Chapter 24 : Hide and Go Seek
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Amelie was flung bodily onto hard granite, causing her right side to bruise further under her weight. Her arm, bent unnaturally under her, cracked as she tried to break her fall, but with every ounce of her being concentrated on Benjy, she barely even noticed.
His appearance had never been particularly put together, but Amelie could now physically see that the past few months had not been kind to him at all. There was an unkempt, frazzled air about him now, an almost manic, chaotic sort of frazzled that seem to ooze from his pores and set his surroundings on edge. Heavy bags had taken up residence under his unfocused gaze, contrasting sharply with the pale, almost waxen complexion he had managed to assume that betrayed his recent lack of exposure to sunlight.
“What the fuck?” Amy spluttered. “Benjy?!”
Still overcome by an intense vulnerability, Amelie had no desire to be approached, seen or heard. Her letter had stripped her of her shell in an instant, and she desperately needed to hide away, and lick her wounds for a while before she could even think about getting back up again. Scratches on the surface she’d dealt with before, but such an attack on her being, on the very foundation of her soul she’d never had to deal with. Her body was still weak and battered, aching from the pain of throwing up her innards five times too many. Her mouth was dry and in her throat she could faintly recognise the metallic tang of blood. Her thick skin hadn’t yet grown back. Everything hurt.
But Benjy did not speak. He continued, a silent and purposeful force, not even blinking as the door of the Room of Requirement squelched shut.
Looking around, Amelie’s numb mind received yet another onslaught of unexpected images.
The room was nothing like the place where she and Sirius shared their first time. The garden had disappeared, only to be replaced by a cavernous room, with walls so far apart that her eyes could not make them out. Instead there were shelves, cupboards, and wardrobes - by the millions - filled and overflowing with objects strange and ordinary alike.
Amelie might have been frozen in her own disorientation, but time had not stopped for Benjy. Soon he had picked her up by the scruff of her neck, dragging her along by her clothes. Forced out of her reverie, Amelie once again began to struggle, kicking feebly at the ground in protest, trying to claw her nails into his hand but finding her strength too depleted to cause any harm. For the reaction that Benjy showed, she might as well have been a gnat: weightless and inoffensive. With one last effort, Amelie bit down on the hand that held her collar as hard as she could. The skin split under his sharp teeth, the thick, scarlet liquid trickling down Benjy’s hand and onto her chest. Amy broke out in sudden nausea, throwing up a trail of vomit across the floor as she was dragged which she was being dragged.
Depleted of her physical and mental energies, Amelie was tugged along the stone floor like a ragdoll, head lolling from side to side, stained all over in blood and vomit, until finally he dropped her, head once again bruising at the impact with the ground, her eyes seeing stars. Opening her eyes, she noted that he had bound her arms and legs to the floor with his wand, the cold, uncomfortable stone burning into her back. She tried to struggle but the bindings burnt into her skin with a vengeance. The smell of scalding flesh brought a fresh wave of nausea, that her new position would not allow her to get rid of. Tears fell from her eyes as she felt her breathing being impeded, leaving her no choice but to forcefully swallow down whatever her innards had rejected. The burning taste of bile hurt her mind. Mentally she was nothing; physically, it was all but pain.
“Let’s play a little game,” said Benjy, his breath incredibly close. His voice was almost soothing to her ears. He sounded exactly like before, like normal. “Do you want to play with me, Amy?”
The word sounded strange on Amelie’s tongue. It belonged to another world, another being.
“Yes, we’ll play a game,” he whispered, hand on her cheek. “And you’re going to have the time of your life.”
Sirius had, unsurprisingly, slept fretfully. All night long he had been plagued by images of betrayal, hurt and anger, which woke him at irregular intervals. Turning around he realised that it was already five o’clock in the morning. If he slept again, he would never wake up in time for Quidditch practice, and James would have his hide. That was if he’d even manage to get to sleep.
Groggily he sat up, stretching his muscles and squinting into the darkness that surrounded him. Maybe, if he was lucky, he could catch Amelie before practice today. If he’d somehow be able to make her understand…
Sirius sighed. Understand what, exactly? Even he didn’t really understand what he felt for her. He knew he did feel, and he felt a lot. It was about giving her a shelter, a duty to do onto her as others had done for him. It gave her life and him a purpose. Was it bad that he enjoyed reaping the rewards? Surely it couldn’t be; she was pretty sure she enjoyed it, too, if her reactions were anything to go by.
Maybe this wasn’t the right time to think about Amelie’s pleasure, when he was surrounded by four other boys in a dorm room. But now that he’d started he couldn’t really stop. Her drive drove him mad, and the fact that only he’d seen its full extent arose in him an unexpected sense of pride which he didn’t want to go away. A certain consuming possessiveness had crept over him, of a kind that he doubted would ever quite go away. Because really, why on earth would anyone give away something that meant everything?
The sun wasn’t up yet, but Sirius was wide awake by this point. He didn’t want to coincidentally bump into Amelie before practice. He wanted to be there now, by her side, making her understand him even if it killed him.
‘Accio map!’ thought Sirius, summoning the map to his free hand and catching it in a split second. He snatched James’ cloak from the bottom of his friend’s bed, threw it over him, and with the light of his wand he began scouring the parchment for the blot named Amelie as he strode out of the dormitories. He was a man on a mission, and nothing could get in his way.
Amelie giggled. It was a funny little game Benjy was playing, that was for sure.
For two hours she had screamed and twisted as he had methodically tortured her, starting from hairs on her head - the thick, long, black tresses scattered along the stone floor was proof enough. Benjy had pulled it out chunk by chunk from the roots, leaving in its place a bloody mess. A sizeable portion was missing from her right cheek. By all rights the girl should have been dead or unconscious, but Amelie had always had a high tolerance for pain. Instead, it was her mind that had shattered.
“Benjy, Benjy, Benjy,” she sang. “Like a teddy bear, big and fat and round and – oh!”
Benjy had just set a funny word, and look, there was a massive gash across her stomach, stretching from under her left rib to her right pelvic bone. Red blossomed and seeped through heavily onto the shirt on her body. In curious detachment, Amelie touched the wound, interested to find her palm slickened with red liquid. Perhaps she’d pressed down a bit too hard, because all of a sudden she let out a lengthy stream of feverish laughter that rang with hysteria.
Benjy jolted, blinked a few times, his eyes slowly gaining focus on his surroundings, torn between confusion and panic at the manic cry he’d just heard. Where he was and where it came from he had no idea, but his palms were getting sweaty. Why was his wand arm pointed? Where was it pointed to?
The young boy followed the line of his wand towards the girl who was kneeling on the ground, shrieking and jerking as scarlet liquid gushed out of her stomach.
He was breathless with horror, not understanding what was happening, not recognising the battered, beaten and broken remains of the girl who stood in front of him. Petrified, the boy stepped backwards- one, two, - then broke into a run in the opposite direction.
Amelie laughed to herself as she bled onto the floor.
Sirius wanted to tear his hair out. He’d scoured through the map three times over, and then proceeded to do the same with the actual castle. It was getting to almost eight o’clock now, and as he reached the corner before the hospital wing, he decided to pop in again, hoping beyond hope that she’d returned to visit her friend and the map was just malfunctioning.
After all, Sirius consoled himself, Amy had been pretty torn up about the situation with Lily. It wasn’t too far a jump to expect the girl to be with her best friend.
Pushing open the doors of the hospital wing, Sirius took long strides to where Lily was sleeping, thanking his lucky stars that the nurse was nowhere to be seen. He took this as a good sign. Maybe things weren’t as bad as he had thought.
Lily had clearly just woken up, her eyes bleary and puffy, bed hair flying everywhere.
“Morning Lily, did I wake you up?” Not waiting to hear an answer, Sirius rushed on. “Have you seen Amy by any chance?”
“I just woke up…” yawned the red head. “How could I have seen her?”
“Good point,” said Sirius. “But how about last night?”
"Sirius, are you feeling okay? Do you think that Madam Digweed would actually let a student in that late? No, after you guys left everything went quiet and boring.”
The red-head yawned and then sat up straight in her bed, looking like she’d been hit over the head with a brick.
“You mean to say you haven’t seen her around?”
Sirius was silent, but the sombre look on his face was confirmation enough for Lily. His grey eyes had lost their mischievous sparkle, and were instead filled with desperate, frantic worry that was only made more prominent by the heavy bags under his eyes.
Her heart pounded and worry seized her, anxiety building in her heart for her oldest friend. Sirius and Amelie were birds of a feather; if he was worried… well, it couldn’t be a good sign.
Swiftly and silently, Lily tossed on a nightgown, got out of the hospital bed and joined Sirius by his side. Grey eyes met emerald and Sirius breathed a sigh of relief.
About time he met someone who was just as worried.
Sadly, their worry wasn’t enough to get them very far. It was mid-day now, and still hide nor hair of Amelie had been seen. After two hours of search, Lily decided that maybe it was best if they told a teacher.
“Come on Sirius, the more people that help the better.”
Knowing that Amelie wouldn’t have wanted her disappearance to be public news, Sirius had so far persuaded Lily into keeping their search party down to just two men. Nevertheless as time wore on, his anxiety increased, and Lily, still not fully recovered, was finding it difficult to keep going. It looked like he had no choice.
“I think you might be right,” he sighed.
“Finally, he sees the light! Now come on, Professor McGonagall’s office is this way.”
Sirius snorted, albeit half-heartedly (as if he needed to have Professor McGonagall’s office pointed out for him) and continued onwards in a daze.
It just didn’t make sense, for the map not to work. Never in the three years since they’d made it had it been unable to point out the location of every single person within the castle. The only conclusion that lead to was that she wasn’t anywhere in the school grounds, but then which passageway had she crept out of? Where was she? Did she go alone or was she taken by force? As time ticked the horrendous images inside Sirius’ mind grew, flashes of images showing Amelie broken and beaten and gasping for breath, almost to the point where he wished to just shut his eyes and go back to sleep and forget about it all.
But that was the coward’s way out. Sirius was many things, but damn it a coward he was not.
Instead he had to take deep breaths just to concentrate on not flying off the handle, and focus on the mess he was in. He needed to get Amelie back, feel her, and understand that she was alive and well and safe, back with him where she should have been from the very start.
“You are sure about this Miss Evans?” asked McGonagall, frowning at the prefect over her glasses. At her students nod, she exclaimed, “Well why on earth did you not inform us sooner? Since when has she been missing?”
Sirius, suddenly coming to himself and realising that they had arrived in their Head of House’s office, spoke up.
“About a day and a half.”
“A day and a - ” McGonagall spluttered, and turned immediately to grab some floo powder and throw her head into the fireplace.
“Professor Dumbledore, we have a student missing.”
Hogwarts had not experienced such a sombre, anxious atmosphere in over three decades. Students had always felt safe and secure within the castle, feeling protected by their friends, teachers and the strong, impregnable walls that surrounded them in their second home. Realising that one of their own had been snatched away, therefore, caused a flutter of panic that stole into the hearts of the bravest of souls.
Amelie had always been a force to be reckoned with. If she had been snatched away without a trace, what hope was there for other, more timid students with less experience?
Rumours were abound as to what had occurred, giving birth to a deadly mist of confusion and suspicion that obscured the vision of students and teachers alike. The closest of ties were hanging by mere threads.
“You saw her last, Sirius!” shouted an irate Callum as he barged in through the portrait hole. There had been a loud announcement castle-wide for all students to head to their common rooms immediately and await further instructions. Callum had clearly heard why such a strange announcement had been given. “You were with her! What did you do to her, huh?”
Sirius got up with a start, furious. “Me?! Are you fucking kidding me?”
“Yes, you! Who else?”
“I haven’t touched her!”
Callum broke out into derisive laughter, and was about to open his mouth with a scathing retort when Alice, distraught at the scene before her, jumped in.
“This is not the time to be fighting!” cried Alice, standing up from her position on the rug by the fire. “Amy wouldn’t want-”
Sirius let out a mirthless laugh. “Since when have you become an expert on what Amy wants?”
“That’s right,” snarled Callum, walking up to block Alice from Sirius’ view. “We all know Sirius here’s had a fucking monopoly on Amy since forever. No one else can care about her – we’re not allowed. So why the fuck don’t you know where she is? Had enough of her, eh? Thrown her aside now that you’re done?”
Sirius tossed his wand aside and let his fists loose. He’d been itching for a fight since last night. Fuck reining it in – this didn’t feel like holding back.
He barrelled into his friend, punching and hitting and kicking wherever he could, and getting bruised and battered just as much in return. He could hear yells and screams in the background but didn’t quite give a fuck about the others. All that mattered was that he keep punching, keep breathing, keep going.
How dare Callum talk like that about him and Amy? What the fuck did he know? The prick hadn’t even realised Amy was missing until a few minutes ago. Daft shit.
Sirius received a sharp kick to his gut, and was just about to retaliate with a right hook when he suddenly froze stiff, unable to move. It was only once he fell uncomfortably onto an equally frozen Callum that he realised that his so-called friends had body-binded them both. He couldn’t even wrench his jaw open to swear at them. The indignity made him want to weep with frustration.
Hands gripped his frozen body and turned him over, and he found himself staring straight into the sad eyes of James Potter.
If he could have sighed, he would have.
"What are you doing, Padfoot?” whispered James, shaking his head in sorrow. “Come on; let’s get you out of here.”
Not bothering to let the curse off, James levitated his friend’s frozen body to the boys’ staircase, away from the tense atmosphere of the common room.
James silenced the room, locked the door and stood in front of it before he turned around and unbound Sirius. Immediately the boy turned into a ferocious black dog, and began to run rampant through the room, knocking over everything and tearing into anything he could find. Five minutes later, the room looked like it had been hit by a tornado, and the dog sat, puffing with fatigue.
Seconds later, the boy was in his place.
“I don’t know what to do, Prongs,” he whispered. “I just don’t know what to do.”
Callum’s words had only been so hurtful because they’d been true. Where the fuck had he been? Why wasn’t he there with her? Had he not been enough? The thought was like a dagger into his heart.
Why had he not been enough?
Sirius remembered all the times they’d had together, as children hurling insults, as adolescents trying to find out who they were, as teenagers who’d come together looking for something special…
Sirius froze, as if he’d been immobilised once more by the very thought. How the fuck could he have been so dense?
“James,” he whispered.
“You okay, Padfoot?” replied his friend, equally silent.
“James,” repeated Sirius, voice shaky. He looked up from his position on the floor and straight at the only person in the world who he knew he could unwaveringly trust with his life. “James I need your cloak. I think I know where she is.”
[A/N]: Even I’m disgusted by the amount of time it took to get this chapter out. In all honesty, I was inches away from deleting my HPFF account, but it was you guys’ reviews that stopped me. The fact that I’m still getting any is astounding, and I want to thank you all for all the encouragement that’s kept me going. To be honest I’m not sure about my writing anymore, what with the little time I’ve had to practice it, but I do hope you enjoyed the chapter (well, as far as a chapter that is so morbid and full of gore can be enjoyed :P). After a long period where I had no idea where to start, I sat and got most of it written in the past 24 hours. Almost the end now, only one more to go. You’ve been incredible. x
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