WARNING: Blood and gore in this chapter. Bypass if you have a weak stomach.
Harry's generally sharp senses were starting to get fuzzy as the time passed. It was harder for him to tell how much time had passed due to his blindness, but he knew it must have been days. He was incredibly thirsty, Snuffles and him only being allowed one drink per day, and he was starving. However long they'd been there, they had yet to receive any kind of food.
Snuffles, who had his head in Harry's lap, whined pitifully.
"We'll get out of here, Snuffles," Harry assured, rubbing his fur comfortingly.
Snuffles whined again, not sounding so sure of that.
"I'm sure the police are looking for us," Harry went on. "Sammy would have noticed that we were gone and called them. You know I never go a day without talking to him."
Snuffles gave a short, half-hearted bark, not bothering to lift his head from Harry's lap.
"You must promise me something, Snuffles," Harry said after a moment of silence.
Snuffles lifted his head from Harry's lap, licking Harry's cheek gently.
"I think my head injury is only getting worse," Harry told his dog. "If something should happen to me before we're found, you must promise that you will do everything in your power to get out of here. I couldn't stand it if something happened to you."
Snuffles whined his disagreement with this plan.
"I mean it, Snuffles," Harry said sternly, turning his blind eyes to where he thought Snuffles' head was. "I won't stand to be the cause of your death… again."
Snuffles growled deeply, baring his fangs, though Harry couldn't see it.
"I know, I know," Harry muttered, reaching out and pulling the dog to him. "So you say, boy. So you say."
Snuffles gave a rather put upon sigh before lowering his head back onto Harry's lap.
Snuffles was no ordinary Deerhound, though only Harry knew it. He watched with worry as Harry fazed in and out of consciousness, the wound on the back of his head getting worse by the hour. If they didn't get out of there soon, Harry wouldn't survive long enough for even whatever his mad cousin was planning. Once Harry had passed out again, Snuffles gave his face a lick before padding over to the front of the cell and sniffing around the bars. Snuffles thought that the bars might just be wide enough apart for him to squeeze through, his ribcage being more flexible than a human's would be.
Sucking in his breath, Snuffles pushed his head through the bars, followed slowly and carefully by the rest of his massive body. He felt a rib crack as he pushed through, but he ignored the pain in favor of getting out and finding someone to help Harry. Once Snuffles had squeezed through to the other side, he breathed out again, causing a fresh wave of agony to wash through him as his lungs expanded against his broken ribs. He lowered his head for a moment, riding out the pain, before slowly moving toward the door, hoping no one would be on the other side. It was difficult to hide when one was roughly the size of a small pony. After fumbling with the knob for a moment, Snuffles managed to make it open and peered carefully through the crack. The dim room on the other side appeared to be empty, so Snuffles eased his way through the door, trying not to open it more than necessary. Once inside the room, Snuffles used his paw to push to door gently closed, wincing slightly at the click it made. He looked around the room, sniffing carefully, but there wasn't anyone about.
He saw another door across the room and made his way to it, opening it more easily than the last because it had a handle rather than a knob. He peered into the next room to find his dear cousin speaking with a tall blonde Snuffles would have recognized anywhere. He stifled his growl with difficulty, knowing that he was in no condition for a fight with what had to be three broken ribs. He snuck into the room, crouching low on his haunches and using his back legs to keep the door from making too much noise as it swung closed. He hid behind a rather fortunately placed divan and waited patiently for the two humans to vacate the room, thankful that his cousin hadn't recognized him. Being dead had its quirks.
It took nearly an hour for the humans to leave, and when they did, they went in the same direction Snuffles was headed. He rolled his eyes at the unfairness of it all before following them at a safe distance. Through another door, and he was standing in a stairwell. He could smell that the humans had gone through another door leading off of the stairs, but Snuffles decided to go up them instead. At the next landing, he saw a glass door, which he pushed open, finding himself on a city street.
Just lovely, he thought, looking around. I'm in the Bronx. Just how the hell am I supposed to find help now? With a deep sigh, he gingerly began walking to the right, toward Manhattan, hoping that his ribs would hold out long enough for him to reach help.
Severus rubbed his eyes tiredly, having gone over the contents of Harry's suitcase a dozen times, and still not finding anything useful. He thought going out for a spot of lunch would be just the thing to ease the tension. Perhaps he would try the British food restaurant he'd seen on Hudson Street during his initial exploration of the city.
As he walked, he allowed his mind to wander to the problem at hand. Right now, his biggest question was; where had he heard the name Snuffles before? He knew it somehow, but he didn't know why. The information was tickling his brain, trying to come forward, but staying stubbornly elusive. Snuffles was a dog, yes. A large black dog, if he wasn't mistaken, and the description just sounded so bloody familiar. It was driving Severus mad. Just as he turned onto Hudson, he heard a startled whining just in front of him. Looking up, he saw what had to be the biggest dog he'd ever seen in his life, staggering toward him and whimpering pathetically.
This had to be Snuffles, but where had he come from? Severus looked around, trying to determine if the dog was being followed, but he saw nothing untoward. Looking at the dog again, something snapped into place in his mind and his eyes grew wide with incredulity. "Black?" he hissed, leaning toward the dog. That was when Snuffles collapsed.
Sirius groaned painfully as he opened his eyes, realizing two things at once. First, he was a human again; second, he was lying on a bed in a strange room he didn't recognize.
"Awake at last, Black?" Snape's voice filtered into his head.
Sirius groaned again, allowing his eyes to drift closed. Of all the people, why the hell did it have to be Snape? What was Snape doing in New York, anyway? "Where?" he murmured, surprised when his voice couldn't handle more than that.
"You are in my hotel room in Manhattan," Snape replied briskly, propping Sirius up on pillows none too gently. "I must say, I'm surprised to see you. Alive."
"Your concern is touching, Snape," Sirius groused, taking the offered glass of chilled water and drinking greedily. "Really it is."
Snape snorted inelegantly before actually coming into Sirius' line of sight. Sirius' smart retort died on his lips when he saw the concern on Snape's face. "How the hell did you end up in Manhattan in that shape?" the man asked sharply. "You didn't walk all the way from New Jersey?"
Sirius rolled his eyes irritably, feeling more coherent now that he was waking up. His ribs weren't hurting him anymore, so he could move more freely. "No, I walked from the Bronx," Sirius replied, equally sharp. "They have Harry. I was looking for help."
"Who has Harry?" Snape asked, looking most interested in the answer. "Where are they keeping him?"
"Lucius Malfoy and Bellatrix Lestrange," Sirius muttered, his eyes narrowing as he thought of what he'd like to do to those two. "As far as I can tell, it's just them. They didn't see me leaving, but they'll know by now that I'm gone. We have to go back and get Harry."
Bella was livid. Potter claimed not to know when the dog had left or even how it had gotten out. There was something not right about that monster Potter kept for a pet, and the thought that it had snuck out was not soothing. She decided to enact a bit of indirect revenge on the brat, just so that she could crush him later.
"Alohamora," she muttered quietly, smirking a bit as the door opened to her with no trouble. She snuck into the dark foyer, listening intently to the sounds of the house. "Lumos," she said, and a bright light came on at the tip of her wand. She snuck slowly through the house until she'd assured herself that it was empty.
She went to the sitting room and busied herself with looking at the nauseating photographs the Muggle had sitting about, most of them too lovey dovey for her tastes. The two of them in the park, the two of them having diner in some Muggle establishment, the two of them at the zoo: it was disgusting. She sneered at the pictures, her body trembling in anticipation for when the Muggle arrived home. She seated herself in an armchair in the dark sitting room, ready for a long wait. The activities to come would more than make up for the boredom.
Samuel Thompson sighed tiredly as he unlocked his front door, tossing his bag on the floor before proceeding into the dark living room. He'd had a long day, compounded with anxiety over his missing lover. He'd been wracking his brains since the detective had visited him, trying to think of anyone who might have taken his Harry away from him. He bypassed the living room without turning on any lights in favor of going to the kitchen to make some coffee. He needed it after the day he'd had.
Once he had the coffee maker going, he went into the bathroom to freshen up, scrubbing at his eyes, trying to force himself to cry. As of yet, he hadn't cried for Harry. He felt like crying, he was grieving inside, but the tears wouldn't come, his eyes remained stubbornly dry. He thought that if he could just cry, maybe it wouldn't hurt so much. Unfortunately, he hadn't cried in years, mainly because his father had always gotten angry if he cried. Incidentally, he hadn't spoken to his father since he'd come out nearly seven years ago. With a sigh, he pushed those thoughts aside, going into the kitchen to get his coffee.
"Sam, you're such a push over," he muttered to himself and he entered the living room, sipping his coffee carefully.
"Yes, Sam," a woman agreed, startling him so badly that he dropped his coffee cup. "You are such a push over." She chuckled darkly, a sound that made Sam's hackles stand.
He flicked the light switch, bathing the living room in bright light, and saw a woman sitting in his favorite chair by the fire. She had long black hair, dark hooded eyes, and an expression that was so far beyond crazy that Sam felt frozen to the spot. "Who are you?" he demanded, sounding far surer of himself than he felt. "Get out of my house!"
The woman clucked her tongue at him. "You're not much of a host, are you, Sam?" she asked, standing up. "What ever would dear Harry say?"
Sam's eyes widened at the mention of Harry's name. "You're the one that took him, aren't you?" he said softly, following her progress across the room. "What have you done with him?"
"Don't worry your pretty head about Potter," she replied, still advancing slowly. "He'll be taken care of in due time."
Potter? Sam thought irreverently. Harry's name is Porter! "Get out of here!" he demanded again.
She chuckled. "Oh, I'll be going soon enough. First, I want to see the color of your blood."
Sam's legs finally unstuck, and he began running toward the door, intent on getting out and getting help. The last thing he heard before the blackness took him was the woman shouting, "Stupefy!"
"Are you sure this is it?" Severus asked, eyeing the building speculatively.
Black growled his answer, pawing at the glass door uselessly.
Good that the door swings out, or he'd have never gotten out of there, Severus thought, stepping around the dog to pull the door open. Black pushed past him, running down the stairs quickly, his nails ticking loudly in the stairwell.
"Would you be careful?" Severus ground out, following Black at a more sedate pace. "They'll hear you!"
Black didn't seem to hear him. He was now sitting by a heavy door that was painted a terrible shade of green, looking at Severus expectantly. Severus tried the knob, but the door was locked. After a quick Alohamora, Severus and Black went into another room furnished like an office. "Which way?" Severus whispered, looking at the four doors coming off of this room.
Black padded across the garish, bright blue carpet to a door that was behind the large, clashing green divan. Severus opened this door to find another office looking room beyond it. Across this room was another door, which led to a flight of stairs. At the bottom of these stairs, Severus found Potter passed out in a cell that had obviously been magicked into existence. Potter looked like Hell. He was dirty, slumped over in the cell, and looked as though he hadn't eaten in days. Black was silent, watching Severus as he examined the wards with his wand.
"Stand aside, Black," he muttered, pointing his wand at the bars. "Let's see if I can get in there."
Bella was breathing deeply, relishing in the mess she'd made with Muggle's blood. Potter would learn not to make fun of her, or keep information from her. Once she told him that his lover was dead, his spirit would be broken. He'd give them whatever they wanted without a fight.
"It's been lovely, Sam," she told the pile of gore who was once Samuel Thompson. "I'm afraid I can't stay for tea. Busy schedule, you know." With an insane cackle, she Disapparated back to the office building where they were holding Potter. Lucius was there, and he did not look happy.
"Where have you been?" he demanded angrily as soon as she appeared. "You were supposed to watch Potter!"
"Oh, where's baby Potter going to go?" she asked dismissively. "I just went to give his little boyfriend a present. I wasn't gone long."
"Idiot!" Lucius exclaimed, pointing his wand at her. "Crucio!" Bella fell on the ground, writhing in pain as Lucius' Cruciatus did its work.
"He's gone!" Lucius shouted once she'd stood back up. "Gone, do you hear me! Someone's taken him!"
"What are you talking about?" Bella asked, running a still bloody hand through her hair.
"That bloody dog must have led someone here!" Lucius raged, storming around the room. "Potter. Is. Gone!"
Bella stared at him. "But it was just a dog," she said.
"Dogs are very loyal to their masters," Lucius groused. "Too bad people can't learn from that example."
Bella glared at him. "None were more loyal to the Dark Lord than I!" she cried indignantly. "I served him even when others thought him gone! I tried to find him! I spent—"
"Oh, save your Azkaban lecture for someone who cares," Lucius interrupted. "We have to find Potter."
"We found him once," Bella remarked. "He won't be difficult to find again."
"We'll see," Lucius muttered, turning his back on her.
The detective stood quietly, sipping his coffee and ignoring the cacophony of noise around him. On the floor in front of him was what remained of Samuel Thompson. As he took another sip of his coffee, he contemplated what the motive for this brutal murder could have been. He recognized Dark spell work when he saw it, and he was close to positive that the person or persons who had done this were the same as the ones who'd stolen Potter. The question now was why.
"We found his arm, sir," a rookie uniform who looked quite ill told him.
"Where?" the detective asked, turning to follow the rookie. The youngster led him to the kitchen, where the arm (part of it anyway) had been stashed neatly in the spice cupboard. The detective raised a satirical eyebrow at this, taking an unconcerned sip from his now lukewarm coffee. He grimaced at the taste and threw the rest out. "You find any other bits of him?" he asked, turning back toward the rookie.
The ill looking young man shook his head.
"You gonna puke?" the detective asked.
"Maybe," the rookie replied.
"Make sure you do it in the john," the detective told him. "No need to disrespect the dead any more than we already are."
The rookie nodded. "Yes, sir."
The detective's respect for the innocent dead had steadily increased during the war, despite his family's insistence that the dead were nothing. This respect was what had ultimately led him to betray his upbringing and fight against his own beliefs. It was also the reason why he'd been forced to leave England in the end. No one wanted a traitor around, not even the people the traitor in question had become a traitor for. As he thought, the detective had been walking around the house, looking for more evidence. He found the late Samuel Thompson's head in the pantry, sitting on a shelf next to a box of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese and dipping blood onto the bag of potato crisps sitting on the shelf below it.
Harry knew as soon as he regained consciousness that he was no longer in the stone cell. He was lying, instead, on a firm but comfortable bed with a warm quilt over him. At least, he thought it was a quilt. It certainly felt like a quilt. After a moment, he realized how asinine these thoughts were and struggled into a sitting position.
"Does your head hurt?" a voice asked from his right. He felt he should know this voice, but he didn't know why he should know it. He turned in the direction it was coming from.
"Who's there?" he asked, blinking his useless eyes as though trying to make them focus.
"Well, you certainly don't look blind," the voice said. "Surely it hasn't been so long that you've forgotten what I sound like, Potter."
Harry's heartbeat trebled at that. "Snape?" he asked incredulously. "What are you doing in the U.S.?" As soon as the question was out, he realized how stupid it was. His brain felt foggy though, and he couldn't for the life of him think of anything else to say. He could practically feel Snape rolling his eyes.
"Does your head hurt?" Snape asked again rather than answer.
"No," Harry replied, rubbing his temple anyway. "My brain's all muddled though."
"That'll be the potion I gave you," Snape said. Harry heard a rustle of cloth as the man stood up from the chair he'd been sitting in and moved across the room. Harry next heard water pouring into a glass. "It'll go away after a little bit," Snape said as he moved, presumably so that Harry would know where he was.
"Do you know what happened to my dog?" Harry asked. This, in his opinion, was the most important question.
"I'm right here, Harry," Sirius said from Harry's left.
Harry turned toward him, his eyes widening in shock. "What if they'd seen you, Sirius!" he cried. "Bellatrix would have killed you on the spot!"
Sirius chuckled. "I haven't lost my senses yet, Harry," he said. "I'm only human in here. Out there, I'm still Snuffles."
Harry breathed a sigh of relief and nodded, turning to the right again when he felt Snape touching his arm. A cool glass was pressed into his hand, around which his fingers reflexively went.
"Water," Snape said by way of explanation.
Harry nodded his understanding and took a sip. The cool liquid felt wonderful on his parched throat. "Thank you," he said after he'd swallowed. Snape didn't reply.
After reviewing the pictures of the latest crime scene, the detective was sure that Mr. Thompson had been dead before the maniac had dismembered him. He couldn't prove this, of course, but he was sure of it. He'd know whether he was right as soon as he got the autopsy report back. For now, he'd just have to trust his instincts, which after the war had gotten fairly good. How the coroner felt like explaining the nerve damage caused by Cruciatus was none of his concern. They'd probably attribute it to electric shock, which was all fine and dandy by his standards.
The woman's magical signature had been in Mr. Thompson's home – had saturated it, in fact – so he was sure that this crime was connected to Potter's disappearance. Just why she'd felt the need to kill Potter's oblivious partner was still a question, one that he'd have loved to be able to answer. Unfortunately, he could not.
Harry knew as soon as they'd appeared in Sammy's house that something wasn't right. It smelled like death.
"Lumos," Sirius said behind him. He felt Sirius' arm go up to hold his wand aloft.
"Well, isn't this just a happy pile of horseshit," Snape muttered unhappily as Sirius gasped.
"What is it?" Harry asked hesitantly. He wasn't sure he wanted to know the answer to that question.
"I think we'd better leave," Snape said instead of replying. "They could come back at any time, you know."
"Who could?" Harry asked, but he thought he already knew the answer to that.
"You think he's still here?" Sirius said, once again ignoring Harry. "He might be injured."
"Oh, do use what passes for your brain, Black!" Snape snapped irritably. "If he's still here, he's far worse than injured. We should leave. Now."
"WHAT IN BLOODY HELL IS GOING ON!" Harry shouted, finally growing impatient with the lack of information.
"Would you be quiet, Potter?" Snape growled. "Do you want to get caught in here?"
"What I want," Harry ground through clenched teeth, "is for someone to tell me why it smells like a slaughter house in here."
"Harry," Sirius muttered gently.
"Because most of this place is covered in blood," Snape said at the same time.
"Snape!" Sirius cried, sounding angry. "Have you no tact?"
"Blood?" Harry asked in a small voice. He carefully stepped out of Sirius' arms. "Sammy?" he called out, carefully feeling his way forward. "Sam?" There was no answer. He spun around when there was the loud 'crack' of Apparition in the foyer.
"Who's there?" a vaguely familiar voice asked loudly. "I am armed, I warn you!" it added.
Harry turned to where he'd left Sirius and Snape. 'Who is it?' he mouthed silently, hoping that Sirius still had his wand lit.
"And just who is asking?" Snape called back loftily, altering his voice to an interestingly classic nasal tone that Harry wouldn't have expected Snape to be capable of. Harry heard Sirius snort beside him.
"I am the police," the voice replied, sounding more than slightly irritated. "Now, why don't you just cooperate with me, hm?"
Severus traded a look with Black, who shrugged his shoulders. Just what the hell was a wizard doing working for the Muggle police? "Well," he called back in his nasal voice. "I find it easier to talk to people I can see."
Harry looked in his direction somewhat frantically. 'What are you doing?' he mouthed.
Severus wondered why he did that when he couldn't see, but shrugged it off.
"You think I'm going to fall for that old trick?" the policeman asked, not coming into view. "You probably have your wand pointed over here, ready to kill me."
Severus, who did indeed have his wand pointed toward the dark foyer, called back. "I take offence to that accusation, sir. I would never resort to such trickery."
Black snorted again and Severus shot a glare in his direction. Black shrugged his shoulders, as though to say, What? It was funny.
"Who's in there with you, Mr. I-Take-Offence?" the policeman asked pleasantly enough. "It's not polite to have tea and not invite everyone."
"I'll all alone in here," Severus replied, his voice starting to complain about its false tone. "Why don't you come in and we can have biscuits and cake?"
Black was now shaking with silent laughter, Harry shaking him gently to make him stop. Unfortunately, this little trick didn't work.
"I would, but I don't believe you," the policeman called back. "Why don't you just tell me who's in there with you?"
"Now you've called me a liar twice," Severus replied. "You're manners need work, I'm afraid."
Tears began streaming down Black's cheeks as he held a hand over his mouth in an attempt to keep the laughter in. Harry was looking in Severus' direction, his expression helpless and dismayed. 'I can't make him stop laughing,' he mouthed.
Idiot, Severus thought irritably, watching the foyer intently.
"Sorry about that, but I've met a lot of liars in my life," the policeman replied. "Why don't you just come over here so I can believe you."
"Maybe I don't believe that you're really a policeman," Severus said, wishing that the man would just step out of the damned foyer already. His voice was starting to hurt. "Maybe you're one of the people who decided this place needed a new coat of paint."
Black was now on his knees, shaking so hard that Severus thought the man's ribs might crack. He hoped they would.
There was silence from the foyer for a moment. Finally, the policeman called, "All right, you may have a point with that one. I'm coming out." Slowly, a black shoe appeared, followed by a leg clad in brown trousers, although they might have been a different color. It was too dark to tell. The policeman, who was dressed in a rumpled suit covered by a trench coat, slowly came into view. His wand arm dropped to his side at the same moment Severus' did the same.
"Snape?" the man asked incredulously.
"Malfoy?" Snape asked at the same moment. His hair was shorter, and he was a bit older, but Severus would recognize Draco Malfoy anywhere.
In the corner, Black, who had finally stopped laughing, said, "I'll be a monkey's left titty."
Harry, who had been silent up until now, burst into tears.
Many thanks to…
LeeLeePotter – Keep in mind that it's been ten years since Sev's seen Harry, and another two years since Siri 'died'. He just needed a little push, that's all. Hehehehe
Ruth – I hope this chapter eased some of your curiosity.