a dim light on right beside her bed before closing the door behind him.
There was so much that he wanted to ask her… for someone whom he’d just met, this girl had somehow made an impression on him and he wanted to know more. The questions would have to wait until morning though, he was in no state to sit down and have a discussion with anyone about this. Sighing deeply as he leaned against the wall, Sirius decided that it was time he went to sleep as well… the silence around him meant that everyone else had slept already. As he started walking back upstairs to his room, he heard low voices coming from somewhere below and leaning over the banister, it was not surprising to see that Remus was just about to leave and he had company. From what he could make out before he saw them leaving, Sirius gathered that Remus had offered to drop Tonks off at her apartment first.
“Always the gentleman Moony.” Sirius said to himself with a grin, knowing that there was something starting to change between the two, but for now he would keep his thoughts to himself and see where things went.