The group of 5 darkly clad men crawled out of the grate that served as their entrance to the supposedly impregnable Malfoy Manor. They had known from the off that apparition wouldn’t have been an option to them as anti-apparition wards would have been placed across the house and they didn’t have a house elf, as the Harry’s captors had. James had an unnerving feeling that the wards served more as a method of encaging the residents of the house rather than as a protection from unwanted visitors. After all, he thought pulling himself to his feet; Voldemort is hardly likely to feel the need for protection.
Sirius dropped several nearby bricks under the grate keeping the entrance to the sewer pipes, that they had just climbed out of, open.
‘However this turns out, I have a feeling we might need a quick exit,’ he said in response to the puzzled looks he was getting from Ron and Andy.
‘Good thinking,’ replied Andy while Ron simply nodded in agreement.
James, Remus, Sirius, Andy and Ron looked around at the room they had climbed into. It was small with a heavy wooden door facing them and a few simple splintering benches lining the other 3 walls. James led the group out of the door and they found themselves in a long corridor. Like the small chamber they had just left, the floors and walls consisted of smooth grey stone bricks. Lining the long corridor were a dozen other wooden doors all with similar rooms beyond, they discovered, though in some the benches were exchanged in favour of small canvas cots and several were completely bare save for a set of iron handcuffs chained to the wall.
‘I think we’re in the dungeons,’ whispered James to Remus who stood at his shoulder looking at the handcuffs dangling from the wall.
Sirius smirked in response, ‘Trust Malfoy to have a dungeon in the bottom of his house. Most people have a basement full of junk, or a wine cellar now that would be classy.’
At this typically Sirius piece of randomness Ron cracked a small smile that disappeared quickly when the severity of the situation seeped back into him like the penetrating cold of the surrounding stone walls.
‘Wait, this is good though,’ Andy said turning to his Father, his eyed lighting up. ‘Isn’t it Dad?’
‘It is indeed son. If Harry is here, then the logical place for them to keep him would be in the dungeons,’ resolving the confused looks of the other 3. ‘This could work.’
With that thought the determination in the group rose visibly as they all stood straighter and exchanged looks filled with hope. They separated into 2 groups as per the plan they had made before leaving Potter manor. James, Remus and Sirius took the lead, in one group, as they began to make their way down the corridor with Andy and Ron following closely behind them as the second group. The plan was that if they did find Harry then James, Sirius and Remus would stand as guards while Andy and Ron would grab Harry and run, hopefully before the situation became to unbalanced in numbers for the 3 marauders to cope with.
They slowly reached the end of the corridor and found 2 pathways open to them. The left opened up into a large cavernous room with a set of ascending worn stone steps at the far end. Assuming that that was the entrance to the rest of the Manor the group took the other path, following the corridor straight on. The passageway began to slope downwards ever so slightly and the icy temperature of the dungeon seemed to drop by 10 degrees if that was even possible.
‘Did anyone else notice it suddenly got a hell of a lot colder in here?’ Sirius asked not really anticipating an answer when Remus and James said one word in perfect unison that normally would have had him cracking jokes about the pair being made for each other and were they going to start finishing each other’s sentences’ now. However that one word instead banished all humour from his mind as he felt his bones turn to ice.
Harry had no idea how long he had been here. In his cage.
He had attempted to keep track of the days in the beginning. He based it on the one meal of stale bread and water he was given a day. But as the methods of torture had become more imaginative, and with that imagination more pain, he found all logical thought abandoning his mind. All he was left with was the pain and the gradually growing piece of hope that eventually the death eaters would get bored with him and finish him off. He hoped... no, he prayed for his death.
He learnt quickly never to underestimate these seemingly dense dark followers. If he was being whipped they would demand he stayed silent or else. The first time, he was consumed with the pain and let a cry. He never did it again.
They could be surprisingly thorough with punishment.
It was after this incident that Harry’s mind gave a last ditch attempt at self preservation and he threw Harry into unconsciousness. What a mistake.
The one thing he would never succumb to was the pull of his eyelids. Never again would he close his eyes for fear of once again experiencing the tormenting nightmare charm that passed into him as his magic passed out the conductor to support the anti-apparation charm. How ironic that Harry was providing the power for his prison, he was imprisoning himself. If he fell asleep then the charm would force him through nightmares of his greatest fears including his family abandoning him and throwing him out. It was their way of controlling his whole life, including his dreams, leaving him no way of escape. No freedom.
He looked with a hint of amusement at the handcuffs around his wrists, chaining him to his cage. He hardly knew why they bothered with them; he was so weak he could barely lift his head. He barely even flinched anymore as they taunted him from the darkness surrounding the cage. His cage.
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