Chapter Five: Pain, Revisited
'… she was a pretty wee Mudblood your mother was, my boy. Yes, she would have been a fun toy…'
Harry couldn't take one more moment – couldn't hear one more word. The world tilted sideways, then slammed back into position. In a fraction of a second, Harry felt the cosmos shudder. He felt the overwhelming power of hatred and anger coursing through his veins like a drug.
Time froze as Harry saw all of creation shudder on the edge of oblivion – every atom looking to him in fear. Dimly he started to pull himself from the brink seeing agony on the faces of Wormtail and Malfoy Sr. before they Apparated away.
Suddenly, the chains binding him to the wall released and he fell to the floor, instantly fully aware of his surroundings again. It was then that he realised that he wasn't shaking – the building was. Something hit him hard on the shoulder and he looked around in a panic. The roof was caving in – chunks of plaster and stone were falling all around him.
They had to get out of there! He looked desperately to where Narcissa and Draco had been. Narcissa was still unconscious and now Draco was crouching over her and screaming at him. He couldn't make out what Draco was saying, but he thought he saw his mouth form the words collapse… all die… shield.
SHIELD!!! was the last thought screaming through his mind before Harry knew nothing but chaos… and then darkness.
Everywhere, rubble – dust of crumbled plaster and stone, shattered wood and… everything that was part of a home. Water was spraying out at odd angles from the wreckage… broken pipes…
For the briefest of moments Sirius stood frozen, hauntingly familiar images from the past coming unbidden and unwelcome to his mind, blocking what was before his eyes.
The dust had been settling still as he'd Apparated in front of the house – where the house had been.
He'd been running from the opposite side of the village, fearing the worst when Peter hadn't been where he was supposed to be, when he'd felt the wards fall. The wards that protected the Potters, that prevented Apparating within a mile of their house. There was only one reason why they would have fallen…
In a panic, he'd Disapparated, mid-stride and arrived, staggering into hell.
The howl that rose now from his heart and through his throat was beyond his control – oblivious to the witch and wizards he'd arrived with, and beyond mad with despair, he flung himself into the rubble, and as he'd done nearly fourteen years earlier, at another – far more familiar – home, he began frantically digging through the wreckage.
A body. Broken. Quite dead – but not Harry. Fling it aside. Keep digging… keep digging…
Nonononononononono!! He is not dead! He can't be. Not Harry… not Harry…
'Harry!!' He didn't care, didn't even know that Dumbledore, Arabella, Snape or Remus were still there.
Anguish… despair… terror… these he knew, these he felt and nothing else.
His face was wet with tears, tears decidedly not caused by the dust in his eyes. He didn't care. There was only Harry… I must find Harry!
Suddenly, a hand – a boy's hand – bloody and pale, but was it Harry? He cursed the years of prison and hiding that had kept him from knowing for certain. He clawed at the stones around the hand – before… before…. When he'd been a baby, Sirius would have known if it was Harry from one finger – even one toe. He would have known!
Tears clouded his vision, but he could see blond hair. Not Harry. Dead? No, alive – a boy Harry's age… the Malfoy boy… compassion broke through his despair – and hope… if this boy had survived, maybe Harry…
He gently brushed the boy's hair, matted with blood, back from his cut and bleeding face. The boy responded with a slight groan. Somehow, Sirius managed to open his mouth to speak – he couldn't see where the others were – blind with dust and tears to all but this fragile form in his arms.
'Here.' He wasn't sure if he'd whispered or screamed the word, but as he spoke, the boy stirred and opened his eyes, looking up at the man who held him.
'Today is my birthday,' he said quietly, smiling through the tears flowing unnoticed from his eyes. 'Are you here for the party?'
'He's in shock, Sirius.' It was Remus, but Sirius couldn't let go just yet.
'Draco,' he said in what he hoped was a kind voice. 'Where's Harry?' The boy's face darkened, clearly being brought back painfully to the present.
'He was there…' His voice was thick with pain and confusion as he tried to orient himself. 'And my mum…' He dissolved then into tears, babbling about his mum's singing.
Sirius handed him gently to Remus. He paid no further attention to where Remus took the boy as he returned to digging, now even more frantically, at the rubble near where he'd found Draco.
More blonde hair – more blood… A woman's torso, rising and falling – slowly – Alive… so much blood!!
Help. Did he say that aloud? No matter, Snape and Dumbledore were there suddenly, helping to dig her out – and carry her away.
Two alive. They'd been standing together. Please God!! His heart was screaming, pounding in his chest so hard, he thought it might rupture.
Dig… dig… can't stop… fingers bleeding… can't stop… let him be alive – let him live!!
Dark hair – messy dark hair – so full of dust it almost didn't look like his. So much like James' hair though – no amount of time apart could make him mistake that hair.
Harry was on his stomach, his face turned away. Sirius pulled the rubble off of him, flinging it away without a care for where it landed – just as long as it was away from Harry.
Rubble cleared… covered in dust… Sirius reached a trembling hand – he was limp – no resistance as Sirius turned him gently onto his back.
That face!! Great tears fell from Sirius' eyes, splashing onto that young face, making muddy rivers through the layer of dust… That face! So like another face Sirius had dug out of another pile of rubble… James! I couldn't save you!!
'Harry,' he whispered, knowing that if he were dead so then, would he, Sirius be dead. He would not go on – could not if he had failed Harry as well… if he'd arrived too late again. 'Harry,' he begged, wiping his own tears gently off of the boy's face.
And then he moved.
'Harry?' Sirius pleaded, sobbing unashamedly now as he pushed the hair out of his godson's eyes – exposing the scar on his forehead, just where it'd been the last time Sirius had dug him out of the remains of a ruined house.
''m I alive?' the boy croaked, wincing at the effort.
Sirius felt a great explosion of joy. If his heart had been pounding hard before from fear and exertion, it was bursting now from joy.
'Harry, you're alive!' his voice caught in his chest. 'Thank God, you're alive!'
'Sirius?' Harry's breathing was ragged, but he managed the strength to grab his godfather's wrist. 'Pettigrew…' He struggled for a moment to go on, his strength fading even before Sirius shushed him.
'Just rest Harry,' he whispered, picking him up and holding him close. God! He's so light!
For the first time since they'd arrived, Sirius turned to look at the others. Remus was fastening a tourniquet to stop the Malfoy boy's bleeding, Arabella was kneeling over the limp form of the woman and Dumbledore has his back turned to them, his wand pointing south, muttering a spell that Sirius couldn't hear.
Sirius caught Snape's eye. Though he was crouched next to Draco, his hand resting gently on the boy's forehead, the dark eyes focussed now on him and Harry. Sirius was too mentally spent to wonder at the strange look of concern and compassion he saw on the potions master's face.
'…lifted the anti-Apparition field…' Dumbledore was talking. It took a monumental effort for Sirius to focus his attention on what the old wizard was saying. 'It's safe now to Apparate directly into Harry's house…'
'Wouldn't St. Mungo's…?' began Arabella, but Dumbledore cut her off.
'Not safe. The Dursley's is safe – the other wards are still active. Sirius, Remus, Severus, take these three there now. I will collect some mediwitches and wizards from St. Mungo's and meet you there directly. Go now!' he ordered sharply. 'Before the Aurors start arriving. Arabella, you stay here and deal with them.' Very quickly all of Dumbledore's orders were obeyed.
In Harry's bedroom a moment later, Remus conjured an extra bed and gently laid the limp form of Narcissa Malfoy on it. He reached a shaking hand to brush her matted, dust-filled hair off of her face.
The two boys were awake; they were in pain, and clearly injured, but they were awake. They were resilient. Remus was more worried about Narcissa's chances. She was breathing – that was something at least, but her slight frame shuddered with each ragged breath.
Dimly, he became aware of Snape's glittering gaze on him, and abandoning his usual calm air, he glared back at him.
'Sirius,' he barked loudly. 'Transform before they get here. Sirius! Now!' he yelled, grabbing his friend's shoulder. The dejected man kneeling next to Harry's bed instantly transformed into a dejected-looking dog.
Within seconds, half a dozen mediwitches and wizards Apparated in with Dumbledore and went straight to work on the casualties. They'd barely begun their examinations though when the door burst open to reveal a very fat, very angry looking Muggle: Vernon Dursley.
'Get out of my hou-' His bellowing voice stuttered to a halt when he finally digested the sight before him. His worst fear coming to pass – his house was full of witches and wizards – wands… robes… 'Wha… wha… wha…' he mouthed stupidly to the suddenly silent room. All eyes were on him – more than a dozen people and a large black dog somehow crammed into the small room…
It was the dog who broke the tableau finally, its growls bringing him to new heights of terror. Its hackles were raised, its teeth bared, muscles taught… He recognised it as the dog that was also a wizard, one of those who had broken into his house earlier, demanding their blood… He was certain by the way it was looking at him now that the animal was about to attack again.
It was with no small amount of relief that he saw a small, bloodied hand reach between the robed forms huddled around Harry's bed to rest on the dog's shoulders. 'Snuffles…' he heard a voice croak.
Was that Harry? Vernon wondered. It sounded like him, but also decidedly not like him. The voice was weary and deepened by pain – but also determined in a way that Vernon Dursley had never heard from his nephew before.
More alarming to him though, was the reaction of the witches and wizards in the room: every eye had turned to the sound of his voice – even the dog… A kind of deep silence had fallen over the room and they all seemed to be waiting for Harry to say something else.
'What the hell is going on?!' Vernon couldn't keep quiet a second longer. This was his house dammit!
'Will someone get that Muggle out of here!?' demanded one of the witches. 'He's distressing my patient!'
Before Vernon could even open his mouth to reprimand her for ignoring him and ordering him about in his own home, he found himself out in the hall, Harry's bedroom door slamming in his face. The door glowed red for a moment then returned to its usual beige colour. On balance, Vernon decided that this would be a good time to take his family out for a few hours.
He did not try to reopen the bedroom door.
'Mum?! – Leave me alone!' Draco snapped at the mediwitch trying to tend to his injuries. 'How is she? Mum!'
'Draco,' Severus said, almost gently as he helped to try and restrain the struggling teenager. 'Others are helping her, now let Dr. Chan help you.'
'But…' He continued to fight, trying to see where his mother was. 'Is she alright?'
'They're working on her… Will you stay still and let them help you as well!'
'No!' Draco pushed the mediwitch away again. 'I'm fine! She…'
'You're not!' Severus snapped angrily causing the younger wizard to flinch. 'Draco.' He softened his tone, forcing the teen to meet his gaze. 'Just look at me – forget about what she's doing,' he ordered quietly as the mediwitch began to examine him. 'Perhaps if you tell me what she was hit with, it'll help them to treat her… Look here,' he commanded again as Draco's eyes strayed once more toward his mother's still form.
'Cruciatus,' he whispered, wiping angrily at his rebellious eyes. 'Both my father and Peter Pettigrew…'
Severus silenced the witch's gasp with a glance.
'And then she… she was gagged…' Draco fought uselessly against the tears staining his dust-streaked face. 'But she… she wouldn't stop humming anyway… Even after they'd both cast the Cruciatus…' Giving up any pretence, the teen began shaking with sobs. 'Because of me… she was trying to heal me… it's my fault…'
'Shhh…' With a nod from the mediwitch assuring him that he wouldn't cause injury, the potions master took the sobbing boy into a hug. Too far gone in shock to care how it looked, Draco buried his battered face in the older wizard's shoulder. 'It is most decidedly not your fault child.' Severus let Draco cry quietly for several minutes before accepting the goblet of sleeping potion from Dr. Chan.
'Here,' he murmured, breaking the embrace. 'Drink this – it's a sleeping potion. Do as I say,' he ordered softly when Draco began to refuse. 'You need to heal, and Dr. Chan needs you asleep to perform a few procedures.' He pushed the goblet into Draco's hand. 'I will tell them what you told me – it will help them to treat her. Drink it now,' he commanded again, helping the teen to tip the goblet to his mouth.
'That was a very good bedside manner.' Dr. Chan smiled. 'I wasn't sure I'd be able to get him to take it… how did you know it was a sleeping potion?' Severus merely glared at her, gently laying the now sleeping Draco back onto the bed. 'Oh, right,' she blushed. 'You're the potions master now aren't you?'
'Excuse me,' Severus muttered, still glaring at her as he moved toward the wizards attending to Narcissa Malfoy. Trying to ignore the pale and desperately worried look on the werewolf's face, he addressed the mediwizards. 'Her son told me that she was hit with a double Cruciatus before the building collapsed.' Pretending not to hear Lupin's low growl, he continued. 'She is half Veela, and was attempting a healing song through a gag when she was cursed.'
Instantly, the mediwizards renewed their efforts to help her, knowing now what was wrong.
'How is Draco?' Lupin asked, his voice tight as he worked to contain his anger.
Remus nodded quietly, making a visible effort to calm himself as he glanced to the third bed. Sirius had jumped up on the matress and was curled up in his dog form at Harry's feet, whining.
'What about Harry?' Remus asked.
'No idea – I've been busy trying to convince Draco to allow the mediwitch to treat him. He's more concerned with his mother.' Remus was nodding absently again, having turned his gaze back to Narcissa.
She was as beautiful as ever, he thought. Her hair was matted and every inch of her was battered, bruised and filthy. But her beauty had never been in her hair, or her clothes or her skin – nor even in her stunning violet eyes… Her beauty was far deeper than that, and couldn't be concealed by the layers of grime and dust that covered her now – her beauty couldn't even be squelched by unconsciousness – her beauty was her heart, how she loved without reservation, how she sought always to see the best in people.
Her true beauty that had once given hope to a lonely creature by giving him a glimpse again at his own humanity… once – long ago…
'Do you want to trade patients?' offered Snape, not sure why he wanted to ease the werewolf's obvious distress.
'No.' Remus smiled sadly at the odd gesture. Tearing his eyes away from Narcissa, he looked over at her sleeping son. 'If he can't have his mother, he should at least have his godfather at his side when he wakes.'
'I don't even want to know how you knew that,' Severus growled turning back to Draco.
'How is he?' Remus called to the Chief mediwitch hovering over Harry. The teen was asleep – at least Remus prayed that he was only asleep. The witch glanced uncomfortably between Remus and Snape, hesitating.
'Everyone in this room has my complete trust,' Dumbledore announced firmly. 'Or they wouldn't be here Doctor.'
'Yes,' she answered quickly. 'Of course. Er, broken arm and ribs. Bruises, cuts, gashes…' She looked sadly down on her patient. 'All of that can be healed quickly of course – it's a miracle they all weren't crushed…' She frowned in obvious confusion. 'But…'
'Yes,' Remus prompted.
'He's suffering from magical exhaustion…' Her frown deepened. 'It's as if…' She looked carefully around the room again. 'It's as if, he's expelled a massive burst of magic – with no preparation… it's like it just poured out of him through… through his skin, I think… I don't know – I've never seen anything like it before…'
'She means no focus – no wand,' Remus said, looking pointedly at the dog. 'Can you treat him?' He turned back, worried to the doctor.
'Yes…' The doctor shook off her confusion – both at the cause for the boy's condition, and why the man had spoken to the dog like that… 'Yes, the cuts and bruises – even the breaks, of course are easy… The magical exhaustion – well, that's tougher. He'll need some strong restorative potions, and complete magical and physical rest for at least a week.'
'Snuffles?' Harry mumbled, startling everyone in the room. Sirius quickly leaned forward on the bed and nuzzled his godson's hand. Harry relaxed at the touch, smiling contentedly.
'How are the others?' he croaked, trying to sit up through his own pain to see them.
'Don't you worry about them now,' the doctor ordered, trying to make him lay still, but Harry shook his head, struggling against her.
'Harry,' Remus told him quickly, knowing that Harry wouldn't rest until he knew. It was in the boy's nature – even to check on the well being of his so-called enemy, Draco Malfoy. 'They're both here. Draco and his mum are both here. They're being treated as well.'
'Are they going to be alright?'
'Yes, Harry,' Remus smiled. 'Just rest now'
But Harry wouldn't be still. 'They cursed her…'
'We know Harry… we already know…'
'Professor! Wormtail was there – Pettigrew – he was there! I'm sorry…' He looked down at the dog at his side, tears forming in his eyes. 'I'm sorry – I couldn't… He got away again. I'm sorry… I'm sorry…' He let his head fall back again, tears escaping his eyes and running onto the already dust-stained pillow.
It took every ounce of willpower Sirius possessed not to transform right then and there to assure Harry that it wasn't his fault – to yell and scream that it wasn't his duty to capture that rat anyway – to comfort his godson who was so obviously in immense emotional pain…
But he knew that he couldn't distract the mediwitches and wizards from taking care of Harry, so he had to content himself with crawling forward, careful to avoid Harry's healing ribs and arm to lick his face once before laying his massive head on Harry's shoulder, hoping to offer reassurance in the only way he could.
'He's right, Harry,' said Remus, at his side suddenly. 'It's not your fault – and it's certainly not your job to capture that lousy rat.' Sirius stared at his friend in amazement – he'd managed to translate exactly what he'd been trying to convey to his godson.
'You rest now,' Remus continued, laying his hand gently on the top of Harry's head. 'Rest and let them do what they need to do to help you. You're in good hands now.'
His eyes blinking slowly as he started to succumb to his weariness, Harry nodded slowly. 'Thank you Professor.' He sighed, slowly raising his hand to pat Snuffles' shoulder. 'Thank you Snuffles…' And then the potions and spells took him down beyond consciousness for a time…
This one was quick! I debated cutting off here or continuing on through Harry's birthday, but really, this was a good breaking point.
Before anyone suggests it, Snape is *Not* out of character here. I maintain that the face he must put forward in public is not also his private face. As you see in this chapter, he is Draco's godfather. Their relationship is complicated, but he is not such a bastard that when a young person is suffering as much as Draco is at this moment, he wouldn't offer comfort. You see he still only glares at the witch he doesn't know personally.
Thank-you to everyone who reads this and most especially to those who have reviewed here, on ff.net and on the yahoo group!
Next chapter: Narcissa's convalescence, birthday's, Quidditch talk, school letters, hiding, healing and some deep thinking about the moon.