Disclaimer: I do not own anything except for the books and some assorted merchandise.
A/N: This is a new one. A dark one. Centering around four guys and no girls. With only one pairing, and not too much actual romance. I actually really wanted to challenge myself after Lycanthropy seemed to come to me all too easily, so I decided to take a darker, more serious route and focus on four characters instead of two, and center around two characters that I don't really focus on a friendship aspect between Teddy and James rather than a romantic view. I have high hopes for this, though. :3.
It's not AU, by the way. I realized that this prologue could make it seem that way.
Summary: Things in the four men's lives were going more perfectly than they could ever imagine. That is, until two of them were abducted, bringing the remaining two to their knees. They immediately decide to throw away anything else in their lives to focus on finding and saving them. But how well can they possibly cope when their best friends' torture sessions are readily accessible for them to see? Scorpius/Al slash, Teddy and James centric (not a pairing).
James brushed matted brown hair from where it was casting a web-like shadow across his face out of his eyes with weak, numb-with-cold fingers. It didn't help his limited sense of sight. The cold room remained pitch black as if the heavy, malicious air that permeated his nostrils and kissed his skin was the colorless shade itself. His eyes still only processed a miniscule dot of red light as a hued blur that seemed all-too far away. He had a loose grasp of who was on the receiving end of the camera, but the familiar faces popping into his mind didn't do much to assuage the pure dismal misery lodged deep into his near-hopeless mindset.
The brave, optimistic jokester of a Gryffindor… reduced and shattered into a mockery of the person he once was. Scabbed and lacerated flesh, nerves vigilant with messages of agonizing pain from every inch of his being, and a body so frail the most movement he could inspire from it was the tiny rising and falling of his chest, claiming shallow breaths of air that stung his throat every time he gasped one into his lungs…
He moved to lie down from his crouched position on the slimy, freezing floor, but he couldn't maneuver his body even the short distance without feeling his insides clench and burn with hunger. A tortured sound rose from his throat on its own accord. Bitterly so, he was shocked that any noise was capable of moving though his dry, sandpaper throat. It wasn't as if food or drink was traveling the path, putting it to use, more than once every three days…
The Potter heard footsteps shatter the silence around him, and his entire body tensed with dread… even if they weren't coming for him, the only other possibility, one even worse, was that the victim of their torture would be his brother… he'd sacrifice himself for Albus any day, even if it meant that he was the one that would be in pain.
"Albus Severus Potter," A disgustingly oily voice reverberated off the stone walls. James felt ice trickle down his windpipe down to the very pit of his stomach.
No… no… He thought desolately, the single syllable echoing off the walls of his mind. He willed his useless body to drag itself across the grimy floor to the bars that held him prisoner.
The sound of bars clanging open was harsh and unforgiving to his ears that had heard nothing but the roaring of silence for days and days before that. He winced, his body suffering the physical ache of the motion.
Now, he strained both of his pulsing ears and his eyes to focus on the unclear outline of his little brother from where he was being pulled out of his cell. There was an eerie greenish glow glazing the room from what James knew was the doorway out of the dungeons… this made it just a bit easier, but equally unpleasant, to make out the shapes now.
There were two of them, males, both several heads taller than Albus in their hooded cloaks and light-refracting masks that disguised their faces from the camera that they'd now positioned straight on his brother.
His brother… normally-thin frame now skeletal, lively, bright green eyes now dark and flat and… dead in sunken-in, blackened sockets, face now cast with a cool light that only accented the chalky pallor showing through from underneath the wounds and dried blood and dirt.
James swallowed nervously, his tongue clicking against the roof of his mouth from lack of moisture. He leaned against the bars, his body entirely exhausted and heavy with anxiety from the two-meter expedition from one end of his cage to the opposite. He watched one of the hooded figures brandish a wand and press the sharp tip against Al's temple.
"Crucio," A low voice whispered cruelly.
James's heart stopped completely as he watched Al's face remain hard and emotionless even as he crumpled to the floor without a word, curling into a tight, trembling ball.
Two voices chorused sadistic laughter.
"Stop," James tried to shout, but it only sounded as a hoarse, nearly inaudible, whisper. "Stop!" He swallowed and licked his cracked lips, "STOP!" he was finally able to scream, his throat feeling literally as if it was being torn into shreds from within.
The Death Eater casting the Curse turned from his victim to look at the shaking-with-fear boy still in the cell.
"James Sirius Potter," The same voice said his name.
The other figure approached his cage, the moments of anticipation when nothing but light footsteps were heard nearly causing James's heart to pound right out of his chest, and wrenched open the barred door. Unmercifully as ever, he ragged the young man to his feet by his long-grown hair. James could feel blood start to drip from his scalp as fingernails dug into the skin and hairs were pulled from beneath the layer in chunks. He tried his hardest to show no outward signs of suffering as he struggled to stand on near-paralyzed legs.
"What did you say?" The first voice asked as they neared him; Albus still lay in a heap at his feet.
It took all of James's remaining strength to lift his lolling head to stare at the Death Eater defiantly in the face, "I said," he swallowed again, his voice still nearly indistinguishable because it was cracking and raw, "Stop hurting my brother."
A sinister chuckle echoed slightly from behind the mask. "How very Gryffindor of you. Crucio,"
Pain exploded from inside every nerve in his body. Suddenly, he was no longer able to stand despite the fact that the other Death Eater still had a miserably tight hold on his hair. Knees giving out, the feeling of hairs being pulled one by one from his scalp, like needles stabbing in and out of the skin, was only amplified tenfold by the curse being put upon him.
His insides felt like they were screaming… eating themselves from the inside out. He bit the skin on the inner rim of his lip to hold in the gut-wrenching screams that he knew would only cause more pain in his throat; he didn't want to give the bastards the satisfaction of knowing the anguish they were unleashing on him.
A metallic taste of blood gushed within his mouth, the warmth of the sudden outpour making him feel like he was quite close to vomiting.
One final sting streamed through his traumatized body as the curse was lifted. He could tell it was finished by the way the feeling of grating on his skin and shattering his bones like glass were missing, but the pulsating aftershock was nearly as bad as the curse itself.
Still trying to show himself up against their inhumanity, he lugged his body upwards, sitting back on his knees. He looked from one Death Eater to the other in equal abhorrence.
The red dot of light caught his eye from between them, and he stared coldly, helplessly into the lens.
"Oh, right," The man who had previously been holding onto James noticed where he was looking. He stepped over Al's ignored, frighteningly motionless body and picked up the electronic device; bringing it close to James's face and pointing it directly at him, he mockingly said, "Why don't you tell you dear Daddy something about right now… go on, tell him how much you're enjoying your little… vacation."
James stared at the hollows where the Death Eater's eyes would be through the mask, refusing to look into the lens anymore.
"Go on, Gryffindor, say something."
He remained silent.
"Say something," He punctuated his words with a powerful kick straight into James's stomach.
The younger boy's mouth instantly filled with more blood, both rushing up from the blow to the stomach—it made him double over and clutch his abdominals in agony, every one of his internal organs filling like they were being crunched—and spurting from his lip that he was sure he tore a piece from… the flow didn't stop behind his lips, however, and he spilled a mixture of blood and bile onto the shoes of the sadist in front of him.
He was too weak and terrified to lift his head that seemed to suddenly triple in weight.
"You… bastard!" The Death Eater spat, throwing the camera haphazardly back onto the stand before advancing on James again.
Aside from hoping that he wasn't getting Albus killed, James's last thought before getting beaten into unconsciousness was a plea for someone to save him.
Scorpius, not for the first time as of late, was near tears. He sat in an uncomfortably tense with other men and women he hardly took note of anymore, even though they were all working to the same goal, hands fisted in the roots of his hair and eyes glued to the small screen at the front of the room itself.
Albus Potter's face was center-screen, his eyes blank though tears streamed down his cheeks, mixing with blood that was dripping from somewhere at the top of his brittle, greasy hair and dirt that was caked onto fair skin. His cheeks were hollowed out, skin stretched taut and translucent over prominent bones. His lip was busted and swollen, skin under and around his eyes purple and yellow from repeated bruising.
The Malfoy wanted so badly to look away… but he couldn't bring himself to do it.
"Okay, little Potter, this time is yours to say whatever you please, be it insults about us or a simple hello to Daddy." A voice from behind the camera said amusedly.
Al only stared straight into the lens with eyes that tore at the edges of the ever-present hole in Scorpius's chest where his heart used to beat.
"Come on," The Death Eater teased, "There must be something you'd like to say… what about a message to Scorpius Malfoy?"
Dread stabbed through the Scorpius's stomach like a freezing knife.
"You thought you were friends, didn't you?" The man continued, toying with Al's vulnerability, "But we all know where his loyalties lay… he's one of us, just like his father. He doesn't care about you."
Al's Adams-Apple bobbed. His emotionless eyes suddenly shone with something fierce and almost frightening that Scorpius couldn't place. "Scorpius,"
The feeling in his stomach only grew more and more frigid, heavier even though a sort of light finally showed on his best friend's face.
"If you're watching," He paused, licking his lips. His voice was quiet and croaky and shaking. "I don't believe them."
Scorpius felt a wave of gratitude, one his worst fears diminished.
"And I—" New tears rolled down his face, "I miss you."
The Malfoy shut his eyes tightly and buried his head in his hands. Hot tears fell from his eyes to the desktop, emotion burning every bit of his internal and external self. Intense pity crashed and caused a great combustion with suffocating guilt in his heart and mind, rending him incapable of any movement except for the uncontrollable shaking of his figure from head to toe.
He knew that if he looked up, there would be what seemed like an entire gallery of eyes staring him down in resentment and distrust. Not even Teddy Lupin was there to take his side… He truly was alone.
A low snicker sounded from the TV.
Like a poorly oiled machine, Scorpius's head inched up, looking back at the screen.
"Now Potter, I know I said I wasn't going to punish you, but…" Another evil laugh.
Scorpius felt the ice again. No… no… no…
"Slytherins don't always hold true to their word. You should understand that by now, shouldn't you?"
Al's face, still shining from the blood, sweat, and tears coating it, was becoming increasingly petrified, the first real, raw emotions showing though his glassy green eyes.
It was all too much for Scorpius. Though he still felt powerless and rubbery, he stood from his spot on a showy sofa and nearly flew out of the room in his haste to leave before the Death Eaters got to his best friend.
He wasn't sure how, but he ended up in the bathroom of the headquarters, facing his colorless expression in the mirror. He stared into his wild eyes for just a minute before seeing that the video feed of Albus was still replaying on the surface.
Al was the most important thing in the world to him, and it made him crumble when he thought about the sickening things the Death Eaters were doing to him… He just wanted them to stop, to erase all of the images of Al's lifeless eyes and deathly-pale complexion covered in wounds…
Scorpius felt helpless; he had no control over the situation. He lowered his head, elbows resting on the edges of the sink, fists clenched so tightly that he felt warm blood dripping down his palms and into the porcelain bowl.
"Albus…" He said in a strangled whisper, "I'm so sorry…"
Guilt shook Scorpius's frame so violently that it was becoming progressively more difficult to stand. He knew what was happening to his best friend, could literally see the torture he was being forced to endure every single day… but he could do nothing to help the boy.
There was nothing Scorpius could do but sit back and watch…
Al… I'm so sorry…
Albus would have preferred the stinging roar of silence that usually flooded the room around him over the soul-rattling sobs coming from the cell next to his. His older brother James had always been the bigger, stronger son in the Potter family—the one to brush himself off and stand right up when he fell twenty feet from a broomstick even though his ankle was broken… If invincible James Sirius Potter was past his breaking point, then where exactly did that leave Albus?
The pain was ever-present; the never-ending twang of a sharp nerve-pinching sensation would have been almost monotonous had it not been so horrifyingly fresh every time it hit. It reduced the more vulnerable Al to a curled-up fetal position on the floor, his body unwilling to move.
But I want to move, he told himself. Having not heard his voice in Merlin-knows how long, the voice playing in his mind was a generic one with qualities he couldn't remember belonging to him or not.
He knew there was a chair at the front gate of his personal prison, one that portioned him perfectly in front of that mocking red dot of light, and he decided instantly that he wanted to be there.
Al stood up in a careful process: sit up, bend knees, push upwards using the wall for leverage; ignore the pain, use hand as support, pick up feet as high as possible to make the walk move more quickly. By the time he was actually at the high-backed iron chair, he was almost out of energy completely; he collapsed onto the cold metal seat, head rolling against his dirt-encrusted, barely clothed skeleton of a chest.
The light flickered against his closed eyelid—his weak heart faltered with a hope that this was a sign…
Someone was watching. He could feel it.
Head feeling much heavier than he knew was healthy, he looked into the circular lens head-on.
The tiny speck of red and the reflection of the glass sent a splitting pain through one temple to the other, causing his sensitive eyes to water from the stabbing feeling and bright light contrasting with the black surrounding.
He threw his head backwards against the high-backed hair, also a bad idea. The egg-sized bump was still recovering from one of his more recent "punishment" sessions. Al was sure he felt something crack in the back of this skull from the force. Blood ran from a now-open gash at the apex of the knot, trickling a path down his sweaty neck and in between his shoulder blades.
He forced his squeezed-shut eyes open, not daring to move his head at all again; it remained resting back on the tender spot, but the sharp pain became a dull ache soon enough. Eyes now heavily-lidded, brimming with warm tears, he looked back down at the lens.
And he continued to look… almost unblinking, face barren of any expression, mind free of thought, he just… looked.
If he allowed himself enough delusion, the younger Potter could swear that he saw Scorpius's Malfoy's face looking back at him from inside the lens.
It was amazing to Al that he could hardly remember the sound of his own voice, but every minute detail of Scorpius's face was almost lifelike from behind the glass barrier.
In the midst of everything, he wondered, was it wrong to rank seeing his best friend just under escaping in his list of desires?
A different type of pain than he was used to receiving now shot through Al… this one straight into his heart.
He opened his mouth to speak to his best friend… he didn't know what there was to say, what would matter, what would hold enough meaning to the people watching without giving any observing Death Eaters the impression of fading strength…
He realized that there was absolutely nothing to say.
Feeling hopeless, he closed his chapped lips over dirty teeth and continued to do nothing but gaze straight into the camera and hope… hope that there was someone watching… hope that James's sobs would quiet… hope that someone was going to save them.
Teddy could do nothing but sit still and lethargic under his covers, could feel nothing but intense loathing for himself.
How long had it been? He didn't even want to remember.
What had he done to help? Absolutely nothing in his eyes.
The heavy blanket on top of his mirrored the guilt he felt encasing his body. There he was, warm and comfortable in a bed while his best friend was being slowly, painfully killed… he had every accommodation and sense of physical calm in the world… James had nothing.
The Lupin felt like screaming and spitting and crying and killing all at once. Why did James have to be taken? James, young and bright and full of spirit with his whole life ahead of him…
Not to mention Albus, the boy who Teddy had always seen as a little brother figure… small, fragile Al with the eyes that told a hundred stories about thousands of emotions… so helpless and defeated.
He could only imagine how Scorpius Malfoy felt… Teddy figured it was quite similar to the anguish that shook his bones and twisted his nerves into breathtakingly painful knots every time the face of his most important person showed up on the tell-tale screen, bruised and battered and broken.
Teddy trembled, the feeling of self-hate returning tenfold as he remembered just how easily it all could have been avoided…
Everything about him suddenly just felt… dirty. Jaded. A terrifyingly unfamiliar sensation of claustrophobia swept over him. His breath choked. He couldn't breathe… he couldn't breathe.
He threw his blanket and sheets off his body, cold air scrawling over his modestly-covered figure. Beats of his heart felt shallow and erratic… his limbs went completely numb.
Images replayed in his mind like a mockingly contradictory montage highlighting the best and worst moments he had of James Potter… winning the Quidditch Cup in only First Year, getting beaten to a pulp in front of his brother, his best friend, and his father's eyes.
His chest tightened, and he was beginning to panic even more to the point when he could consciously realize he was panicking. None of his deep gasps of chilly air went further down than choking at the base of his throat.
Stop it, he told himself. The command didn't do much, only going as far as to add quick memories of emotions to the pictures splayed in his mind.
The pride as James was sorted into Gryffindor, annoyance when he ruined a flawlessly-planned prank, amusement as he showed off for the same Fourth Year he fancied, disappointment as he himself had to graduate, leaving his best friend to fend for himself for six more years, loyalty when he opened his handmade birthday card from his new desk in the Auror Office, pride again when James finally graduated, excitement as he realized they had all the time in the world, panic when he couldn't find him, and after that, only black jumbles of every negative emotion conceivable. Terror. Hate. Wrath.
The Lupin bolted upright in a cold sweat. This rattled his brain slightly; the anxiety dispersed, some of it hiding away for later.
Hiding his head in his hands, he gulped in the first full breath of air he could manage for minutes straight. He couldn't lose his composure, he told himself. He was one of the heads of the rescue effort… no amount of self-administered abhorrence or misery could close his mind from the objective.
No amount of anything could measure up to the torture James was put through daily.
Teddy knew he wouldn't be sleeping at all that night by the way the sun was just beginning to color the sky fuchsia. Regardless, he laid back, trying his best to recall anything that might be able to help him… none of the research he was putting in seemed to help their search along at all… the desperation rose up into his throat once again…
He heard one of the team walk through the doorway of his temporary home: the headquarters. Though his thought process got off track for just a moment, the depression still smothered his body and he quickly found his way back to business.
Even beneath all of his objective, clinically detective thinking, Teddy couldn't stop an uncharacteristic tear from rolling across the bridge of his nose onto the bed.
I'll find them James… I'll get you out of there…
A/N: It was so hard to write this without giving away too much about the actual events of the story…
Oh, and future chapters will be following one person in particular (the title of the chapter will explain who) instead of all four.
Anyway, I'd appreciate feedback in the form of a REVIEW, a Story Alert, or even a Favorite Story. Thank you for reading, and to any returning readers of my stories, welcome back! :D
Updates will be coming every Friday :3