I Am About To Die
by DC Lady
Harry was in bed, listening as his Aunt and Uncle strategized their current dilemma. Everything was dark, even though Harry knew that it was mid morning because he'd heard his Uncle's alarm earlier, then footsteps that had passed by his door and made their way downstairs to the kitchen for breakfast. He kept track of time by his Aunt, Uncle, and Dudley's routine, otherwise he would get lost in the dark. He'd been doing it for over a week now, listening, wondering if this would be the day that he was rescued. He wondered if his friends even thought about him. He hadn't heard from them for a while now, although he suspected his Aunt and Uncle had something to do with that.
He wondered if he'd ever see his friends again. If he'd ever just see again. He knew that his Aunt and Uncle wondered, too.
"Maybe we should take him to the doctor. It was an accident after all."
Aunt Petunia sounded nervous. But she was right, it was an accident. Dudley had hit Harry at the top of the stairs. But Harry remembered the stunned look on Dudley's face when Harry had lost his balance, rolling down the stairs, and crashing into the antique side table that had been in the family for generations. Aunt Petunia had cried when Uncle Vernon declared the table a loss. Harry was certain she'd make him pay dearly for breaking it.
"You know how doctors are. They ask too many questions. Checking things you don't want them checking. And they cost money." Harry could hear Uncle Vernon pacing back and forth in the hall. It sounded like they were just outside his door--probably wondering if they should check on him.
"What if those freaks from that school come snooping around?"
"The boy's been sending those letters by that owl of his, hasn't he?"
He didn't hear Aunt Petunia answer Uncle Vernon, but he suspected that she nodded.
Harry knew that Remus, Moody, and the others had only the best of intentions when they'd confronted Uncle Vernon at the start of the summer. But they just didn't know the man like Harry did. They didn't even consider that the letters they wanted Harry to write every three days to let them know he was well were being monitored by his Aunt—she'd even helped him to keep his penmanship legible and straight so no one would suspect a thing. All they had known was that the Dursley's had treated Harry like a freak because of his magic. They hadn't known about the rest. Harry wondered if it would have made a difference if they had.
"Then there's no reason for anyone to come sneaking around here."
"What if he isn't better by the time he's supposed to go back to that school?"
"We'll tell them the truth. The brat fell down the stairs and hit his head, and now he's blind as a bat." Uncle Vernon laughed. "I think we're finally rid of the lot, if you ask me. They won't want damaged goods even if he is a freak like them."
He knew Uncle Vernon was right. He couldn't go back to school now. Couldn't beat Voldemort either. Not like this.
He heard the click of the locks on the outside of his door, so he sat up, his head swimming as he did while his stomach threatened to rebel--not that there was much in his stomach.
"Get up boy. You've got chores to do."
"Chores?" Harry wondered how he'd manage in the dark, not to mention with the constant ringing in his head since the fall. It was slowly driving him mad.
"If you think you'll get a free ride living here, you better think again."
"Yes sir." Harry stood, his arms stretched out in front of him so that he didn't run into anything, especially since Uncle Vernon and Dudley had made it a habit to throw obstacles in his path the few times he'd been allowed to venture out to the bathroom down the hall.
He made his way to the door, hoping Uncle Vernon didn't have his foot stretched out for Harry to trip on. But just in case, Harry took baby steps, feeling his way across the room then stopped when he thought he was close enough to his Uncle--the man always did breathe hard. All that extra weight, Harry guessed.
"What do you want me to do first?"
"You can clean up after breakfast. You've done it enough that you could do it blindfolded, eh?" Uncle Vernon laughed, but he was probably right. Harry had been the equivalent of a house elf for as long as he could remember. He probably could do it blindfolded. He was about to find out. If only the buzzing in his head would stop.
He took a couple of steps toward where he thought the door was, and to his surprise his Uncle's foot didn't trip him up. But his hand did as Harry was slapped hard from the right, then the left, then the right again.
"Can't run from me now, can you boy?"
Another slap landed hard across his face before he could raise his hands as a shield. Damn, his reflexes were almost non-existent.
"Well, what you waiting for? Get downstairs and clean up the kitchen."
Arabella Figg didn't have delusions of grandeur. Very few squibs did. She'd accepted her limitations, knew that in the Wizarding world, she was at the low end of the food chain. But as a member of the Order of the Phoenix, she'd been given an assignment that had her living across the street from number four Privet Drive to keep a watchful eye on the house, and in particular, the boy who lived there: Harry Potter. It was an important job that she took very seriously, sending her reports of what she saw of Harry to Albus Dumbledore himself. She'd done so for over fifteen years now, knowing full well that Harry's relatives weren't the loving and generous family one would expect for the boy-who-lived. Dumbledore knew it, too. She didn't know why he insisted on Harry staying there, but it wasn't her place to question who she considered—along with most of the Wizarding world—the greatest Wizard who ever lived. And she could see the feelings the man had for the boy. He loved Harry, of this she had no doubt. It was why she watched the house so closely. And why she was standing at their front door now.
She hadn't seen Harry leave the house for several days. It wasn't an unusual occurrence--she'd known that those Muggles often kept the child under lock and key. But Harry had just experienced the devastating loss of his godfather, and Arabella knew what grief could do to a person.
She rang the doorbell and waited. She knew that Vernon Dursley was at work, and she'd seen Petunia and that bully of a boy of hers Dudley leave the house earlier. She'd been on the receiving end of that boy's hateful scorn before--her cats, Mr. Tibbles in particular, seemed to irritate the bully. She just couldn't understand how anyone could dislike such a sweetie like Mr. Tibbles, or such a fine young man as Harry. But Dudley did. She had no doubt that Dudley enjoyed bullying poor defenseless creatures.
She rang the doorbell again, then made her way over to the window, trying to peer through the sheers to the inside. She couldn't make out much through the haze of fabric, but from what she could see, the house looked empty. She gave the door knob a jiggle, but it was locked. She knew Harry had to be inside the house, maybe in his room, because she hadn't seen him leave. And it was doubtful she would have missed it if he had. She jiggled the door handle again, knowing it would not have unlocked itself within the span of the few minutes since she'd last tried. But she was desperate and hadn't the slightest clue as to how she could get into the house. She cursed at her squib nature that wasn't even capable of performing a simple Alohamora spell to open the door.
She had to get inside.
She discreetly scanned the area around her. There wasn't much activity this time of day, but it wouldn't do to have someone tell the Dursleys that she'd been snooping around their house when no one was at home. They didn't know what she was or who she worked for, and she intended to keep it that way. After another quick scan, she folded her hands in front of her like she always did when she took a leisurely stroll through the neighborhood, then made her way to the back of the house, to the door leading to the kitchen. Maybe luck would be on her side and the door would be unlocked, but she knew it was doubtful given the Dursleys' paranoia. But when she peered through the window, she saw Harry, his head buried in his arms at the kitchen table.
She rapped gently on the door's window. Harry lifted his head toward the door, and she gave him a small wave. But he didn't wave back, and she wondered by the look on his face if he could see her at all. Funny how she'd never seen him without his glasses before.
"Who is it?"
"It's Mrs. Figg, dear."
He rose slowly from the table, then stumbled to the door, looking almost like someone who was walking in his sleep with his hands out in front of him. It even took him a couple of minutes to fiddle with the lock and open the door.
"Yes, dear. Are you quite all right? I've been worried sick."
He touched his forehead and looked as though standing was proving to be a great difficulty. She grabbed his arm to help him to a chair. The touch seemed to surprise him as he flinched away.
"Harry. You're not well. What is it?"
"I…fell," he muttered, and this time didn't seem to mind her touch as she guided him to a chair. "Sorry. I can't see very well."
"Where are your glasses? Did you break them?"
He shook his head, then winced. "I hit my head when I fell. Everything's really dark."
She waved her hand in front of his face. When he didn't seem to see it, she gasped. "Didn't your Aunt and Uncle see to you? What am I saying? Of course they didn't see to you."
She tried to think of what she should do. "Harry. I've got to go and contact Professor Dumbledore and let him know you're hurt. Will you be all right until they come for you?"
Harry nodded slowly. "You…think they'll come, Mrs. Figg?"
"I would think a knock to the head powerful enough to make you lose your sight is reason enough for them to come and collect you, don't you? I suspect Dumbledore won't like this one bit, your being hurt."
"I was clumsy. Lost my balance and fell down the stairs."
She frowned, heard the guilt in his voice all too clearly. "He won't like that those muggles aren't taking proper care of you. And they keep saying you're intelligent."
He turned away.
"Are you hurt anywhere else?"
"I think I may have cracked a couple of ribs. It's hard to breathe sometimes."
She patted his arm. "Don't fret. Help will be here soon."
Severus Snape was no stranger to the muggle world. But it had been a long time since he'd had the necessity or the desire to visit it--not since his childhood. That was until Dumbledore had summoned him.
He still wasn't sure why he'd been asked to perform this task. Surely there were others better suited to act as an escort to the boy-who-lived. Someone like Lupin who actually liked the boy. And of course, Snape had been unsuccessful in the various alternative suggestions he'd offered Dumbledore. The man had always been relentless once he'd made up his mind about a subject. And Snape had always been at a loss as to how to persuade him otherwise. Especially in regard to Potter. Potter, in Snape's opinion, was Albus Dumbledore's blind spot. Something that was sure to be the death of Snape, he had no doubt, what with the boy's penchant for trouble.
Just like his father.
Snape stood down the street of number four Privet Drive, crossed his arms, and waited. He didn't have to wait very long as the front door swung open and a whale of a boy waddled out to the car, his piggish features pinched in a scowl. Petunia followed him closely, rubbing his shoulders, evidently trying to assuage her son's ire. She looked as sour as Snape had remembered seeing her last as a child. She'd been so unlike her sister in every manner possible. As was Potter. It boggled the mind. Another whale-like creature emerged from the house, the waddle more pronounced than that of his predecessor. He clutched the keys to the car in his meaty fists in what Snape determined was a look of triumph. They were off to a free dinner Dursley had won earlier in the day--compliments of Dumbledore. An all too easy method to rid the house of the muggles who lived there, Albus was certain. Snape had had his doubts. Surely they would not leave their nephew behind if Arabella Figg's assessment of Potter's condition was to be believed.
The house was dark, and Snape wondered if Harry was even home. They'd only had the word of Arabella Figg. Not a totally unreliable source, but Snape had learned a very long time ago to never put his complete trust in information acquired by anyone but himself.
He walked down the street, pulled Albus's putter outer from his pocket and gave it a flick. One street lamp went out. Another flick and another light was extinguished. He did this several times until Privet drive was encompassed in darkness. He pocketed the putter outer, comfortable with the blackness that would hide his presence from the muggles who lived nearby, and pointed his wand at the door. After an almost silent Alohamora, the door swung open.
By the light from the tip of his wand, Snape considered the room with a slow, sweeping gaze, taking in the surroundings and the smallest of details that would tell him the kind of people who lived here--a habit born in him as a spy for so many years. Freakishly neat was the first thing that penetrated his mind.
A short distance down the hall was the kitchen. He opened the refrigerator, arched a brow, and wondered how Potter had managed to look so thin and frail at the start of each school term when food was in obvious over abundance in this place. Something to consider since the times he'd seen Potter eat in the great hall had not given Snape the impression that he was a finicky eater.
Not that Snape had the time to ponder the eating habits of a teenaged boy.
At the staircase, Snape lifted his wand to view the numerous photos ascending to the upper level. He marveled at the family of three that lined the walls, then adamantly endeavored to ignore an uncomfortable feeling that fluttered at the pit of his stomach when he noticed the absence of the fourth member of this family. There were too many portraits to blame on mere coincidence. Potter, after all, had lived here since he was only a year old.
Perhaps Potter's relatives were wise to the arrogant, self-centered clone of James Potter after all. But the long-believed assessment suddenly left Snape feeling uneasy.
When he reached the top of the stairs, the sight that greeted him made it impossible to ignore the growing suspicion that was certain to turn his world view on end. But perhaps it wasn't as he suspected. Better to eliminate other possibilities before making a determination, especially where Potter was concerned. He was comfortable with his present judgment of Potter. In the past five years, he'd learned to take for granted that the boy was a bloody nuisance who lived to make his life a living hell—just as his father had done.
But to satisfy his own curiosity, and his need to maintain a sort of status quo, he checked the other rooms down the hall first. But his discomfort grew, sitting hard in his stomach when his search proved that the rooms were not Potter's. He turned back to the one with numerous locks on the outside. He stood for a moment, unwilling or unable to move, he wasn't sure, but he needed the time to steady himself. Of course, he could be wrong. A plausible explanation to the minute discoveries scattered throughout the house was, after all, still within the realm of possibility.
He pointed his wand at the locks, whispered another Alohamora, then pushed the door open slowly.
When there was no response, Snape raised his wand to light his path and moved into the room. There was a lump under the covers and a mess of dark hair peering from beneath them.
"Wake up, Potter. It looks like your little holiday is over."
Still no response. No movement at all from the boy. In a frantic instant, Snape was at Potter's side, his hand pressed to his neck. Snape sighed in relief at the steady rhythm he felt beneath his fingers.
Snape grabbed Potter's arm and gave him a firm shake. "Potter."
It was then Snape realized that Harry Potter was not just asleep, he was unconscious.