Walk the Shadows

by jharad17

The room was stifling, with no air allowed in through the boarded up window. Harry huddled, shivering, on the thin mattress of his bed under a dirty sheet, though sweat covered him in a thin sheen. He slept in fits and starts, swamped by fever dreams and nightmares. His back still burned from the beating his Uncle had given him soon after he arrived here for the summer, and the sheet was crusty and stained with yellow patches of pus. The wounds were weeping and infected.

The pain in his gut from hunger had long since passed, and when he was aware enough to notice such things, he could feel the skin stretched over his bones, and even see the veins and tendons in his hands and forearms, standing out like his ribs.

He was dying.

After all that had happened, all the times he had survived attacks by Voldemort, a basilisk, Merpeople and dragons, Death Eaters, and all of what had happened at the Department of Mysteries, he thought it was supremely ironic that he was going to die of starvation and lack of penicillin.

Or maybe it was just pathetic.

How long had it been since anyone had unlocked the door, or even stuffed food through the cat flap? At this point, it didn't matter, for even if his Aunt had shoved a seven course meal in to him, he couldn't have gotten it. He couldn't have crawled that far.

And it didn't matter anyway, not really, since it was obvious he was doomed. The only thing he really regretted was not taking down Voldemort with him. The guilt and shame of that tightened his chest, and -- he had to admit -- was the only thing now that kept him fighting for his life. If he could just hold on until the Order sent someone -- and they would, wouldn't they? If he didn't send the letters he was supposed to, the ones they'd made him promise to send -- if he could just hold on, everything would be fine. He could get back to school, continue training, and everything would go back to normal.

Except Sirius would still be dead.

The thought hit him like a physical blow, and his vision swam with new tears. But like all the tears that had come to his eyes over the last days, -- weeks? -- he blinked them away before they fell. He didn't deserve to mourn Sirius, not when he was responsible for killing him. He only deserved to die.

But, Merlin, it hurt so much.

And he was so tired.

The thin sliver of light beyond the boards on the windows was waning, lengthening the shadows in the room, so it must be getting to be evening. Another day gone. Another day, hopefully, closer to rescue.

Even if he didn't deserve it.

When rescue came, it was not by anyone he wanted to see. The night was dark and still, and Harry lay somewhere between sleep and wakefulness when he heard a sound from outside, a sharp crack that lasted only a split second. Then another, and a third Apparition. They were coming!

Dragging himself upwards, Harry caught his breath and tried to swing his legs over the edge of the bed, but he was too weak. His head hurt, and swam with dizziness. A flash of excruciating pain swept over him, centered in his gut and flowing over his back, and it was all he could do to not vomit all over himself. But if he was going to be taken from here, he needed his wand, and the invisibility cloak, both hidden under a loose floorboard under his bed. He couldn't leave them behind.

Gulping down some air, he slid to the edge of the bed, then off it, falling with a soft bump, which almost covered the sound of the front door opening downstairs. No other sounds came from the stairs or hallway, while Harry struggled with the loose board. He finally got his wand out, and was just reaching for the cloak when he heard the bolts slide back from the locks in the door. One, two, three, four, five, so quickly it must have been from a spell.

Harry closed his eyes, awash with gratitude, and pushed himself back up straight, leaning back against the side of the bed. As the door eased open, Harry forced back the pain in his head and body enough so he could smile at his rescuers, but when he looked at who came through the door, he could not suppress the horrified gasp at the black cloak and white skull mask.

Death Eaters!

Without thinking, he aimed his wand at the first one through the door and said, "Expelliarmus!" though the words came out as a rasping whisper from his unused throat. The Death Eater's wand went flying just the same, and smacked Harry in the arm, as his reflexes were pretty much shot.

A hysterical laugh from the hallway sent shivers up his spine. He knew that laugh. Its owner shoved the first Death Eater roughly out of the way, and blocked Harry's next curse easily. "Awww. Widdle Baby Potter wooks all surpwised," Bellatrix gloated. "Isn't he cute!" She blocked his next curse with a snarl then leveled her wand at him. "Crucio!"

Harry didn't have enough breath in him to scream, but his back arched and his limbs flailed. He tasted blood in his mouth. Fire raced along every nerve, needle sharp and unending. Shards of glass rode his veins. Tears leaked from his eyes as he scrabbled at the floor with fingers and toes. Stop, please, make it stop. All he could hear was her laughter and his own rasping breaths.

"Enough," another voice said, and the spell ended. Tremors ran through his body, but mercifully, he could breathe at last. The sores on his back had opened, and the floor under him was slick with blood and serum. He coughed wetly, and his chest hurt. Perhaps some ribs were broken.

"You spoil all my fun," Bellatrix whined.

"The Dark Lord's prize is not here for your amusement," someone responded. Even through his pain and with eyes tightly closed, Harry would have recognized that voice anywhere. Snape. His heart fell into his stomach.

Hand still trembling, he lifted his wand again and pointed it at the doorway. "Stupe--"

Bellatrix laughed again, and spat, "Protego," and the curse rebounded on him. He was too weak to dodge it, and found himself flat on his back. His wand was still clutched in one hand, not that it made any difference, when Snape moved into his line of vision and crouched beside him to pry it out of his fingers.

"Stupid, Potter," Snape muttered under his breath. "Very stupid." His fingers rose to Harry's mouth with something in them. Harry's eyes widened, and he tried to shake his head, but he couldn't; he couldn't move at all. Everything hurt. His breath came in short pants while he tried to keep from vomiting. "Hold still," Snape growled, and Harry felt something cool against his lips. A vial. A potion. Snape was trying to poison him.

"For pain," Snape whispered, but Harry didn't believe him until the fluid was forced down his throat, and the tremors in his arms eased a little, and he could finally draw a full breath. "Another," Snape said. He held another vial to Harry's lips, and Harry did not pull away this time. Snape's hand snaked behind his neck and held his head steady as the second potion slid down his raw throat. The edges of his vision tinged with black, and Snape's almost soundless voice echoed in his mind as the black encroached further. "Go to sleep, Harry."

Harry fought it; how cold he not? Bellatrix was right there. She would kill him, or torture him, or do other freaky things. But the potion was too strong, and he was too tired. With a soft gurgle of a sigh, he slept, even as he realized Snape had called him by his given name for the first time in memory.

TBC if there's enough interest. My first fanfic!