Chapter 41 : Chapter 41 Uncertain Trust
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“Where the hell have you been?” Remus demanded angrily, appearing from around the side of the house instead of the front door. Over his shoulder he carried a small rucksack with a fresh change of clothing, and a flask of water.
Sirius blanched at this, knowing that he was definitely late. He didn’t raise his hackles at Remus’ brusque tone, knowing that he was under a great amount of stress. Observing Remus as he came closer, Sirius realised that his body was already preparing for transformation. His skin was tight and darkening, the hair on his arms already beginning to lengthen. They would have fifteen minutes before he fully transformed…if that.
“Sorry,” Sirius said sincerely, cautiously putting his hand on his friends shoulder. Remus shrugged it off dismissively, pushing past him out the front gate. “How have you been feeling?”
“I’ve been a right old bastard, all day,” Remus muttered angrily, already setting off up the Muggle road. Sirius struggled to keep up with his pace, knowing that Remus’ strength and energy was going to increase in a very short amount of time. “Dora…I’ve been driving her insane, and she only tries to help. She’ll be better off alone tonight.”
“I’m sure she doesn’t see it that way,” Sirius panted, finally catching up and wishing he were sixteen again. His injured knee, although healed, was holding him back.
“I know, I know she doesn’t,” Remus said in a rush, his words beginning to blur together. He began walking even faster, quickly becoming agitated. He blinked rapidly, pummelling his fist into his open palm as he walked. “But I just wish…wish that I wasn’t such a burden. She doesn’t deserve this.”
“She’s a big girl,” Sirius comforted him, looking him over critically. Going against his aging body, Sirius urged him to hurry. “C’mon, we’re nearly there.”
“Here,” Remus said bluntly, thrusting his wand and the bag to Sirius. “I need to go.”
He took the items hurriedly, sighing with a mixture of exasperation and relief when Remus suddenly took off at a run, turning down a corner and heading towards the wooded area where he could safely transform. Slowing down to a more comfortable pace, Sirius stowed Remus’ wand in the rucksack and slung it over his shoulder, comfortable in knowing that Remus would be deep inside the woods by the time he transformed.
As it always did at this time, Sirius’ heart pained for a few moments, James’ absence even more noticeable on nights like tonight, when he ought to be there looking after Remus also. The innocence of their days at Hogwarts were so long ago, though he could picture the scenes perfectly, having held onto those memories for twelve years in Azkaban. Sirius breathed a sigh of worry, his thoughts turning to Harry, the reason he had been so late.
Sharon was forthcoming in gossip as always, and had returned home from the Ministry just as Sirius was setting out to meet Remus. Coming in the back door Sirius could tell she was tired, and the look on her face was all that he needed to stop him in his tracks. He knew she had news.
“What is it?” Sirius demanded, halting in his tracks.
She too halted in her tracks, her eyes narrowing as she looked past him. “Why is the dog inside?” she demanded, ignoring his question. She raised her eyebrows and pointed to the German Shepherd, who lay curled up in front of the fireplace.
“He wanted company,” Sirius said hastily, purposefully leaving out the fact that he was the one who had wanted company.
“He’s a guard dog!” she burst out loud, dropping her briefcase and coming into the living room. She clicked her fingers and pointed outside, the dog responding immediately to her commands. “Chief, outside. Merlin, Sirius. You’ll turn him soft, and then what will I do?”
Sirius backed down on the subject of the dog, unwilling to argue when she showed him even the slightest glimpse into the anxiety she still felt over her abduction, more than seventeen years ago. “What is it?”
She frowned at him, turning away and closing the back door with a flick of her wand. “What’s what?” she said evasively.
“What’s that look on your face? What do you know?”
“Nothing,” she said, her voice changing ever so slightly, and immediately Sirius knew she was lying. She was even easier to read than Harry, who could hardly lie to him without giving it away.
“Tell me what’s wrong,” he demanded, following her into the kitchen where she found the glass of scotch he had prepared for her arrival.
“Thank you for the drink.”
“Sharon,” he said angrily.
“What crawled into your knickers, Black?”
Sirius sighed, taking a deep breath. He reminded himself of what Remus often said…that women were a completely different species. Harry he could yell at until he turned blue, and it was their most effective form of communication, but that wouldn’t work with Sharon. “Sharon...you’ve got that look on your face. Tell me what’s wrong, now. I’ve got to go.”
She considered him for a moment, taking a sip of her drink. Clearly she approved of his efforts, and so began to explain. “There’re rumours floating around about Harry.”
“There usually are.”
“I think this one may have some merit.”
He nodded patiently, waiting for her to continue.
“Rumour is, that he and Draco Malfoy were spotted down at Diagon Alley, on Monday afternoon.”
“Monday?” Sirius exclaimed. “It’s Wednesday! Why are we only hearing this now?”
“Because it’s not an official rumour. The Daily Prophet aren’t even publishing it, just like they didn’t publish the Ministry break in. Hasn’t the Malfoy kid been AWOL for months now?”
“Since February,” Sirius confirmed, thinking quickly. “What would he and Harry be doing at Diagon Alley. Was anyone else spotted? Ron and Hermione?”
“Not that I’ve heard, but they weren’t the only ones there. If the rumours are true, then Lucius and Narcissa Malfoy were there as well…and they weren’t sitting down for a larger at the Leaky.”
This made Sirius’ heart clench, his stomach turning uncomfortably. What could Harry possibly want to do with the Malfoys?
“Look, there could be any number of reasons that they were all spotted at Diagon Alley together. Harry could be responsible for Draco being missing, maybe they were bartering an exchange.”
“What else do you know?”
She took a long sip of her tea, considering her words carefully. “I’m told there were was hostility, that the Malfoy’s tried to take Harry in. No one knows what happened, they only saw curses thrown and a foot chase. That’s all I know.”
Sirius was reeling with the possibilities, but knew that Sharon wouldn’t let him dwell on them until they were sure of what happened. Looking at her now, he could tell that she was still holding out on him. She was looking deep into her tea, her body language uncomfortable and stiff.
“Nothing that I know of,” she said, her voice cool and even this time.
Sirius still doubted her, but at the same time knew that if she wasn’t willing to divulge the information, no amount of reasoning or yelling would make her. He nodded slowly, checking his watch. “I’d better go,” he said, looking out the kitchen window, and trying to assess how dark it would be where Remus lived.
“What time will you be back tomorrow?” she asked him, putting down her drink and following him to the back door.
“I don’t know, depends how Remus manages. He’ll probably sleep for an hour or so before I can take him home.”
“Alright,” she accepted, giving him a swift kiss before passing him his cloak. “I have early meetings in the morning. I’ll see you this time tomorrow. Be safe.”
“We will,” he agreed dismissively, shrugging on his cloak. He made to return her kiss, but she closed the door on him, and he could hear the three locks clicking into place as she secured herself inside. Nodding to himself absently, Sirius made his way into the back yard, scratching the dog behind the ears in apology. “Sorry I got you in trouble.”
Catching up with reality, Sirius pushed himself into a run, and as soon as he rounded the corner and saw the tree line of the woods, he transformed into Padfoot. Giving Padfoot a moment to establish himself, he set off again, feeling much more at ease now that he had transformed. Glancing into the sky again, he could see that the full moon was now visible, and a few minutes later he heard Moony’s long howl calling out to him.
It took no time at all to track him down, Padfoot’s keen sense of smell and tracking skills leading him deeper into the woods, and it was mere minutes until he found Moony, scratching around anxiously. Upon seeing him, the werewolf crouched low and growled, both a warning and a greeting. Padfoot returned the growl readily, a routine established long ago. Relaxing a little, Moony seemed to consider him for a few moments before taking off in the other direction, and Sirius sighed with reluctance. Moony was going to be trouble tonight.
The hours between dusk and dawn were long, and exhausting. Moony was hard work to keep under control, and was perhaps even more impatient and snappy that usual. There had been a few close calls between the two of them, though Sirius was more focused on ensuring that Moony didn’t hurt himself than he was for his own safety. His previously injured leg was smarting already, and the flea colony residing in his fur had grown exponentially since the last full moon. Padfoot was definitely beginning to feel the impairments of old age.
When the full moon finally began to fade, Moony’s strength and energy began to wane, and with his head growing clearer he found a suitable spot to settle, his body collapsing into the earth. Whining a little, Padfoot approached the werewolf and settled down across from him, resting his muzzle on his paws and watching in worry as the moon began to fade and the transformation began to reverse. Only when Remus had fully transformed back into himself did Sirius do the same, conjuring a thick blanket and draping it over his friend, who for now fell into a fitful sleep.
Sirius settled against an opposite tree and gave his friend some space, opening the rucksack in search of something to eat. He was positively starving, and grinned when he removed a container of what appeared to be highly appetizing lamb stew. Struggling with the lid, Sirius swore to himself when a scrawled message appeared across the lid.
‘Not for you!’ read his cousin’s messy handwriting.
Grumbling to himself, Sirius set the container aside and dug into the rucksack again, taking a sip of water from the flask before finding what Tonks had packed for him. He rolled his eyes when he came across what appeared to be a bone shaped dog biscuit, chucking it away and laughing at his cousin’s sick sense of humour. With a grumble, Sirius conjured a blanket of his own and settled himself down for a quick snooze, knowing that Remus would awaken him when he woke.
The sun had well and truly risen by the time Remus roused him, sitting beside him wearily and preparing to tuck into the stew.
“Good morning,” Remus said quietly, conjuring himself a fork.
“Morning,” Sirius murmured, the delicious aroma catching his attention. Throwing off the blanket he sat up, leaning closer to the stew. “Gimme a taste of that.”
“Hey!” Remus said indignantly, smacking Sirius’ hand away. “Your hands are filthy, get yourself a fork.”
“Alright,” Sirius grumbled, conjuring a fork as instructed and tucking in, moaning at the delicious taste, the stew still warm. “Mmm, she’s a good cook.”
“Who, Dora?” Remus laughed. “I’m the cook in our family, but Ginny helped I suppose.”
“Ginny?” Sirius choked out, raising his eyebrows. “Since when has she been with you?”
“She’s been with us for a week or so,” he said cryptically, focused first of all on eating.
“Wasn’t she taken back to Hogwarts?”
Remus laughed at this, looking at him with raised eyebrows. “She was…but Harry wasn’t going to stand for that.”
Sirius groaned, his stomach sinking. “He broke her out of there?”
“Sort of…he was going to try it, but in a lucky coincidence, she came to him. It’s a long story.”
“So where’s Harry now?” Sirius demanded, frustrated by Remus’ apparent hunger.
Remus didn’t answer, and this time Sirius knew it was not because of the food.
“Remus, what do you know?”
Remus considered him for a moment. “What do you know?”
“Only a rumour…that he was in Diagon Alley,” Sirius began, rubbing his eyes wearily. “With Draco Malfoy.”
There was a long pause, Remus thinking long and hard as he ate another mouthful, quickly finishing off the stew. “Yes, that rumour is true. Harry and Draco Malfoy were in Diagon Alley.”
“So what else do you know?”
“Only what Ron and Hermione have told us.”
“Ron and Hermione? When did you see them?”
“This morning…no wait, yesterday morning,” he corrected himself, replacing the lid on the container and returning it to the rucksack. “They came to us looking for Harry.” He lay back down on the ground, sighing.
“Oh,” Sirius said, his heart sinking rapidly. Before Remus explained any further, he already knew what had happened.
“They didn’t say why there were in Diagon Alley, or why they had Draco Malfoy, though we have our suspicions. Apparently Harry and Draco were meant to follow them out of the alley, under the Invisibility Cloak, but as they were leaving Lucius and Narcissa Malfoy were entering.”
“Didn’t they go back for him?” Sirius asked angrily, getting to his feet and pacing.
“They hoped he was behind them, he was supposed to be under the cloak. When he didn’t meet them, Ron went back to look for him. Since then they’ve been looking for days, hoping that they just got separated and that they would meet up at one of their old spots, but there’s been no sign of him.”
“No sign, at all?”
“No,” Remus confirmed sadly. “They think he’s hurt,” he added gently.
“Hurt? Hurt how?”
“They couldn’t stay long, they didn’t want Ginny to know something was wrong. But when Ron went back to look for him, he found Harry’s wand and Invisibility Cloak.”
“So why would that mean he’s hurt?” Sirius said with hope, though he wanted to laugh at himself.
“Well…” Remus began, trailing off as he tried to think. “It just doesn’t bode well, does it.”
Clenching his jaw, Sirius crouched down beside his friend, for the first time ever feeling frustrated by his exhaustion. “So what have you done?”
Opening his eye, Remus raised an eyebrow at him. “Nothing, he’ll be fine.”
“Sarcasm doesn’t suit you,” Sirius snapped, pleased when Remus had the decency to look apologetic.
“Sorry,” he apologised, taking a deep breath before sitting up. “Dora and I have been trying to contact Sn-”
Sirius groaned loudly, cutting Remus off. “You can’t trust him with this! Not with Harry’s life!”
“I know you don’t trust him,” Remus continued patiently. “But Dora does, and that’s enough for me. We believe he can help.”
“Yeah, help Harry into an early grave!” he snarled, getting back to his feet. “How can you trust him, he’s a murderer! He killed Albus! He helped kidnap Harry before!”
“No one is disputing what Severus has done, he certainly doesn’t. But right now, Sirius, he’s our only option.” Remus said up, his eyes blazing with conviction for his words. “If Harry’s at Malfoy Manor, Severus can walk straight in, no questions asked.”
Going quiet, Sirius paced around the small area, his hands balled into tight fists. Time was being wasted. Harry needed his help, and despite how hard he thought, Sirius could find little other option. He turned back to Remus, who looked a little more awake now.
“Are you ready to go?”
“Yes,” Remus nodded gratefully, allowing Sirius to help him to his feet. “I don’t think I’ll walk very far though. Shall we Apparate? The back yard will be fine.”
Sirius nodded and took his hand, squeezing tightly and Side-Apparating them back to Remus’ quaint cottage, the two of them appearing in the middle of the back yard. It was lightly raining here, and Sirius quickly led his friend towards the back door, not wanting to keep him out in the morning cold when he was feeling so weak. The back door opened to reveal Tonks, who sighed with relief when she saw her husband. Just like her husband, she looked exhausted, her pink hair now blonde and pinned back out of her face.
“Hello, Darling,” she greeted him, kissing him on the cheek and giving him a once over. “How are you feeling?”
“Tired,” he answered, returning her kiss properly.
She nodded in understanding. “Well Ted just went back to sleep, I’m sure we’ll all get a few hours of rest.”
Sirius blinked in surprise, raising his hand and waving it before them. “Uh, who is Ted?” he asked, immediately knowing the answer. He didn’t need to look twice to see that she wasn’t pregnant anymore.
Remus blanched, touching his fingers to his forehead in frustration. “My Goodness, I completely forgot.”
“You forgot?” Tonks laughed.
Remus shook his head, turning to Sirius with a large smile. “Baby boy, born last Wednesday. We’ve named him Theodore, after Dora’s father. He must be…eight days old now.”
“Eight days,” Tonks confirmed, also looking to Sirius. “April Fool’s day. Come inside and meet him.”
“Oh, no,” Sirius said hastily, holding himself back. He stepped forward and kissed Tonks on the cheek. “Congratulations, but I really need to go. I’ll come by in a few days, I promise. Congratulations, both of you.”
Tonks nodded, knowing what he was going to do. “I checked last night, Snape still isn’t at the castle.”
“You left last night?” Remus said quietly, his tone disapproving.
“I had to,” she confirmed, quickly turning back to Sirius. “If he’s not at the castle, he’s probably at home. Do you know where that is?”
“Yes,” he confirmed, passing over Remus’ rucksack and giving them a quick wave. “I’ll go there now…see you in a few days.”
He didn’t wait for their reply, turning away and Apparating quickly. Upon reappearance, Sirius groaned and grumbled, the new location seeing him caught in a heavier downpour of rain. Hastily casting a few charms, he fastened his cloak and set off down the cobbled street, doubling back when he realised he had gone the wrong way. It didn’t take him long, he knew the house he was looking for, not that he had ever stepped foot inside. He still had no intention of doing so.
There was a small front garden, bare of even dormant or dead plants. The house had an air of only temporary occupancy, and looked rather uncared for and unloved. Marching down the path, he withdrew his wand, preparing himself for anything that may be on the other side of the door. Raising a fist, he loudly knocked on the front door.
It was silent, blissfully silent.
After the time he had spent bound at his wrists and ankles, Harry had yet to assess exactly where he was being kept, the complete darkness doing nothing to assist him in this aspect. The only thing he knew for sure was that he must be at the Malfoy Manor. He could hear their voices coming from above him, their conversations muffled and unintelligible, but it was definitely them. Occasionally there was the scrape of what sounded like heavy chairs, and if he held his breath and listened hard enough, he could hear the clinking of cutlery against china plates.
It had taken him a while, but Harry had slowly deduced that he was being held underneath the dining room, a secret room unknown by most, but what according to Mr Weasley had once housed an array of dark objects that had been confiscated. That thought did little to ease his racing heart. When he spoke, or even coughed, there was no echo around the room, indicating that it must be full. He wished he had paid more attention the first time Malfoy had spoken to him, the first time he had seen light in this room. Since then, Malfoy had entered only in complete darkness to interrogate him, but Harry didn’t want to think about that right now.
He swayed precariously, trying to hold his head up as his knees buckled. Catching himself, he grimaced at the pain from his injured leg, revelling in it when it awakened him for just a moment. As the pain ebbed, so did his energy, and he rested his head against the invisible binds around his wrists in front of him, and closed his eyes. Harry couldn’t remember the last time he had slept properly since he had awoken in this new nightmare, unable to do anything other than stand or hang painfully by his wrists, just high enough to keep his knees from resting on the floor and providing relief. He was cold, but hot too. Restless and agitated, but exhausted. His body trembled, his heart racing as his body acted on its last reserves of adrenaline for energy, and just as he felt his body relaxing he jerked awake again.
Panic seized him again, though at first there was no apparent cause. He could hear his name being called softly, making him groan. He was completely alone…he was hearing things, he had to be. The sound of his name continued slowly, like a tape on loop, the voice growing increasingly frequent until it slowed and then stopped completely. Breathing through the silence, Harry ignored the instinct to look over his shoulder, knowing he wouldn’t see anything anyway. He lasted only a minute before he spun around as far as he could, looking through the dark for whomever he could feel there. Swaying on his feet, Harry tried to put his strange thoughts out of his mind, focusing on something else for now.
Groaning, Harry raised his head and swallowed thickly, unable to decide whether he was most desperate for another sip of water, or for ten minutes of uninterrupted sleep. Bringing his hands to his face, he slapped his cheeks a little, trying to rouse himself properly, satisfied when the movement brought a sharp sting to both his cheek and his wrist, whose apparent swelling had not subsided. Coughing, Harry pushed the hair out of his face and took a deep breath, pressing his palms against his forehead. Although his scar had still not burnt since the first time he had woken, his headache had not faded, sharp pain throbbing in the back of his head and making his ears ring uncomfortably. He felt rather feverish, a cold sweat breaking out on his body.
“Harry! Harry! Harry! Harry! Harry!”
The cold voice was shouting now, loud enough that he could very well be screaming right into Harry’s ears. He jumped in surprise, wanting to draw his wand and protect himself, but there was nothing he could do. As quickly as it began, the shouting ceased, leaving Harry shivering in the silence. Sneaking up on him, nausea seized his stomach again, and he twisted round to his left and began to retch, bringing up nothing as usual. He coughed violently, trying to catch his breath, and quickly lost his footing. He yelled out through clenched teeth as he fell, landing with the full weight of his body on his shoulders and wrists. Hanging, he readjusted his feet against the floor and breathed a sigh of relief, his head lolling forward between his raised arms. The pain was excruciating, but it soon faded into numbness, his mind following suit and finding sweet relief. The only way he could, Harry fell asleep.
Suddenly his body convulsed, seized by an unexpected Cruciatus Curse, and he could feel a scream tearing deep through his chest. The curse was brief, the pain ending quickly and leaving Harry’s body limp, his breath escaping him. Blinking to reassess himself, he could feel his jaw tightly clenched, and as he released it he taste blood in his mouth. Opening his tightly closed eyes, Harry tried in vain to see through the darkness, to see anything that was happening to him. He hadn’t heard Lucius coming in, though there was no way to tell how long he had been unconscious for.
Harry ignored him, focusing on catching his breath. He had bitten his lip, the source of the blood determined, and he could feel the flesh swelling and bleeding even further. It was disgusting, and taking a deep breath Harry spat it out, wistfully hoping that he got Malfoy with it.
“Stand up,” he instructed.
He didn’t even have the energy to roll his eyes, to show his distaste for the instructions. In the back of his throat he could feel it, the need to say no, to say that he couldn’t. The word, please, was constantly on the tip of his tongue, and surely he would feel hundreds of times better if he could just utter that single word, that single plea for relief. He ignored these thoughts though…he would never plead this man for anything.
The Cruciatus curse struck him again, only momentarily as it had last time, but the effect was still the same. His body trembling with aftershocks, Harry’s energy continued to wane, and he could hardly even think straight anymore.
“I said, stand up!”
There was a sharp blow to his face with these instructions, and the words I can’t were begging to be said once again. He focused on his breathing for just a moment, which was now coming in short, sharp pants, and he summoned the last of his strength to start moving. Clenching his teeth again, Harry groaned as he began to stand, swaying and trying to support himself as he stood upright. Immediately, Malfoy shoved his shoulders hard, pushing him back down to the ground. Harry groaned in frustration, knowing what was coming next. They had repeated this only a hundred or so times.
“Stand up,” Malfoy instructed, the smile in his voice evident. He was standing behind him now.
“What the hell do you bloody want?” Harry shouted hoarsely, twisting around to where he thought he was. “Stand up, get down. Stand up, get down. What do you want?”
He coughed now, wheezing as he tried to catch his breath again.
“Stand up,” Malfoy repeated.
“No,” Harry said, his defiance earning him another brief Cruciatus curse.
Harry shook his head, not having the energy to answer verbally. Shifting his position slightly, he closed his eyes and rested his head against his good arm. He was tired…so damn tired. He wanted nothing more than to sleep, even more than the begrudging sip of water he had been given every few hours.
Harry opened his eyes, feeling the tip of Malfoy’s wand pressed against the back of his head. “What?” he said in exasperation.
Grabbing him roughly by the arm, Malfoy hauled him to his feet. “Stand,” he said again, waiting for Harry to begin supporting himself. “I said, stand up!”
For a moment, Harry cooperated, wanting Malfoys filthy hands off his body. A moment later his arm was released, and Harry stayed on his feet and raised his head straight.
“There…now isn’t that better?” Malfoy said softly, and Harry could hear his footsteps as he moved around to his other side.
“Nope,” Harry said petulantly, carefully bending his legs and crouching down again.
“Fine, stay down then,” Malfoy replied, trying to hide his frustration.
“Alright then,” Harry gasped, standing back up.
There was silence, and Harry could almost picture Malfoy pursing his lips, hanging onto his patience. Through the silence, Harry heard him take a breath to begin speaking.
“No, that’s not right,” Harry muttered, interrupting him. Making quite a show of it, he crouched back down again. “That’s better.”
Malfoy grabbed his arm again, hauling him back to his feet and belting him across the face. “That’s enough! You are not in charge here.”
“I didn’t believe you when you said you had no patience,” Harry joked. Having more to say, he wished he could muster enough breath.
Not removing his hand from Harry’s arm, Malfoy tapped his wand against Harry’s neck, slowly trailing it down his back. Violently recoiling, Harry cursed.
“Don’t touch me!” he shouted angrily, trying to pull away.
So far he had ignored the pain from his front and back, not wanting to think about it. Although they had healed, Malfoy had taken great pleasure in reopening each scar that ran across his back, each scar that Fenrir Greyback had left. He hadn’t thought it possible, but when each scar reopened it had hurt more than when first inflicted. It hadn’t taken Malfoy long to finish, and hadn’t taken long to reduce Harry to a wreck, his body betraying him.
The wand now trailed across his back, touching the new wounds and making Harry’s skin crawl. He tried to lash out at him, forgetting that his feet were also bound. Malfoy laughed at him and held his arm even tighter. Harry struggled, trying to brush him off. He breathed a short sigh of relief when Malfoy removed his touch, but it soon turned into a groan of frustration when it returned, this time on his front.
“Get off me!” Harry shouted again, throwing out his elbow and feeling it connect. It made no use though.
“I keep telling you, I don’t have much time,” Malfoy said, moving his wand over the healthy skin on Harry’s stomach.
“And I keep telling you…” Harry shouted back in reply, finally moving far enough away. “I don’t know where that goblet is! I don’t know where they are!”
“I don’t believe you.”
“Where’s your Veritaserum then? You keep threatening me with it, or are you just full of talk?”
Malfoy belted him across the face again, harder than ever before this time. Falling limp, Harry remained on his feet only thanks to the hand that still held him upright. He coughed, spitting out more blood from his bleeding lip as Malfoy pulled him up straight again. Grasping his chin, Malfoy pulled Harry to look at him, not that Harry could see much through the darkness.
“I don’t need Veritaserum, I’ve got the next best thing.”
With that, he released Harry and stalked off, and Harry breathed a sigh of relief, thinking that it was all over again. Pressing the back of his hand against his bleeding lip, he closed his eyes and breathed deeply, the cool air clearing his head a little. He listened to the silence for a few moments, wondering when Malfoy would return again, and there was the briefest shuffle to his right, the oil lamp igniting suddenly.
Even with his eyes closed, the bright light was painful after spending so long in the dark. He gasped, pressing his arm across his face for relief, but Malfoy neither said nor did anything further. Steeling himself for what he must do, Harry swallowed through his dry throat, hesitantly raising his head and opening his eyes. It was bright…so bright, and it took him a moment to focus on what he could now see, and when he saw the person standing before him, he prayed he was hallucinating.
“Shit,” he muttered, looking away in dismay.
“You certainly resemble it, Potter,” Snape said, standing before him. His arms were folded across his chest, scrutinising Harry as he looked him up and down.
This was bad, that much Harry knew, but no matter how hard he thought he couldn’t recall exactly why. His head was cloudy, and he gasped for breath as he looked up over Snape’s shoulder to where Malfoy stood, some distance away. He opened his mouth to say something again, but was lost for words, his headache worsening sharply. Instead, he swayed on his feet, his knees buckling as he struggled to keep himself upright. He refused to look at Snape. Nauseas, he turned to his left and began to retch, but still he could produce nothing.
Seeing this, Snape stepped forward and took Harry by the chin, ignoring his weak attempt to resist. Harry looked directly over Snape’s shoulder to Malfoy, who was watching the two of them with clear impatience. Suddenly, Harry realised what Snape was here for.
There was no time to resist. He had nothing left anyway. But to Harry’s surprise the ordeal was over almost as soon as it began, and he soon found himself hanging limply by his arms again, his head fuzzy, experiencing no flashback of memories that he normally should have. Hearing yelling, he closed his eyes. A moment later he fell to the ground, landing hard. He gasped sharply, feeling someone take his hands and bring them to rest by his side. Despite the fall, it was comfortable on the floor, his trembling body relaxing in sweet relief.
He was asleep almost immediately.
Potter flinched as the lamp ignited, and he threw his bloodied arm across his eyes, gasping deeply. He stayed like that for a long minute, allowing Severus to look him over. He was worse for wear, that much was for sure, the wounds and injuries that Madam Pomfrey had taken such good care of opened and bleeding again. He was bruised, his face and arms bloodied with tiny shards of glass glinting in the light from the oil lamp. Left wrist injured, possibly broken, right leg injured somehow. That would require further exploration.
He watched as Potter swallowed thickly, slowly raising his head and blinking as he looked around. Wiping blood from his chin, his eyes fell upon him, and a familiar expression of distaste crossed his features.
“Shit,” Potter said hoarsely, the sound making even Severus flinch. He sounded nothing like himself.
“You certainly resemble it, Potter,” he replied coolly.
Potter ignored this, closing his eyes momentarily. When he opened them, he looked over Severus’ shoulder to where Lucius stood, his mouth opening slightly as though he were going to say something. His shoulders sagging, Potter swayed on his feet again, his knee buckling with weakness as he looked to the ground. He was panting, trying to catch his breath as he turned and retched, his dry throat producing nothing. Hiding his concern, Snape stepped forward and took hold of Potter’s chin, turning his face towards his own. Still Potter refused to look at him.
He needed only a brief moment of intrusion upon Potter’s mind to see what he needed, breathing an internal sigh of relief. The Dark Lord had not truly penetrated Potters mind for months, but this wasn’t Severus’ main concern. He withdrew his own intrusion quite quickly, watching as Potter’s knees buckled. With Potter now hanging limp by his wrists, Severus turned back to Lucius. Seeing his expression, Lucius raised his eyebrow.
“What have you done to him?” Severus demanded, not even needing to put on an act. Potter was in terrible condition.
“What have I done?” Malfoy replied incredulously, looking back between he and Potter. “I’ve conducted an interrogation!”
“When’s the last time you allowed him to sleep?” Severus countered, raising his wand and releasing Potter from the binds. There was a heavy thump as Potter fell to the ground, not even making a sound. “His mind is a wreck. Even if he has information, you’ll never get it out of him while he’s in this condition.”
He turned away and went back to Potter, taking his hands from above his head and bringing them by his side. Potter gasped at this, his whole body tensing with discomfort before going limp again. A moment later, he was unconscious. Snape looked him over more closely, feeling the fever on his forehead before straightening out his broken wrist. Moving down his body, Severus pulled back the torn denim of his jeans, cleaning away the dried blood to observe the wound that had been hastily closed. It had yet to begin proper healing, the area red and inflamed. Looking at the surrounding Casting a quick cleansing charm, Severus took Potter’s good wrist and felt for his pulse, feeling the rapid rhythm.
“Do you expect to kill him, also?” Severus asked, getting to his feet and stalking out of the overcrowded room. He needed to get out, knowing exactly what resided in that room alongside Potter. But that wasn’t his concern right now; it would have to wait. Ascending the stone staircase, he left the concealed room beneath the dining room and made for the front door, hearing Lucius following him as he expected. He passed Narcissa, who was waiting for their return, but he ignored her.
“How am I going to kill him?” Lucius hissed furiously, catching up to him. “He’s fine, just sleep deprived.”
“He’s also got a large unhealed wound on his leg. How did he get that?”
“Fell against some glass,” he answered, still following as Severus burst out the front door into the evening. “He lost some blood, but I healed it straight away. He’s fine.”
“He could turn septic if we don’t treat him,” Severus rebuked him, marching directly across the grounds to somewhere he could apparate. When Black had come to see him that morning, Severus had not been expecting to find Potter in such a state. He had anticipated having more time. More time to spare, to put together a team and a group and a safe house, but he would have to forgo those luxuries. A potion must be brewed, and quickly. “Leave him to sleep now, he needs to recover if you want to gain anything coherent from him. I’ll be back tomorrow morning with some potions. Until then, leave him to sleep.”
He didn’t wait for Lucius to reply, and he apparated away swiftly. Appearing in Hogsmeade village, Severus set off for the castle, in his head running through the treatment that Potter would require. Basic potions would be best, and some rest of course. But it could not wait until the morning. Severus had no delusions that Lucius would follow his instructions, knowing that he would be back with Potter in minutes, continuing his interrogations while his subject remained in a state somewhere between consciousness and unconsciousness.
Madam Pomfrey would have to be disturbed tonight.
A/N Thanks for reading, please leave a review! I’m currently working on final chapters of this story, which is very exciting as I’m keen to begin to follow on.
As always, I am keen for reader input, so if there is something that you think should be explored, leave your thoughts in a review, or feel free to email me at killtherat @ hotmail . com (no spaces).
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