Harry was engulfed in ice. He couldn’t move, couldn’t breathe, couldn’t think. Harry was completely helpless, falling down onto cold stone, pain shooting up his legs. “This is how it feels to die” he thought helplessly, a cry for help dying on his lips as they froze together, an eerie purple colour. He could distantly hear Charlie shouting, but the words were muffled and very distant. Just as he thought he couldn’t bear it any longer, the ice melted, and he was free.
Winded and dizzy from his experience, it took a while to notice where he was. The cold stone had vanished; he was, instead, kneeling on something warm and soft, purple and pink, glowing gently. It was all around actually; spreading out forever, but close enough to touch. It didn’t make any sense. His limbs still aching and sore, he lifted himself to standing. It was only then that he noticed people, standing around almost everywhere. Instinctively, Harry reached for his wand. It wasn’t there. He was still in the same clothes as he had been wearing to the Ministry; yet everything even slightly magical had vanished.
“You don’t need it, Harry” said a voice next to him, a voice he hadn’t heard in so long, and entered like a knife just below his ribs at the memory. Albus Dumbledore stood next to him, silver beard and hair and half-moon glasses exactly how Harry remembered them. He said nothing, just gazed into Dumbledore’s blue eyes. After all this time, he was here again.
“Are you real?” he asked stupidly. “Is this like that thing last year?”
Harry, hearing a new voice, went completely white. Standing to Dumbledore’s left stood Sirius Black, younger than Harry remembered, but handsome and kind all the same.
“Sirius? You’re dead, you fell through here…”
Sirius said nothing, just reached out and hugged his godson. Harry closed his eyes and relived the memory of being so close to him. Sirius even smelt the same; he was real, solid, actually there. He closed his eyes and just stood there, wherever he was, and allowed himself to live in memories. Suddenly, the shape of the arms around him became slimmer, gentler, and tenderer. Soft hands reached up and brushed his hair, and, as Harry looked up, he found himself looking in the same eyes as his own, almond-shaped and a bright green. For the first time in his memory, Harry was with his mother, Lily. The mother he had never had, never held, never felt safe with. Not for sixteen years.
Glancing around, Harry realised with a start that a mirror image of him was net to Lily. Harry had never seen his parents before, except in a mirror; he couldn’t quite believe it. He stumbled back, mouth opening and closing in disbelief and shock.
“Mum? Dad?” he said, stunned. Shock was plastered over his thin features, etched in his eyes, matching Lily’s. A tear trickled down as he looked at the four people who he missed, but wanted so badly. In the distance, Harry was sure he could see others; Tonks and Remus Lupin, Fred Weasley, still grinning, Cedric Diggory smiling distantly. They were’nt close enough to see properly; but Harry was far more concerned with his parents to really mind.
“It’s us, darling”. Lily Potter’s voice was like candyfloss, sweet and light, tinged with longing. Harry recognised the voice, like a long-lost song in his head. It was a relief to hear his mother’s voice not screaming.
“Harry, you have to listen carefully, alright? You can’t stay here” James’ voice was deep and pleasant; Harry compared it to running water in a strange way.
“And here is..?” asked Harry.
“It’s hard to explain” replied Dumbledore. “The veil contains all of our souls, almost, but in a solid form. I don’t understand it. However, I do know that if you don’t get out soon, you will die. It takes something from you, entering through the veil. You are strong, that’s why you survived the ice.”
Not pressing for details, Harry took the hand of his dead father, who in turn hugged him, and finally, said, in a forlorn voice:
“I know why you’re here, Harry. It’s not true though.”
“What do you mean? If you’re here, can’t I bring you back? I need to! And Hermione thinks Ginny is a… a…”
“Death Eater” supplied Sirius. “She’s right. But not for the reasons you might think.”
“She can tell you, not me. The Dark League are in a clearing in the centre somewhere, Lucius Malfoy leading them. I can’t help you any more than that. Narcissa seems to be up to something, but we’re not sure. They might dispose of Ginny, you know, if you don’t get there in time”
Harry felt entirely betrayed. Despite everything, there was nothing that could be done.
“What do I do now? I thought I might be able to do something, now there’s nothing left to do!”
“There is, Harry. You just can’t bring back all of us. You can bring back Albus. Find his body. Use this.”
Sirius handed Harry a small round pebble, like one you would find on a beach.
“This. Are you serious?! What am I supposed to do with a pebble?!” he cried, wiping back angry tears.
“It’s true. It works” replied James. “And I’m sorry Harry. We still all love you. Don’t forget that. We would do anything to be with you.”
“But why not all of you…”
“It doesn’t work like that” Lily said quietly. “At least you can bring Albus back”
“We love you Harry” they all said together, their voices merging.
“I love you too” Harry whispered back, as he saw Lily start to weep quietly, and James try to stem his tears. Sirius’s eyes were filled too, as he said gently:
“I’m sorry Harry. Sorry you can’t bring them back; sorry you have to do so much.” Dumbledore looked into Harry’s eyes. “You’re still so young. You don’t deserve this. Be strong, Harry. Find my body, bring me back. And be careful. We don’t want you to join us just yet.”
Harry turned from Dumbledore. “Will I ever see you again?” he asked quietly.
“I doubt it, my darling. You might, don’t lose hope” Lily said. “But I’m still here for you. I’m watching.”
“We’re all so proud of what you’ve done” added James. “My baby boy, growing into a man”
“Don’t cry, my baby, we’re here”
Then the world went black once more, ice spreading along his every nerve. Distantly, Harry could sense that Tonks and Remus were happy together, watching their baby growing up however they could. It was nice to feel that they were happy, along with the other people in the room that Harry couldn’t see. Maybe dying wasn’t so terrible after all, he thought. Harry could a woman’s lips brush his, feel a squeeze in his hand, see at the edge of his conscience his parents faces above his. Then fell into the icy black that surrounded him, and thought no more.
*** *** ***
“Wake up! Wake up! He’s going to kill me if you’re dead, WAKE UP!”
Harry gasped as the ice left him, as though he had only dreamt it. Charlie was shaking him frantically, not helping Harry feel any better. There was no evidence that any of what he thought had happened was real, until he felt the lump in his pocket of the white pebble.
“Who’s going to kill you, Charlie?” Harry whispered jokingly, as the world began to gain colour again.
“So you are alive? That’s it, I’m not risking that happening again” muttered Charlie.
“What do you mean…” asked Harry uncertainly.
Then Charlie grabbed Harry, turned once, and Harry once again re-lived the unpleasant experience of side-along apparition.
At last, Harry’s lungs gratefully expanded as he looked around. He was, quite definitely, out of the Department of Mysteries. However, he could not imagine where he was now.
“Charlie?” Harry whispered. “Where are we?”
“AAaa!” he heard him cry.
Spinning around, he saw Charlie’s features distort; crippled over in pain, his hair turned silver-white and grew to his shoulders, and her eyes became dark and manic.
“Narcissa? Narcissa Malfoy?!”
“Well done, Potter! How’s the family doing?”
“You? What are you doing? How did you..? I saved your son’s life last year, what do think you’re playing at?!”
Harry felt his body freeze; he desperately fought but could not move.
“You never realised it wasn’t me? And yes, you did save his life. It was planned, you stupid boy. Naïve as your parents were, aren’t you? I made sure you defeated the Dark Lord last year! You think my husband and I wanted to live under his dominance forever? He terrorised my family, nearly killed my son. And you didn’t check despite that, didn’t make sure I was who you thought I was!”
Harry tried to speak, but his mouth and tongue wouldn’t obey him.
“I had to act as my blood traitor relative for far too long… You cannot realise how much I wanted to do this:
CRUCIO!” she cried manically, something distant in her eyes.
Harry’s body would have convulsed, he would have screamed; instead the pain stayed, trapped, in the Petrificus curse, as Harry lay, unable to defend himself as Narcissa tortured him relentlessly, laughing manically. The pain spread like white hot fire under his skin; it burned, ripped, tore at his very being… Harry suddenly felt himself able to move as his instinct broke down the barriers that kept his body immobile. He was suddenly screaming in pure agony, until, quite suddenly, it stopped. Harry’s vision swam as he groped for his wand.
“DON’T YOU DARE, POTTER… IMPERIO!”
Harry knew he would usually be able to defend his mind against Bellatrix; however, the haze he was in after having been subjected to torture meant he was rendered defenceless. Narcissa laughed nastily, as she made Harry give her his wand. She could sense his mind, wanting to break free; but she was stronger. Waving her wand, she broke the Imperio curse, letting Harry’s mind go free. Harry tried to breathe, but his body ached. The world was swimming in and out of focus. Narcissa grinned and watched, as Harry Potter, the Boy who Lived, groped for his wand before staring, aghast, at Narcissa, who saved his life just a year before. Bellatrix lifted her wand to just beneath Harry’s chin, forcing his head up, keeping the wand pointed at the pulsing hollow in Harry’s throat. Narcissa flicked her wand, and a shining silver knife appeared in the wand’s place, edges and point so sharp they seemed to slice the air. Harry began to tremble violently, the sharp edge nicking him whenever he moved, trickles of warm blood running down his neck. He finally understood how Hermione felt, when Bellatrix had done almost the same thing to her a year previously.
“Up” she commanded. “Stand up”
Harry, shaking violently, got to his knees, and slowly raised himself to Narcissa’s level, the blade cutting him painfully, thankfully not hitting any major arteries.
“Good” she commented. “Know what’s good for you then?”
She wrenched the rucksack with the invisibility cloaks Harry had from his grasp and immobilised him, causing him to fall back to the ground with a painful thud.
“Now, Potter. Before I take you to the Dark League, who wishes to destroy you themselves, I think you need to have a taste of what’s to come”
Harry tried to shake his head, desperately.
“Want to beg, Potter? Go on then, impress me. You have ten seconds.”
She mobilised Harry again.
“Please, Narcissa, take me wherever, I won’t do anything…”
“Don’t Narcissa, please, please…”
“No, no please...”
“NO” Harry was screaming
“Oops, no time left” sang Narcissa, binding and gagging Harry this time as she spoke. She seemed more like her sister Bellatrix than ever before as her eyes widened:
Harry, this time, just lay, as his body worked independently from his mind to try to stop the burning agony from destroying him. When it stopped, he lay there, tears of pain streaming down his cheeks.
“Going to cry, Potter? Levicorpus!”
Harry felt his body turn upside down as he dangled by his ankles. He felt himself moving; he could see his surroundings, but could say nothing. He was in a forest somewhere, nowhere he knew. He guessed that he must be being taken to Voldemort. Harry would have fought, would have struggled; but he realised. This was no longer a mere capture. This was his defeat.