‘I’d do it myself,’ he said, trying to keep the frustration out of his voice, ‘but unfortunately I seem to have misplaced my wand...’
‘And whose fault is that?’
‘Yours,’ James told him bluntly. His captor seemed to think that over for a moment and then smiled, revealing yellowing teeth. ‘Is that a yes?’ James asked hopefully.
‘That’s a no, boy. I have my orders.’
‘This is ridiculous!’ James said, hitting the wall in frustration. ‘Vol-’
‘Don’t say the name!’ Abraxas Malfoy hissed.
‘You-Know-Who, then,’ James said impatiently. ‘He’s not even here for Merlin’s sake!’ At least he didn’t think so, since he hadn’t come to visit James yet. Mr Malfoy crossed his arms over his chest. ‘Fine,’ James said. ‘Tell me what your exact orders are, and then we can decide whether or not you’re allowed to heal my leg.’ James was in Head Boy mode.
‘The orders were not to let you escape,’ Mr Malfoy said sullenly. ‘To convince you to join our cause by any means necessary, without killing you.’
James leaned back against the dirty brick wall with a smirk. ‘“Any means necessary?”’ he repeated.
‘Yes.’ Mr Malfoy shook his head, as if ridding himself of a fly. ‘I came down here to check on you, not to discuss my affairs.’
‘How kind of you,’ James said dryly.
‘Shut your mouth, Potter, if you know what’s good for you,’ Malfoy snapped.
‘Being rude to me is hardly going to convince me to join you,’ James said pointedly, crossing his arms over his chest.
‘And I suppose healing you would?’
‘Well, yes,’ James said, blinking. ‘It would be a start, anyway, and as we’ve just established, you want to make me happy by “any means necessary”.’
‘You’ll find I can be persuasive in other ways,’ Abraxas said silkily, fingering his wand.
James flinched. Even his memories of the Cruciatus curse seemed to hurt. He swallowed, and pushed his fear away, where he could deal with it later. ‘You’ll find I can be stubborn,’ he countered. ‘It’s been a week and I’m still not ready to join you, even if it does mean another session with Carrow.’
Grudging admiration flickered over Mr Malfoy’s pointed features, and then it was gone, hidden behind an unreadable mask. ‘I’ll send someone down with food later,’ he said coldly.
James sighed as the door closed and darkness descended. He knew it was only two things keeping him alive at this point; that Voldemort wanted to enlist him, and that his last name was Potter. After another few days though, he wasn’t so sure how well he’d be faring. With more injuries than he could be bothered counting – the worst of which was his broken leg – and no way to get at a wand, he didn’t know how this was going to turn out. He had little faith of surviving another session with Carrow. The pain in his leg was already bordering on unbearable, and he was quite sure his last session had left him with a broken rib.
Hot tears dribbled down his cheeks, burning him. He felt weak. His strength was already failing but he had so much he wanted to live for; he had his best friends who were practically his brothers, he had a beautiful girlfriend that he loved, he had his final year of schooling to get through and then his exams... and after that he wanted a career, he wanted to marry Lily, maybe even have a family... And as he sat there, dreaming of his future, he realised he wasn’t ready to die.
He’d thought he’d reconciled himself with the idea of death last full-moon, but that had been so sudden and he’d been so badly hurt he hadn’t had much time to think things over. Now, he realised he wasn’t ready and he was probably going to die anyway. Another tear leaked out. He’d put on the brave, Gryffindor act during his captivity, but it was a mask, and one that was slipping.
James wiped his eyes under his glasses and sniffed, trying to maintain composure. He didn’t think he had much chance of rescue. The moment he’d been left alone, he’d tried to call Noddy, just as he had last full moon, but she hadn’t come. That worried James almost more than his own situation, because very little aside from death could restrain a House Elf’s ability to respond to an order. He knew the school would know he was missing – Remus would have told them and he wasn’t in any lessons – but doubted they’d find him; who’d think to look in the dungeons of a well-respected pure-blood family’s Manor?
James slid a little lower down the wall, wincing as his leg and chest twinged. Escape plans mapped themselves out in his head, each more difficult to pull off than the last. Not for the first time, James wished he had Sirius with him. He’d have taken any of his friends for company, but figured that if anyone could help him break out of the dungeons, it would be Sirius.
They’d often joked that Sirius could break out of Azkaban if he put his mind to it. During those conversations, Peter would listen in awe, while Remus would be torn between scolding Sirius for hypothetically landing in prison, and adding to James and Sirius’ ideas for escape. Lily usually laughed at them for being so silly, and pointed out details they had missed.
A sad smile settled on James’ face. He clenched his jaw so it couldn’t tremble and stared determinedly at the grey bricks, blinking the tears away. He couldn’t let the Death Eaters think he was breaking. Taking a shuddering breath, James leaned back against the wall and began to mentally recite his Transfiguration textbook. If he got back to school, he wasn’t going to be behind. James shook his head suddenly. Not if. When. When he got back, he decided with conviction. He nodded to himself and mentally shut his textbook. He began to think over escape plans.
* * *
‘Get up.’ James ignored him, lying very still on the cold ground. His first step to getting out was getting healed. He knew from Abraxas that the Death Eaters weren’t supposed to let him die. ‘Do you want the bathroom or not?’ the Death Eater snapped. There was a metallic noise; the plate of food being put on the floor and then footsteps. Something – James suspected it was a boot – poked him in the side. He bit his tongue to stop from wincing, but otherwise did nothing. A hand shook his shoulder roughly, but still he didn’t move. The Death Eater swore; James had been captive long enough for everyone to know that he was easily woken by a little shake. His captor shook him again, swore again, and then his footsteps retreated. The dungeon door slammed.
Grimacing, James licked his hand and smeared spit onto his face. It was a disgusting thing to have to do, but hopefully it would make him look ill and feverish. Moments later, three sets of loud footsteps entered and James heard the swishing of a cloak as someone kneeled next to him.
‘He was like this when I came in, sir,’ a deep voiced man said.
‘He was fine this morning!’ Abraxas said angrily. ‘Has anyone been down here, Goyle?’
‘Nuh,’ another man said. ‘Sir... is he dead?’ James got the distinct impression that the speaker was a little dim.
‘No, he’s breathing,’ Malfoy said, but he sounded a little worried.
‘What do we do?’ the first man said. ‘The Dark Lord will-’
‘-I am aware of what is at stake!’ Abraxas snarled. James thought he sounded a little fearful. ‘The boy must not die!’
‘So we make him better?’ Goyle asked slowly.
Both Abraxas and the other man ignored Goyle. ‘Do you think it’s internal or external, sir?’ the other asked.
‘Internal I suspect,’ Mr Malfoy said coldly. ‘The Cruciatus curse often causes the body to shut down- Carina! What took so long?’
‘Out of my way, Goyle, and you, Rowle!’ a woman’s icy voice said. ‘Go upstairs and do something useful!’ Shuffling footsteps left the dungeon. ‘As for why I took so long, Abraxas, you weren’t specific about what you needed so I brought a bit of everything.’ There was a sound of bottles clinking together. ‘This is him?’
‘It is. Enervate.’ James’ let his eyes flutter open. He gave a weak little cough and tried to close his eyes again. Abraxas slapped him. ‘Stay awake,’ he growled. A cork popped and James’ mouth was suddenly forced open. A bitter potion trickled into his mouth. This time, he coughed for real, spitting out the foul concoction. ‘Drink it!’ Abraxas snarled, tilting it again. James obliged, trying to look dazed instead of annoyed. He actually found that once he’d swallowed it, the potion didn’t taste so terrible – it was making his throat tingle and when it reached his stomach, it had a similar effect that Lily did; his chest warmed and his stomach did odd little flips.
Malfoy’s wife bent down and placed a hand on James’ forehead. ‘He’s clammy, Abraxas.’ James hid a triumphant smile.
‘I can see that, Carina,’ Abraxas replied dismissively, tipping another potion down James’ throat. ‘It’s probably his leg.’
‘Broken,’ James croaked, reaching up to wipe potion off his face.
‘His leg is broken?’ Mrs Malfoy repeated in disbelief. ‘No wonder he has a fever!’
‘It didn’t seem to matter much before,’ Malfoy mumbled.
‘Well, it looks like it could be killing him now,’ Carina said curtly.
‘You can’t die from a broken leg, dear,’ Malfoy said, though his voice was a little uncertain. James agreed with Abraxas, though he certainly wasn’t going to say so. Instead, he groaned quietly.
‘Can’t die from a broken leg...’ she muttered. ‘Is it worth our lives to find out if you’re right?’Her fingers lightly probed James’ shin and he had to bite his tongue to keep from screaming. ‘This looks like Crabbe’s work.’ Mr Malfoy grunted in affirmation. ‘Tibium Emendo.’ James whimpered as his leg made a snapping noise, presumably where the bone was joining back together. He winced, trying to move but Carina pushed his chest down. ‘I’m not done yet,’ she snapped, ‘I need to repair the spell-damage as well. Reparifors.’ His leg made a funny crunching noise but gradually the pain faded. He wriggled his toes and was pleased to find them moving.
Abraxas gave him one more potion to drink, supposedly to help James get back his strength and then he and Carina propped James up against the wall of the dungeons. ‘I won’t be sending Carrow in tonight,’ Abraxas said with a scowl.
James nodded. The door closed behind them and a lock slid home on the other side, plunging the dungeons into darkness. James sat there, grinning hugely. He had a chance now. A real chance at getting out.