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Chapter 16: On the Brink
A/N: Thanks for all the great reviews! Sorry for the long wait. There will be one more chapter after this one.
On the Brink
Without checking to see if he was splinched--which, thankfully, he wasn't--Sirius jumped up from the cold floor, grabbed Harry and wrenched him away from Peter, thrust his hand into Harry's pocket, pulled out his son's poplar wand, and blasted Pettigrew into the stone-block wall.
A thick, red smear was left behind from Pettigrew's head as he slid to the floor.
"What happened?" Harry asked, staring at Pettigrew's limp body. He stepped closer to Sirius.
"He was the spy," Sirius growled.
"Where are we?"
The corridor was long, narrow, built of cold, colorless stone, and stank like death. Or maybe that was Pettigrew's blood pooling around his head. "Don't know, but we're not staying long enough to find out." If Harry wasn't with him, Sirius would stay long enough to finish the traitor off. Maybe he'd come back. He held out his arm to Harry, who clung to it. At least Harry's anger seemed to have been scared out of him. Sirius disapparated. Or tried to disapparate.
Insane laughter. Bellatrix. "Do you really think the Dark Lord allows his prinsoners to simply apparate out of his dungeon, Cousin?" She disapparated and appeared closer to Sirius. "You need a Dark Mark to leave alive from this dungeon."
Sirius pulled Harry behind him and backed into the wall. "Piss off!" He felt Harry clutching his robes, shaking a little. He held the wand tighter.
Bellatrix deflected the nonverbal spells sent her way and disarmed Sirius, who couldn't move without exposing Harry. By now, more Death Eaters began filling the corridor, surrounding Sirius and Harry.
Sirius was still shouting as loud as he could. The Death Eaters had locked him in this tiny, dirty cell and taken Harry Merlin-only-knows where. He knew his throat would pay for his shouts soon enough, but until then, he'd keep yelling.
"Really, shouting will only make it worse."
"YOU! I'LL KILL YOU, TRAITOR! WHERE'S MY SON?"
For once in his miserable excuse for a life, Pettigrew didn't seem terrified. "But he's not your son."
Sirius slammed into the bars of his cell and let loose every curse he knew.
Sirius imagined a giant mouse trap snapping on his neck.
"You know, the more you scream, the more she'll make him scream."
Sirius quieted long enough to hear what the bastard meant. Faintly, from somewhere above him, he heard screaming. Harry screaming. In pain.
"She won't kill him."
How could that traitor sound so calm?
"Our Master gave orders that the Potter boy was to be left alive. For aiding in finding him, we're allowed to do whatever we want, as long as the Potter boy is alive at the end of it."
Sirius felt sick. He knew what his twisted cousin was capable of, and now she had Harry, and permission to torture Harry all she wanted. He had to get out. He had to save his son!
"I only came down here to ask what you think I should do with Harry."
A threatening growl escaped Sirius' throat.
"After all, I didn't get to practice on the Mudblood in the Shrieking Shack. I had to stay out of sight while the others had all the fun."
"Shut up! Keep away from my son!"
"I never realized you were so stupid, Black. He's not your son."
Sirius screamed and rushed into the bars so violently that Pettigrew took a step back, his smug, unafraid look faltering for a moment. But only for a moment.
"I'll give Harry your regards, shall I?"
Sirius yelled until Pettigrew was out of sight, then sank to his knees and cried. "Stop! Stop!" He banged the bars as he was forced to listen to Harry's screams.
This was what they had been trying to prevent, eleven years ago. This was why Harry grew up calling him 'Dad'. And what was it all for? Voldemort had Harry, and Death Eaters were torturing his son while he sat crying in a cell. He couldn't even protect his own son.
'He's not your son.'
He'd kill that rat if it was the last thing he even did. And Bellatrix. And Voldemort. And every other Death Eater he ever came across. But first, he'd save Harry.
Three days. Three long, miserable days.
James was reclined in his bed, and he rolled Sirius' lost wand between his hands, as he had taken to doing these past three days. The Order had never found where Voldemort kept his prisoners, only the discarded bodies of those he tortured. Images of those bodies with the face of his best friend and his godson... Harry... his Harry plagued his mind. For the first time as a fully trained Auror, James had completely lost control the day before. When he and three other Aurors found a Death Eater, James demanded information. When the Death Eater refused to answer, James had beaten the man so bloody he was now on forced leave from work, and Dumbledore had reassigned him from actively searching with the Order to looking over maps of the possible locations of Sirius and Harry.
How could everything have gone so wrong?
He remembered now all the months of stroking and kissing Lily's expanding stomach, and the short time when he held Harry and knew the boy was his, actually his. At the time, giving Harry to Sirius had seemed like the best way to keep him safe. James had never lost his fatherly feelings for Harry; sometimes he had even hoped--however guiltily--that Harry would accidentally call him 'Dad' the way he occasionally called Lily 'Mum' by mistake, just to see how it felt to be 'Dad', but he never did.
Sirius was 'Dad'. Sirius would always be 'Dad' to Harry. James had given up his son to keep him safe, and now his son was missing, along with his most trusted friend.
I hate you! I hate all of you! Would those be the last words he ever heard from Harry, from his son?
For years, he had been the strong one in his marriage. He wanted a child just as much as his wife. When he'd dream of his life with Lily, he always had children with her, children who were every bit as wonderful as Harry. For years, he had pushed his own tears back when Lily cried after a failed pregnancy test, or when she came home from visiting her sister and her nephew, or the nights after Harry would apologize for calling her 'Mum', and especially the days she thought of the child they had lost months before the baby was due.
But now, Lily was the one pulling them through. She had been out all day for the past three days, searching. Both nights, she hadn't come home until the early morning, and she left again at dawn. The few hours she was home, she didn't sleep; she held James while he cried.
All this because of one of his 'friends'. James had trusted his three friends with his life. Even when Sirius was trying to convince him that Remus was the spy, he hadn't tried apologizing because Lily was upset; James had still trusted him deep down, like he always trusted his friends. And now that trust of the rat, ha, rat!, might cost his godson's life... his son's life... and his best friend's life.
He might be losing it, but Lily would see them through. Harry and Sirius would be found and brought home safe.
"James!" Lily burst into the bedroom. "Dumbledore found where they're being held!"
James jumped up and stashed Sirius' wand in his pocket.
Harry didn't know how long he had been held in this terrible place, but he wished more than anything that his father would come and save him. The Death Eaters had chained him to the floor and hadn't left him alone since. Someone was always there, hurting him. Even when they made him drink murky water or disgusting, mushy food, they hurt him.
All Harry did, it seemed, was cry, beg them to stop, and scream for his father.
At first, he had been most afraid of his father's cousin, Bellatrix Lestrange. He had even wet himself when she fist entered the room. But she hadn't been the worst. The worst was his ex-Uncle Peter. Peter would say horrible things about his father and godparents while he hurt Harry, and say that soon he would hurt them too. Harry quickly came to prefer Bellatrix over his traitorous 'uncle'.
When the Death Eaters did lead his father into the empty room, it was the first time Harry felt any bit of hope since he had been taken from Sirius in the corridor.
"Time to go, Black. The Dark Lord has requested your presence."
When a few masked Death Eaters came to open his cell door, Sirius tried to push past them, but one of them tripped him up with a spell, and he fell into their grasp. They forced his arms behind him, and shoved him ahead of them.
They led Sirius to an old, wooden door, stained with blood. Harry's screaming and begging grew louder as they approached the door, and Sirius thrashed violently, desperate to get free and save his son. "HARRY!"
Finally, they took him through the door. And there was Harry, in the center of the room with his back to Sirius, crying and trying to curl into a ball. Thick chains around his wrists kept him shackled to the floor. He was covered in blood, and his blood, feces, and piss were pooled around his knees.
"HARRY!" I'll kill you bastards! I'll kill all of you!
"DAD!" Harry turned to him, straining against the chains. His glasses were gone, and so were the charms that made him look like Sirius' son. His light green eyes were darker, emerald green, and almond shaped, just like Lily's. The few bits of his hair that weren't held down with blood or sweat stuck up the way James' hair did. And his face had changed too.
Harry looked so much like James, but with Lily's tearfilled eyes, that Sirius wouldn't have recognized him so quickly if he didn't know who the boy in the center of the empty--except for Death Eaters--room. But Harry was still his, Sirius', son.
"I'm right here, Harry. I'm right here, I'm not leaving you. I'll get you out of here, take you home, okay, pup? You'll be okay. I'll get you out."
Harry kept pulling at the chains. "Dad..."
"Shut up, brat!" A Death Eater's foot raised.
A blinding wave of anger swept over Sirius, and with a furious scream, he pulled away from the Death Eaters holding him and threw his body over Harry. Just in time. The Death Eater's foot collided with his side instead of with his son.
He covered every bit of Harry that he could when he heard the Death Eaters laughing, and they began kicking him too.
Not Harry. You won't hurt Harry. Not while I'm here.
Harry was clutching Sirius' robes, trying to pull his father even closer. "Dad, I'm sorry! I love you! I don't hate you!"
"Enough of this!"
That voice. The Death Eaters stopped kicking and laughing, and Sirius held Harry as tightly as he dared. But Sirius' grip wasn't enough; he was torn away from his son again.
"Well, we meet at last, Harry Potter." Voldemort circled Harry, looking him over like a meal. "This child is meant to defeat me? Ha!"
"Get away from him!" Sirius snarled.
Voldemort ignored him and pointed his wand at Harry. "Crucio!"
"NO!" Harry's screaming was worse than anything Sirius had heard before. "STOP!"
Voldemort cast the spell again.
"PLEASE! I'LL DO ANYTHING! JUST LEAVE HIM ALONE!"
"What will you do, Black? I did not hear you. Crucio!"
"ANYTHING! I'LL DO ANYTHING!" Sirius was crying now, trying as hard as he could to get free. He had to get between Harry and Voldemort's wand.
"Very well. The House of Black shall stand behind me once more! You, Sirius, shall join me as a faithful Death Eater and openly declare your House's support for Lord Voldemort. In return, young Harry will never be harmed by myself or mine again." He ran the back of his long, pale hand down the side of Harry's face, causing Sirius to bare his teeth.
But slowly, Sirius' ferocious look retreated, and he stopped pulled against the Death Eaters holding him. "A-all right. I'll do it. I'll join you."
Sirius forced himself to look at his son. Harry wasn't ignorant of Sirius' past; he knew why his father fought so hard against Voldemort.
"I have to, pup. I love you. I can't let them hurt you anymore." And once he was branded with the Dark Mark he could disapparate out of this hellhole. He'd grab Harry, apparate him away, and Voldemort be damned. He would do this. For Harry.
"Now, Lord Voldemort will keep his word, and end the suffering of this child, whom that fool, Albus Dumbledore, thought could defeat me, forever!" He raised his wand.
"Wait, stop! What are you doing?"
"This child will know the mercy of Lord Voldemort with a quick, painless death."
Harry looked desperately at his father when he heard that Voldemort meant to kill him. He wanted to call out, but he had frozen. He looked back and saw Voldemort's lips move, and a beam of green light emerge from his wand.
Out of the corner of his eye, Harry saw his father break free of the Death Eaters holding him and lunge towards him.
Dad... save me...
Sirius dove in front of the green light, and caught it with his chest.
Harry heard the thud of his father's body hitting the stone floor.
"DAD!" He reached forward, as much as he could with his restrained hands and shook his father furiously. "NO, DAD!"
Voldemort laughed. "This is the power of love!"
Sirius didn't move. His grey eyes were open, unblinking.
"DAD! Dad, get up! Get up! I need you! Dad! Please! Please get up! I love you! DAD! DAD!"
"Don't worry, Harry Potter. You'll be with your idiot 'father' soon enough."
This time, the green light hit Harry, and Harry... Harry's last thought before passing out was how he wished he could have heard 'I love you, pup' one more time.
James, Lily, and Remus, with Dumbledore, were at the head of the group of Order members infiltrating Voldemort's dungeon stronghold.
Mad-Eye Moody's magical eyes was spinning wildly in its socket. "I see them! No guards, no Death Eaters anywhere, actually. Probably a trap."
"Where are they?" Lily demanded.
"Right above us."
Without waiting for another word, James and Lily took off, and Remus followed without hesitation.
"Here! This is it." James pushed open a disgusting, wood door that led to an empty, stone room. Empty except for Harry and Sirius. The three rushed forward. James pulled Harry, whose head was resting on Sirius' chest, back, and felt his neck.
Lily cursed off the chains around Harry's wrist, and Remus conjoured two stretchers.
"He's alive!" James could have cried with relief. They weren't too late.
"Oh, thank god." Lily reached over Sirius to hold Harry's hand.
Once Harry was levitated into the stretcher, James again dropped to the floor, this time feeling for Sirius' pulse. When he couldn't find it, he tried the other side of his best mate's neck. "Damn you, Padfoot." He searched Sirius' chest next. "Damn it!"
Lily, with one hand still holding Harry's, knelt next to her husband. "James?"
James ripped open Sirius' robes so the material would stop getting in the way of the heartbeat. "Padfoot! Get up, you arse!" Still no heartbeat. "Fuck!" He hit Sirius' chest as hard as he could. Maybe his heart needed a jump start.
Lily's hands were on his arm, but he didn't care. All he cared about was forcing a pulse out of Sirius before these new tears fell.
"Sirius, you bastard! Stop fooling around!" His fist made contact with Sirius' face this time, but Sirius still didn't move, and his heartbeat was still missing.
"James!" Remus this time.
"James, honey, he's--"
"He's not dead! SIRIUS, GET UP!" He pressed his ear against Sirius' chest this time. If he couldn't feel it, he would hear it. "Get up... Get up..."
James looked at Lily for the first time since entering this horrible room. She was crying too.
"...he's not getting up."
"But we weren't too late. Harry..." In a panic, James jumped up. What if he had imagined feeling Harry's heartbeat? Seeing Harry's chest rise ever-so-slightly and fall with each shallow breath told James he hadn't imagined anything. Harry was alive, but Sirius... Sirius...
James felt Remus' hand on his shoulder and Lily wrap an arm around him. He held onto both of them and cried.
A/N: So, uh... *runs and hides*