Harry stumbled and almost fell to his knees as the ground suddenly came rushing up to meet him. He immediately released his hold on Voldemort's arm and looked around.
The crumbling turrets of Azkaban towered over him. He and Voldemort were standing on the rocky outcrop just before the large gates of the infamous wizarding prison, the raging ocean at their backs. The sky around Azkaban was always black; the sun did not exist here. There were flickering lights through the windows, the stones of the castle were dark grey and covered in a slick coating of weeds and moss. Moisture dripping down between the cracks.
Harry looked up and scanned the stormy skies for Dementors.
"Do not trouble yourself, Mr Potter," Voldemort said, watching the boy. "The Dementors are under my control."
Harry swallowed and nodded. His hand, slick with perspiration, tightened around his wand.
"Now what?" he asked, staring at the large wooden gates before them. He shifted his weight anxiously, he was so close.
Voldemort smiled down at him, his red eyes icy and appraising. "Now we go take back what is ours."
Harry jumped a little as Death Eaters appeared all around them, wands drawn and at the ready.
They all looked to Voldemort, waiting. Harry included.
Voldemort gave a slight nod and the Death Eaters rushed forth, the gate opening at their approach.
Harry didn't waste a second. He lifted his wand and sprinted after them. He passed through the large forbidding gates, the stone gargoyles glaring down at him, and up to the front doors. He glanced back over his shoulder to see Voldemort still standing where he'd left him.
Harry braced himself and pushed through the heavy iron doors.
The noise and heat inside hit him like a solid wall, crushing in on him as he stood looking around. There were screams and yells coming from every corner, the noise of battle and duelling, the stench took Harry's breath away. Human excrement and piss and sweat...
Harry gagged and closed his eyes a second before pushing on. He stumbled forwards and headed for the first door he could see.
He entered a large hall that looked like it had once been used for dining, but everything was coated in dust and filth, the furniture broken and lying in pieces all over the floor and tables.
Harry ran across the dusty stones and pushed through to the next room. Here he found what appeared to be one of guard stations. It was fairly neat and tidy, with papers and folders lying on the desk. Harry picked up a large ring with keys on it, wondering if they opened the cells.
Underneath the keys he suddenly noticed that the papers were actually lists of prisoners.
Harry tossed aside the keys and grabbed up the parchment, his heart racing. Frantically he searched for Draco's name.
His heart stopped when he saw Amari written in flowing script. He'd forgotten that his old friend from Grace was here. Harry checked to see if there was a location next to the names but it was obviously in code and he didn't understand the symbols.
Harry glanced at all the papers littering the desk. He didn't have time to search through them all.
With a shout of frustration, Harry turned and bolted from the room. He ran back through the dining hall and out to the front entrance area.
The deafening roar of noise assaulted his ears again as he stood there, trying to decide which route to take next. He felt helpless as he thought of how large the prison looked from the outside. It would take him days to find Draco.
Harry stood there panting, eyes wildly looking from door to door.
A prison guard – a human prison guard – came bolting through the right-side door and stopped dead in his tracks when he saw Harry.
"Oh!" he exclaimed, lowering his wand. "Harry Potter?"
Harry looked at this man and raised his wand, directing it straight at him.
The guard's eyes widened in fear. "But...you..."
Harry quickly walked towards him. "Give me your wand," he ordered.
The guard trembled, his hand shaking as he dropped his wand into Harry's outstretched hand. "I thought you were good..." he whispered.
Harry's eyes dimmed a little but he spoke sharply. "Not tonight I'm afraid. I came here for one purpose and one purpose only, and you're going to help me."
The guard swallowed, sweat rolling down his temples, eyes locked on Harry in fear.
"Where is Draco Malfoy?" Harry enunciated very clearly, eyes boring deep into the hazel depths of the prison guard.
"M-malfoy?" the guard stammered.
Harry nodded, lifting his wand a little higher until it was level with the guard's eyes.
"I-I'm not sure..."
"Liar!" Harry roared and the man cowered.
Harry took a steadying breath and took a step back. He meant this man no harm and he was getting carried away.
"Please," Harry tried again, more gently. "Tell me where he is and I'll let you go."
The man licked his lips. "I'm telling you the truth. I know he's in cell block H but I... I don't know where exactly. That block is q-quite big..."
Harry lowered his wand slightly. "Can you take me there?"
The guard shook his head wildly. "I'm not going back out there, they'll kill me!"
Harry glanced back towards the entrance doors. "You don't want to go that way either," he warned. "Voldemort is waiting there."
The guard looked ready to faint.
"Take me to block H and I'll see that you arrive there safely," Harry promised. "Then hide there until this is all over."
The guard nodded, his eyes flicking down to his wand in Harry's other hand.
Harry shook his head. "Sorry, I can't give this to you. I'll protect you." Harry took a few steps back. "Now move."
The guard turned and headed back through the door that he had come through. Harry followed along behind, wand still pointed at his back.
The noise level increased in the dim corridor that Harry found himself in, the smell even worse.
Suddenly a Death Eater rounded the corner, wand drawn.
Harry halted in his tracks and grabbed his prisoner to him, holding him in front of his body, wand stuck to his throat.
The Death Eater seemed to hesitate then took off past them down the corridor.
Harry released the breath he'd been holding and lowered his wand.
The guard whimpered pitiably.
Harry momentarily felt sorry for the young prison guard, but he had a task to do.
"Move," Harry shoved him forwards.
They continued their trek through the winding corridors. Harry removed his cloak and tossed it aside as the heat threatened to engulf him. His skin was sticky with sweat, his hair plastered to his head. He realised then that he hadn't even noticed the transformation back to his own self, the polyjuice potion long forgotten.
After what felt like wandering the corridors for hours, Harry followed his hostage up a long flight of stone steps.
Harry's breath quickened as they made their way towards a large door with a rusty letter 'H' on it.
"H-here," the guard stuttered, looking back at Harry and pointing his finger at the door.
Harry nodded, his heart hammering inside his chest. "Is there a list of where each prisoner is?"
The guard shook his head.
Harry swallowed. "Open the door."
The guard nervously shuffled over to the door and opened it, the rusty hinges screeching.
Harry winced at the noise and strode over to look inside.
There was no noise here, just a deathly stillness. It was a cell block very much like the ones in Grace, the same formation of open space and rows of cells lining the outside walls. Yet here in Azkaban the floor was covered in filth, the cell doors rusted, cobwebs criss-crossed everywhere, there was no light, only darkness. No one cared for this place. The prisoners here did not ever leave their cells.
Harry bit his lip hard to keep from crying out. This place was truly a living nightmare.
"C-c-can I go now?"
Harry turned towards his prisoner. "Get in there," he ordered, flicking his wand towards the nearest cell door.
The guard's eyes widened. "No one will ever find me..."
"I'll make sure they do," Harry promised sincerely. "Just do as I say."
The guard walked towards the iron door and put a hand on the symbol. The door trembled slightly and then opened outwards.
"Wait!" Harry cried out. "Will the cell doors open for me?"
"Yes," he nodded. "If you use my wand then it will recognise my magic. The doors only open for registered guards."
Harry watched as the guard turned and walked into the empty cell.
"How many prisoners are in this area?" he asked.
"Thanks," Harry said simply.
The guard nodded and sat down, drawing his knees up to his chin and watching Harry warily.
Harry flicked his wand and the door slammed shut, enclosing the guard within. Harry quickly cast a spell so that the door would unlock itself after two hours.
Harry turned and took a deep breath. He slowly walked down the row of cells, noticing that there were dusty brass name plaques beside each door. He kept walking until he saw one with writing on it.
Harry couldn't decipher what the name was. He placed the tip of the guard's wand to the symbol and waited as the door opened.
Harry lifted his own wand and peered inside. The stench made his nose wrinkle and his eyes water. It was the stench of rotting flesh. A body lay in the scattered straw, wearing striped prison garb.
Harry backed out, coughing and holding a hand to his throat.
It was not Draco. It appeared to be an old man that had simply died in here. And no one had taken any notice.
Harry straightened up and looked around. There were so many cells...
"Draco!" Harry shouted into the eerie stillness. "Draco!"
He shouted and shouted until his throat felt raw. He bent over, coughing, his eyes squeezed shut.
His only answer was silence.
Harry straightened up and kept walking, waiting to pass another door with a name on it. He wondered how long he had before Voldemort came looking for him.
Harry stopped abruptly, the blood draining from his face, his pulse quickening.
There it was again. Three distinct bangs from somewhere down below him.
"Draco..." Harry breathed.
Harry bolted for the stairs in the centre of the block and almost tumbled down them in his haste. He paused again at the bottom, holding his breath as he waited for the noise.
A minute passed with nothing.
Then, bang bang bang!
Harry ran for the last few cell doors on the left side and scanned the name plaques.
'Draco Malfoy' was scripted on the third one, the lettering still fairly recent looking compared to the others.
"Draco!" Harry shouted in relief. He withdrew the guard's wand and placed it to the symbol. The door shook and began to open.
Harry's breath caught in his throat as he looked inside. There was his beloved Draco, kneeling on the floor in torn prison clothes, holding a steel cup in one hand and squinting up at him.
"Draco!" the name broke on his lips as Harry threw himself inside and onto his knees, tears already leaking from his emerald eyes.
"...Harry...?" Draco's voice was hoarse and barely above a whisper, but it was music to Harry's ears. "Is it really you..?"
"Yes." Harry nearly sobbed as he looked into those beautiful silver grey eyes and saw that his Draco was still there inside. He hadn't been broken.
Draco's eyes filled with tears as he slowly raised one hand to touch Harry's cheek, his grimy fingers stroking the soft skin with reverence.
Harry sighed and leaned into the heavenly touch, not taking his eyes off of his lover. He was afraid Draco would disappear again.
"You came..." Draco said in wonderment.
"Of course I did," Harry said quietly. "I never break a promise."
Draco slowly smiled, still amazed. "Help me up?" he asked.
Harry got to his feet and reached down to grasp the blond gently by the arms and pull him up. He was surprised by how light Draco felt. Like there was nothing to him.
Harry surveyed the Slytherin's appearance; taking in the hollowed eyes and cheeks, the filthy clothes and hair, and the bony wrists poking out from the ragged sleeves.
Draco's smile dimmed a little. "I'm sorry I'm not...I'm not like how you remember me Harry."
Harry's wandering gaze returned to Draco's face. "I've never seen anything so beautiful," he said honestly. "You have no idea how much..." he broke off and shook his head.
"Harry..." Draco wrapped his arms around his love and pulled him close.
Harry shook in his embrace as he cried. "I love you," he whispered into Draco's shoulder.
Draco tightened his grip on the precious Gryffindor.
"Ah... Mr Potter, I see you've found what you were looking for."
The two boys jumped, Harry raising his wand in alarm, and looked over to see Voldemort standing at the bottom of the stairs, an evil smile stretching the thin white lips.
"Harry, get behind me," Draco made to stand in front of Harry, his eyes narrowing at the Dark Lord.
Harry didn't move.
"Harry..." Draco trailed off as Harry lowered his wand.
"Good boy," Voldemort nodded, pleased. "Now if you'll follow me, we must be going."
"Harry...?" Draco's confusion was written all over his face.
"Come on Draco," Harry tried to smile reassuringly. "Let's get you out of here."
Draco shook his head. "I'm not going anywhere with him. What's going on?"
Harry's smile faltered. "I made a deal."
"Oh gods... what have you done Harry?" Draco's eyes widened in trepidation.
"It was the only way," Harry whispered brokenly. "It was the only way to get you back."
"You made a deal with the devil?" Draco asked, shocked to the core. "What is he getting in return?"
Harry just shook his head and slipped a hand into his. "Come on," he urged, tugging a little at the blonde's arm. "Let's just go and I'll tell you later."
Draco's eyes flicked to Voldemort's pleased expression then back to Harry. He nodded uncertainly, allowing himself to be propelled forward.
Voldemort turned to leave with the two young men slowly following behind.
Harry's breathing turned uneven as he tried to hold Draco up as they made their way back through the maze of corridors and rooms. Draco's breath was ragged and weak as he sagged more and more against Harry's body.
Draco struggled to keep upright. "I'm sorry Harry."
"Don't apologize," Harry panted. "I would do anything for you."
Draco swallowed past the lump in his throat, wondering what it was that Harry had done for him by making this deal with Voldemort.
They finally made their way outside and through the massive gates.
Voldemort stood in the middle of the circle of his Death Eaters, watching them approach. Harry noticed with a sinking heart that Voldemort's army of Death Eaters had tripled, the rescued dark wizards from Azkaban now amongst them.
"Welcome Mr Malfoy," Voldemort said silkily. "So good of you to join us. I know Harry has been anxious for your return to the real world."
Draco's chest rose and fell rapidly as he tried to regain his breath from all the exercise. His body wasn't used to such strenuous activity anymore. He was ashamed of appearing so weak in front of Voldemort and the Death Eaters.
Harry kept his arms firmly locked around the blond, surveying the group of dark wizards surrounding them.
Voldemort's smile widened. "Hand over your wand now Mr Potter."
"Don't," Draco hissed into his ear.
"No," Harry said determinedly. "Not yet. That's not the deal."
Voldemort's eyes narrowed but his smile remained fixed in place. "Alright Mr Potter, a deal is a deal. Come!"
Draco tried to stop him, but Harry moved them forward towards Voldemort's outstretched arm.
"Harry! Are you crazy?" Draco's voice cracked as he tried to shout. He vainly tried to plant his feet on the ground but it was no use, Harry was much stronger.
Harry forced himself to continue forwards until the pair was within reach of Voldemort.
Draco stared up into the Dark Lord's face, never having been so close to him before. The blond trembled and Harry squeezed him tighter.
Before Draco had a chance to protest, Harry lifted their clasped hands and placed them on Voldemort's black cloak sleeve.
The world swirled and moved around them as they apparated away from Azkaban.
Harry stumbled and fell to his knees, losing his grasp on Draco as he did so. He lifted his head and saw that they were back in the forest clearing.
He quickly looked around for the rest of his comrades, but they were nowhere to be seen. They must have all left once they awoke from the stunning spells. Hopefully they didn't go too far, Draco shouldn't be left alone...
With a heavy heart, Harry turned and helped Draco to sit up.
Draco looked pale and half-conscious. "Where are we..?" he gasped, blinking blearily around them.
"In a safe place," Harry said quietly. "Don't worry."
Draco closed his eyes, trying to clear his foggy brain. He was so tired.
"Your wand, Mr Potter?"
Harry looked up into Voldemort's snake-like face as he stood over them, hand outstretched.
Draco watched Harry incredulously as the brunette handed over his wand to the Dark Lord.
Voldemort smiled and turned away, holding the wand in triumph for his followers to see.
Draco's eyes turned stormy. "Why did you do that Harry?" he demanded. "Why did you rescue me if we're just going to die anyway?"
"You're not going to die Draco," Harry smiled softly and cupped Draco's cheek in one hand, his fingers moving from Draco's cheek through his hair and to the back of his neck.
Harry pulled Draco closer and leaned in to kiss his soft sweet lips.
Draco's eyes fluttered shut as he gave in. It was what he'd been dreaming about for so long...
Then suddenly it was ripped away. Again.
Draco cried out as Harry was grabbed from behind and pulled away. Harry struggled in the Death Eater's grasp, his eyes glued to Draco sitting prone on the ground.
Draco struggled vainly to stand but it was no use, he crumbled back down onto his hands and knees.
The raspy cry broke Harry's heart in two.
"Leave!" Voldemort ordered his Death Eaters sharply. One by one, the dark hooded figures disappeared, except for the one holding Harry.
Voldemort strode forward and touched Draco's blond hair sweetly.
Harry growled warningly in the back of his throat.
"Such a pity..." Voldemort murmured. "He would be so useful..."
Harry held his breath.
"No matter," Voldemort turned abruptly and faced Harry. "Time to go, Mr Potter."
Draco frowned. "Wait..."
"Better say your goodbyes Potter," the Dark Lord smirked and then was gone.
"Harry..." Draco paled.
"Draco..." Tears fell from Harry's emerald eyes as he looked into the blonde's face for maybe the last time. "I don't regret anything."
"Harry!" Draco cried out as Harry and his captor disappeared into the cold dark night.
Draco's chest wracked with sobs as he collapsed onto his side, left alone in the moonlight, the silence enveloping him.