Chapter 7: But They Cannot See Me
He was suspended in a lazy cushion—the gentle rocking lulling him into peace. The sea stretched on, vast and endless. There was peace in the eternity too. Silence broken only by the gentle swoosh of the streams as lives lived on all around him. Each separate and yet connected to countless thousands. And he didn't have to stop to think about any of them; there were all just there, as they should be.
And so Harry was left to his dreams.
Surrounded by his father's collection of enchanted crystals—meant to represent the Horcruxes—Sirius stood beside Snape, both of them turning slowly as they chanted the ancient string of Latin.
The crystals were pulsing between black and red and finally Snape held his hand up, ending this portion. He nodded at Sirius, who fumbled in his belt for the dagger his grandfather had kept in a locked stone box. The words, Power to those who seek, were engraved on the blade. He could feel the thrum of the dark deeds that had touched the blade as he gripped the hilt.
Snape extended his left arm.
Sirius swallowed hard as he watched the snake writhing in the skull, both permanently etched in Snape's skin. The Mark was the only possession of Voldemort's that they could claim.
"Do it," Snape breathed harshly; his fist was shaking.
Sirius' calming breath had no effect. Keeping his hand as steady as he could, he pressed the steel tip into Snape's arm, chanting a new string of Latin as he cut a line through the Mark.
As Snape hissed in pain, Sirius grabbed his bony wrist with his free hand and brought them around the circle, letting blood flow over each of the crystals, both of them chanting once more, over and over again until Sirius was hoarse with it.
He and Snape stood together, blood beginning to congeal as Sirius pulled his crimson-coated fingers from Snape's arm.
The crystals' pulsing slowly began to fade, until only five continued to glow—steady now. All of them as red as the blood staining Sirius' fingers. Together, he and Snape began chanting again, "Perpetuus Animus," over and over again. The pulsing red became a vapor, scarlet smoke rising from each of the crystals.
They continued the mantra as the smoke hovered and then with a sharp flick of Sirius' wrist, each column of smoke slithered away, each in a different direction as it sought Voldemort's victims.
Sirius gripped a low tree branch once the smoke was out of sight. He felt weak, unable to hold himself upright. He breathed in and out through his nose, determined not to sick up on the grass. Snape was looking even worse; he'd immediately knelt in the cold grass, his hands and shoulders shaking.
Sirius dropped beside him, found a vial of Strengthening Potion in his cloak and uncorked it. Snape tried to lift his hand; couldn't. So Sirius put the vial to Snape's lips and tipped the contents in. And then they sat there, breathing together.
He shouldn't have noticed them in between the rhythmic motions rocking him back and forth. His dreams were pleasant enough to keep any disturbances at bay. A girl that looked remarkably like Ginny was walking with him on the grassy Hogwarts' hills.
But something else was calling his attention… he was almost certain of it. His dream drifted with him. To a face that looked like his mum's in all the pictures he'd seen.
He hadn't dreamed of his mother in years—and usually only accompanied by Voldemort's green light. Mum wanted something from him, but Harry couldn't understand. She didn't smile, spoke no words and then was gone, leaving him flailing.
He tried to turn to find out why. But something was holding him here; the gentle swaying didn't want him to go. He could resist. He almost tried, but the rhythm called to him, soothed him.
And so Harry returned to its peace.
The wind picked up as Sirius and Snape tried to find the strength to rise again. The night was moonless, which Sirius found exceptionally appropriate. There was no one to see their sins.
"How long do you think—"
"Impossible to know…"
"They could be in Australia for all we know."
Sirius glanced at Snape, studied the sunken shadows which stood out prominently against ashen cheeks. "Just let me heal you," he said, for the third time, indicating the gash in Snape's arm.
"It is unnecessary."
"You'll bleed out."
A grimace. "Doubtful."
"It's too late to be a martyr," Sirius told him, shifting so that he could grip the stubborn bastard's arm. Sirius ignored the profanity-laced protest and muttered the healing spell as quickly as possible. Snape wrenched his arm away before Sirius could see if it had worked.
Neither one had an opportunity to do more than glare. The wind howled, drawing their attention to the clearing. The branches on the tall trees whipped the air, whistling eerily with each slice.
Gooseflesh prickled the tiny hairs along the base of Sirius' neck.
A soft susurration, as if something was being dragged through the pine needles carpeting the forest floor. Slowly, steadily, it grew louder and as it did, Sirius and Snape found strength enough to stand; held their wands out and waited.
They came together, side by side. A man's body, with skin so pale it was almost translucent. Skin hanging in melted patches from bones that looked like they were missing pieces. A locket on a chain swung from a decomposing neck.
Three women, in increasingly horrific states of death, one with a cup clutched in fingers that were merely bone, another with a diadem resting on the sparse hairs dotting her head, the third brought nothing but her rotting body.
"My god…" Sirius breathed, his legs propelling him backward without his permission.
Beside him, Snape made a choking sound.
"There are only four," Sirius whispered through the bile coating his throat.
Snape came out of his stupor. But before he could speak, the shushing leaves stirred and the fifth wraith glided into the clearing.
Sirius' mouth opened and closed several times. Bald patches on a mouldering head, interrupted only briefly by limp hair; a nose that slid into teeth. And all of it was absolutely familiar.
"Lily…" It was almost a sob, a sound Sirius had never imagined Snape could make. The professor fell to his knees again, his wand limp against the grass. "Lily," he whimpered again, and then fell silent.
Sirius' knees had buckled as well, though he'd managed to keep himself upright as he forced himself to accept this horror. He grabbed Snape's shoulder and shook him; harder when Snape simply rattled beneath his hand.
"Snape! We need cast the final spell!" Sirius dug his fingers into the other man's shoulder. "Snape!"
Haunted black eyes finally met his. "Lily…"
Sirius gripped both shoulders this time, having no choice but to meet the grief and guilt. "That isn't Lily," he said harshly. "Voldemort killed her." Another strangled sob escaped Snape's lips. "He killed her," Sirius said again, unable to stop himself, "and unless you help me, he's going to kill her son. Her son, who you swore to protect."
Light seeped back into Snape's eyes. It was shakily, but Sirius helped him stand.
"The crystals," Snape rasped, turning so that Lily's lifeless body was no longer in his sight. Sirius released Snape's elbow, hoping the other man wouldn't crumble and rearranged the silent crystals in a smaller circle than the original.
Snape's breathing had become rather ragged and it was obviously an effort not to turn back to Lily. So Sirius took care of the reanimated bodies on his own, directing them to form a larger circle around the crystals. Feeling ever more ill as he called upon the darkness now residing in his core to do it.
"Ready?" he whispered to Snape when the Inferi were assembled. He forced himself not to look at Lily either as Snape nodded jerkily.
Two voices blended together as they ordered the master soul to rejoin the pieces which had been torn asunder.
In a swirl of white, the circle captured its prey.
Sirius wasn't prepared for the appearance of the one who had terrorized two generations of wizards. He had no time to adjust to the pale, snake-like creature in front of them though.
"What is this?" Voldemort hissed from a mouth that had no lips. His slitted eyes barely widened as they found Snape. Voldemort immediately raised his wand, but the jet of deadly green light dissipated when it met the crystals' boundary. Voldemort fell back a step, then snarled in fury.
"Now!" Sirius yelped, rooted to the spot in spite of the panic driving his voice higher. And without actual words to compel them, the Inferi did Sirius' bidding. Expressionless, they stepped through the barrier keeping Voldemort caged, their arms raised as if they meant to choke him.
Voldemort eyed them wildly, confusion and anger plain on his distorted face. But then he stilled, his gaze sweeping around the ring of death.
He closed his eyes.
"What's—" Sirius swallowed the rest of his question, grabbing Snape's robed arm and forcibly propelling both of them back. The five bodies had turned, the eyeless sockets trained on a new target.
The wind carried Voldemort's whisper. "Kill them."
The waves were crashing against his dreams. Trying to destroy Harry's peace.
No… it wasn't the entire ocean.
Outward, the water stretched. Beyond even what Harry could see. Calm and still.
Only beside him, the waters churned. With a violence that he had only experienced once. When the realities had to tried to take Snape.
Harry reached out. Two separate streams. One he knew almost as well as he knew himself.
And it was dying.
Harry began to flail, his limbs splashing the water in ever-increasing waves, creating disturbance which dragged him down. Drowning him because he couldn't get out. Something was keeping him here, holding him where he didn't want to stay.
Without thought, without effort, Harry gathered the ocean to his bidding, building a wave higher than the wall that kept him from leaving. And with a strength he barely noticed, he sent the wall tumbling down.
Spiraling, spiraling until there was no more water. Fabric and air as Harry gasped for breath.
"Sirius!" The word echoed, hovering in the space between dream and reality as Harry tried to remember where he was. Regulus' room. Grimmauld Place. He fumbled for his glasses, tumbling out of bed even as he shoved them onto his nose. "Lumos!"
Light erupted but Harry tripped before he made it to the door. He gaped down at the two sprawled bodies; Bill and Remus lying in a heap on the floor. He dropped down, grabbed Remus' shoulder and shook it until the older man's eyes fluttered open.
"What's happening?" Harry demanded. "Where's Sirius?"
Remus didn't answer as he shook Bill awake.
"What the hell happened?" Bill grumbled as he sat up. He squinted at Harry. "Harry? But they said—"
"Where's Sirius?" Harry asked again, shrilly this time. "I could sense him; something's wrong with him!" He couldn't have explained even if he'd wanted to and Remus and Bill looked just as confused as they should.
"How do you know?" Remus asked.
"I just do," Harry said. "Where is he? Snape's with him, isn't he?" Bill and Remus shared a glanced and Harry had his answer. "Where did they go?"
"They had something they needed to do," Remus said quietly, standing and giving Bill a hand up.
"Harry, calm down." Remus took his arm, gripping when Harry tried to shake him off. "You need to trust us… and your godfather," he added. "Sirius wanted you to stay here."
"I can't stay here," Harry said fiercely, tugging harder against Remus' hold but Remus was much stronger. "Sirius is in trouble."
"You can't know that—"
"I do know it! Let go of me!"
Not knowing why he did it, Harry closed his eyes, shutting out Remus' scolding voice as the ocean enveloped him.
It was an echo of Snape's command yesterday, this one without the same harsh quality. Harry focused, dipping his hands in the familiar stream that belonged to Sirius, flinching as it struggled against some darkness that Harry couldn't identify. Snape was tangled up in Sirius' stream.
They were fighting together.
Harry had to go to them.
He breathed deeply and with Remus still gripping his arm, turned the world inside out.
The five wasted corpses advanced, their movements stiff and lumbering, making them all the more terrifying.
"Snape!" There was no reason to shout the other man's name but Sirius did it anyway. Snape was staring at the shell that had once given Lily life. "The Fiendfyre!" Sirius said hoarsely, trying to capture Snape's attention but Snape was lost to everything but Lily's bloodless face.
Snape was supposed to cast the cursed fire. Sirius didn't know how. Had never tried. But the dead were advancing, one of them close enough to touch them.
Sirius flung Snape away from her decayed claws, falling over his own feet as he tried to follow.
They were going to die. They were going to die right here, and Voldemort would never stop until Harry was dead too.
Panic drove the earlier spells burrowed in Sirius' core upward; churned the dark magic still lingering. Sirius latched onto it, prayed to whatever higher powers that could hear him and shouted the curse.
There was a roaring, billowing, deafening noise as towering flames shot up in front of him. Orange and changing by the second, they writhed in a sickening dance toward Voldemort's minions.
Sirius screamed as it swallowed them up, lighting them from the inside. Fire spilled from Lily's mangled mouth as Sirius watched in horror. Beside him, Snape was screaming as well.
And Voldemort. A cry filled with agony as five pieces of his soul were burned alive.
"Move!" Sirius bellowed, scrambling and falling twice before he gained his feet, dragging Snape along with him. The flames wavered; uncertain who commanded them.
Voldemort screeched again, thrust his wand at the dancing fire and it charged at Sirius and Snape.
And then out of nowhere, in a wavering flash of light, Harry and Remus appeared at the edge of the clearing.
The cursed fire nearly cut Sirius in two as he froze. "Fuck!" Moving now toward them, he shouted, "Get him out of here! Remus, go!"
"No!" Harry was still shouting as Remus Disapparated.
His godson's panicked cry echoed in Sirius' ears.
Snape grabbed his wrist; nearly unbalancing him again as Snape turned them around, his wand out as he shot spells at the fire. The spells absorbed into the flames, not one doing any bit of damage.
Voldemort was still trapped in the circle of crystals, but he had his eyes closed as if he was concentrating on the fire and Sirius' decision was made. They had lost. "We need to get out of here!"
"Wait," Snape said as he continued to dodge the flames. "Look at him." Sirius couldn't do that and concentrate on evading the Fiendfyre, but Snape had stopped moving.
"The fire is dying out," Snape said, grabbing his shoulder and turning him sharply. The fire was still approaching but it was slowing, shrinking.
"That isn't possible—"
"The Dark Lord…" Snape said in a low rumble. "He looks like he can't breathe…."
Sirius turned to look and déjà vu immediately assaulted him. Remus…
Voldemort was gasping for air, clutching at his throat just as Remus had done yesterday.
"Potter is attempting to kill him…"
But unlike Remus, Voldemort was fighting back. Drawing in a huge rush of air even as his yellowed fingernails scrabbled at his throat. "No," he rasped. "No!"
And though it should have been impossible, Sirius sensed Harry struggling... and losing.
Fear, magnified above anything he'd felt in the past hours, constricted Sirius' chest.
And in that moment, Sirius found the will.
He watched with a satisfaction that he could neither deny nor escape as the Killing Curse erupted from his wand and hit Voldemort square in the chest.
Voldemort, with his fingers still at his neck, made a last strangled gasp as he fell.
Dark, furious hatred welled up in Sirius then as the stiff body thumped to the ground, disturbing leaves and twigs. He fell to his knees, feeling nothing even as his knee met a jagged rock. His father's dagger was still in his hand. With a cry of rage, he raised it high above his head and plunged it where Voldemort's heart should have been.
And then he slumped, his chest heaving.
"He's dead." Snape's voice was hollow, sounding as if he was meters away instead of kneeling in the grass beside Sirius. Sirius couldn't answer.
A wobbly flash of light made them blink, but neither turned. Footsteps crunched the dead twigs.
Sirius looked up. Relief sent all the air out of his lungs. "Harry..."
His fingers tangled in the hem of his godson's shirt. He tugged Harry down, wrapping him tightly in his arms, deciding in that moment that all of it had been worth it. This was worth every new stain on his soul.
Harry held him just as tightly as he buried his face in Sirius' shoulder.
Sirius pressed a rough kiss to Harry's head, followed by several deep breaths as he tried to still the agitated pace of his heart. And when he thought he could talk again, he glared up at Remus, who was standing above them. "Why did you bring him here?" he demanded, his voice hoarser than he would have liked. "He could have been—"
"I didn't," Remus interrupted in a strange tone. "He brought us; both times. And I have no idea how."
Sirius glanced at Snape; his eyes showed the first signs of life again at that bit of information.
Sirius pulled Harry's head away from his chest. "You Apparated here?" he asked quietly, more than a little fearful of the answer. But Harry shook his head; his eyes were rimmed in red, but he showed no signs of tears.
"I knew you were in danger… I could sense it in your stream. I don't know how, but I just came here…" Harry trailed off, probably because all three men were staring at him with incredulity.
"You could have been killed," Snape said harshly, but he fell just as quickly silent, as if that one statement had used up all he had. Harry turned his eyes back to Sirius, grimacing at whatever he saw in Sirius' face. But there were too many emotions for Sirius to sort out now. He was almost certain some of it was anger, specifically aimed at his godson. It would have to wait.
He took Harry's shoulder and turned him so that both of them were gazing at Voldemort's silent form. "He's gone."
Harry swallowed hard. "I know…"
"We need to call someone," Remus murmured from above them, sounding even more mystified than when he'd arrived.
Sirius nodded. He could hear Remus uttering the spell to send his Patronus out, but he couldn't focus on it. He put an arm around Harry's shoulders; pulled him against his side as he tried to convince himself that his godson was safe.
Harry wound an arm around him, gripping a handful of Sirius' shirt in a trembling fist.
Voldemort was dead.
They were free.
Author's Notes: Thanks again to jogger for her help with this chapter. And thanks to JadeSullivan for her help and encouragement along the way. The story will continue in the final part of the Unforgivables trilogy, Avada Kedavra. If you'd like to read it, please subscribe to my author alert. Thanks for joining me. Hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.