I open my eyes to a vast cobalt blue. My hair swirls before my face ethereally and my limbs feel heavy around me. Where am I? No… I know exactly where I am. It’s the same place I’ve found myself every night when I went to sleep.
I’m sitting here under what feels like miles of water, so far under the surface that I can barely see. It feels empty… and lonely. I pull my knees up to my chest and wrap my arms around them, hugging myself closely. I feel like I’ve been here forever. Just waiting… But for whom?
I don’t want to be alone anymore.
“Mr. Black? Visiting hours are over.”
“Yeah, I know. I’m going.” I feel someone give my hand a soft squeeze before letting go completely. I hear his chair scrape across the floor as he slowly gets up to leave the room. Somehow the sound made my heart ache.
“Wait.” Before I realize it, I feel myself reach out to grab Sirius’ hand. My eyes open slowly, dazed and unfocused, to see him glance at me in surprise.
I blink. Why did I do that? I look down at my hand, which was gripping his so tightly that my knuckles were white, and quickly let go.
But Sirius smiles sadly at me before turning to the nurse waiting just ouside the door. “Hey, I know it’s way past visiting hours, but do you think you could…?”
“I suppose I could make an exception. It’s not a problem, Mr. Black,” I hear the nurse answer kindly before shutting the door behind her.
Sirius pulls his chair back up to the bed and takes my hand again. “You alright?” he asks in a low voice, peering at my face with a concerned look in his eyes.
I stare at my hands for a moment before looking back up. “I was lonely,” I mumble awkwardly.
Somehow saying it out loud made me feel guilty for making him stay with me. He had dark circles under his eyes and even his smile looked weary. Why does he push himself so hard?
“I don’t know what got into me. You don’t have to stay,” I finish hastily.
Sirius ignores this last bit as he reaches up to brush away the hair covering my eyes. “Did you have a nightmare?”
I hesitate before answering, “Not exactly. It’s just that whenever I fall asleep I dream that I’m sitting under the water. Nothing happens. I can’t see or hear anything. It’s just empty.” I look up to see a dark expression pass over his eyes. It was so brief that I thought I imagined it. “What?”
“Cecilia,” he starts, a determined look on his face, “I need to talk to you about what happened.”
“What happened…?” I repeat slowly.
Sirius nods. “I mean, what happened that caused you to become like this. Why you keep dreaming about water. Why you don’t remember anything.”
My head throbs and I wince in pain. Suddenly, every cell in my body is telling me to run.
“C-can we maybe talk about something else?” I blurt out hastily. “Tell me about school again! Or another story about one of the pranks you and James have pulled! Those are fun, right?”
Sirius’ brows furrow in confusion. “No, seriously, I need to talk to you about what happened. There’s so much that you don’t kn—”
Suddenly, the hospital lights go out and the room is plunged into darkness. Sirius stands abruptly and looks around. “What the, why did the lights turn o—whoa!”
Okay, I swear to Merlin’s epic beard that it was a reflex, but right when the room turned pitch black I became immediately and acutely aware that I was terrified of the dark. Sirius, being the only human in the room holding my hand like it was his unborn child, was evidently the unfortunate victim of my deathly embrace.
“Why-are-the-lights-off-are-they-trying-to-torture-me?!” A slew of words spill out of my mouth as I wrap my arms tighter around his waist.
“Oi, watch where yo—geez!” Before I can move another inch, Sirius literally leaps out of my arms and pushes himself away from me. “Bloody hell, Cecilia!”
I see his silhouette rake a hand through his hair. “Don’t bloody grab me like th—you know what, nevermind.”
What’s his deal…
I reach down for the pillow at the end of my hospital bed to grab instead as my eyes, which are slowly getting used to the darkness, follow Sirius’ trail as he nearly trips over his own feet to stand beside the window instead. In the moonlight shining through the open window, I notice that he actually looks… flustered?
He must’ve seen me staring at him because he then turns around to face the window completely to avoid my gaze. My eyes narrow in confusion.
Wait, what exactly did I grab…
“They must have the lights each room set to turn off after visiting hours are over so patients can sleep,” says Sirius distractedly. “But… blimey, it’s, uh, getting kind of hot in here huh?”
He reaches behind his head to grab the back of his hoodie and pull it over his head. But as he sheds his sweatshirt, the cloth grabs the back of his t-shirt, pulling it up slightly as he tosses the hoodie to the side. In the faint light, my eyes catch sight of a gruesome scar riddled across the full of his back.
Something flashes across my mind. I’ve seen that scar before.
“Where… did you get that scar?” I say slowly, almost in a trance. “You didn’t actually get it from a Quidditch accident… did you?”
Sirius stops in the middle of pushing his shirt back down and turns towards me.
Mid-turn I can’t help but notice the words “that’s what she said” splashed across the front of his t-shirt, an oddly whimsical addition to the nearly suffocating atmosphere the room was suddenly enveloped in.
“I was saving your life,” he replies, his words so soft that I barely hear them.
My breath stops for a moment. “You… what?”
He heaves another sigh as he slumps back down onto the end of my bed. Though this time, he sits facing the window, elbows on his knees and his head in his hands.
“I was saving you,” he repeats in a low voice. “You probably don’t remember this right now, but when you fell into the pond behind my house eight years ago, I was the one that pushed you.”
I nod slowly, not quite understanding where his explanation was going. This… I somehow already knew. Or rather, I seemed to remember the moment he said the words.
“The day before you came around to Grimmauld Place, the window in my room was loose from a heavy storm a couple days back. I was going to remind my parents to fix it since I didn’t know any magic yet myself, but… I was so excited that you were coming over again that it didn’t cross my mind. I could easily get it fixed once you left the next day. We…” His hands clasp around the back of his neck and I notice his knuckles turning white from tension. “See, we shouldn’t have even been playing around that area behind the house. I mean, we were always adventurous little tykes, but I should’ve bloody known better. It was still so windy that day.”
His voice was shaking.
“Then… when you climbed that tree and turned back to me with that goddamn happy-go-lucky smile on your face, my eyes caught the window suddenly break out of its frame and fall towards you. I yelled for you to move, but I swear to god the only thing I could think of was to shove you out of the way. I-I’m sorry… I didn’t know you couldn’t swim and the moment I saw you flailing in the water, I knew I had to jump in and save you, but I was trapped under the window pane.”
My body had grown cold. This… this didn’t match at all to what I remembered.
“Regulus had heard the crash and ran out to see what happened. I yelled at him to grab you out of the water, but the goddamn kid just stood there at the edge, too scared to drown, too scared to fucking move. But, bloody hell, who could blame him… he was only seven and all he could do was run for help. Then… then when they finally pulled you out, god, you were—you were so pale, I thought you had… god…” He swallows, his breath harsh as if every word had to be wrenched out of his throat.
“You never came back…” he continues in a hollow voice. “I wanted to go see you, but for months I could barely even move myself. And by the time I’d healed… bloody hell, I had spent months hearing about how traumatized you were. You wouldn’t go near water, you wouldn’t even let people touch you, you were so scared. I knew I couldn’t make you relive that by seeing my face. I just…” His chest heaves. “It’s my fault you had that phobia. It’s my fault you couldn’t have a normal childhood. It’s my fault you nearly died and it’s sure as hell my fault that you have this goddamn amnesi—”
“No, Sirius, that’s not…” I reach out to grab his shoulder and turn him around to face me. The look on his face was so dejected it was heart-wrenching. It was like it took an almost godly effort just to get himself to look me in the eye.
“Cecilia, I’m just…” he croaks, just barely getting the words out. “I’m sorry… Please, I’m so—”
Before he can finish, I fling my arms around his neck, pulling him against my chest and burying my face in his hair. His body tenses for a moment before relaxing and he wraps his arms around my waist, hugging me so tightly that it almost hurt.
“I’m sorry,” he whispers over and over again. “I’m sorry, Cecilia. I’m sorry. I’m sorry.”
“No, stop,” I interrupt firmly, pulling him closer. “Sirius, it’s not your fault. Just because it all happened this way doesn’t mean it’s because of something you did. You didn’t have to carry this all on your own.”
At this, he pushes away from me. “On my own?” he repeats, clearly furious with himself. “I walked away from this with nothing but a few scratches, but you? You had to live with mental trauma for the rest of your life. When I bumped into you at King’s Cross, you have no idea—no idea how relieved I was that you couldn’t remember any of it. That you couldn’t remember me. The least I could do is keep the memory to myself.”
I swallow. “So… that scar?”
“Your scar…” I repeat in a low voice. “Is that why you never got it magically removed?”
Sirius stares at the bedsheets. “Yeah,” he replies grimly. “I didn’t think it’d be fair if I walked away unscathed when you had so much to deal with. You mean more to me than that.”
“But you do too.” I swing my legs around me under the sheets and push myself to my knees. Before Sirius can say anything else, I reach over to hug him around the shoulders. “It wasn’t your fault,” I murmur again. “It was a freak accident. It wasn’t your fault.”
Sirius hesitates for a moment before asking, “So… you don’t hate me then?”
“I don’t think I could even if I tried.” I small smile forms on my face. “Well, if you and James pull another prank on me like that time you replaced all my Transfiguration notes with the word ‘flobberworm’, then I guess it wouldn’t be too hard.”
Sirius chuckles. “Not making any promises otherwise, to be completely honest—” Suddenly, he pulls himself out of my embrace and grips my shoulders, holding me at arm’s length away from him. “Wait a minute, what did you just say?”
I raise my eyebrows. “Er, that you probably shouldn’t mess with my notes again?”
“No, did you just make a reference to something that happened earlier this year?” He stares at me incredulously.
“Bloody hell, Cecilia, you’re back!” Sirius lets out a short breath of disbelief and his face breaks into the biggest smile I’d ever seen. “I can’t believe it, you finally remembered!”
My eyes widen in amazement. “Blimey, you’re right…” And, suddenly, I was on cloud nine. “You’re right!” I exclaim excitedly, “I remember you! You’re the womanizing playboy that I get annoyed with every waking hour and can’t spend ten minutes without getting in a row with and has way too many girlfriends and only thinks about snoggi—oof!”
My ramblings are interrupted abruptly when Sirius pulls me into a hug again.
“Oh, shut it, you git.”
He was grinning like an idiot and finally I see the little kid in him again. Not the flirtatious, too cool playboy that I met when I bumped into him at King’s Cross, but the goofy little boy I had spent most of my childhood with. The halcyon days.
“Oh,” I start in realization, “but… I still don’t remember anything from before I was eight. Other than what happened in the pond and when you gave me the scarf, everything’s still a blur.”
Sirius is quiet for a moment before replying. “Too much to hope for, I guess. Just give it time.”
“I guess so.”
We sit there for what feels like minutes just holding each other. Whether it was for warmth or comfort or just plain relief, I don’t know. But I don’t feel lonely anymore… and that’s what matters right?
My face breaks into a mischievous smile as I whisper, “Hey, let’s get out of here.”
Sirius lets go of me and raises his eyebrows. “What, out of the hospital? At this hour?”
“Yeah, out of the hospital. Do you honestly expect me to stay in this anti-septic building any longer now that I don’t have to be?” I grin at the astonished look on his face. “Didn’t think the infamous Sirius Black would ever turn down a chance for thrilling escapades.”
At this, Sirius’ face morphs into his familiar devilish grin. “That’s more like it.” He grabs my hand and pulls me out of the bed. “Let’s get the hell out of here!”