A/N: This is a response to the challenge 'Buried Alive' on Potions&Snitches. It's in three parts and will be uploaded in full by the end of the week, so you won't have to wait crazily long for updates :) Hope it's enjoyable. Slightly OOC-Snape, though I suppose it depends on how changeable you think he is. Either way, I hope it's enjoyable.
The telephone had been ringing all day. Uncle Vernon was frantic. Aunt Marge was sick, that muchHarry had worked out without getting under his uncle's feet. The whole household was tense, though Harry's tension was more out of worry that he would eventually be on the receiving end of his uncle's mood.
Early that morning, Harry had been given his list of chores and told, more or less, to get on with it and stay out of the way. Everything was normal then. Harry knew to stay quiet, he knew to be quick, he knew to be efficient, and most of all, he knew to keep out of his uncle's way. Yes, a run-in with Aunt Petunia would often leave him with a sore head, but that was always better than no food and a few swings of a heavy, flying fist.
The phone calls started coming at midday. Harry stayed in the kitchen, scrubbing at the cooker tops, but stopped his vigorous scrubbing when he heard his uncle's strained voice.
"She's where? Well what's wrong with her? You can't – I'm her bloody brother, for goodness sake!"
Must be Aunt Marge, Harry thought and he knew it was something bad because Vernon's voice sounded anxious.
"A what? Well is she – yes, yes of course." His uncle put the phone down and Harry quickly returned to his scrubbing. He heard the loud footsteps coming towards the kitchen and tensed his shoulders, but resolutely kept his head down and his hands moving.
Standing next to Harry at the sink, Vernon took a glass from the draining board and shoved it under the tap. As he drew the glass of water to his lips, Harry could see his uncle's hand trembling from the corner of his eye. He was pale too. In that small moment, his uncle seemed more human than Harry had ever seen.
Oh Merlin, Harry thought as his gaze was suddenly stolen by Vernon's cold eyes. He stopped mid-scrub. The silence was deafening. Everything in Harry's mind told him to look away and pretend he hadn't been caught, but whether it was fear, or hope, or some other kind of twisted emotion holding him, he couldn't move.
"What, boy?" Uncle Vernon said, voice clipped.
Harry gulped, his eyes wide, and just shook his head as if to say nothing.
"You did this, didn't you?" his uncle said, but even he didn't sound convinced of his own words. Harry stayed silent. What did I do? Harry's mind raced. He was in unknown territory. Usually his uncle was so sure of himself, but after that phone call, he seemed almost scared. "You. It's always you." Uncle Vernon's voice quaked, and he looked away for a moment, freeing Harry from his intimidating gaze. "You left some of your freakiness on her that day, boy!" The glass in Vernon's hand was swiftly thrown down into the sink, smashing into pieces.
Harry flinched and quickly stood up straight. His heart pounded silently in his chest and every morsel of his attention was focused on his uncle's limbs, in fear that one would suddenly strike out at him. No, he couldn't prevent it, but at least he could shield himself.
"She's sick and it's all your fault!" Uncle Vernon's voice grew louder and his face grew redder. "You and that bloody school of yours!" One of Vernon's hands jutted out, looking as though to grab Harry's t-shirt, but the shrill ringing of the phone broke through his anger. Without even a moment's thought, he thudded out of the room to answer the call. Harry quickly wiped away as much dirt from the cooker as he could before packing everything away and shutting himself away in his room.
The phone calls kept coming. Harry pressed his ear up to his bedroom door as friends and neighbours of Aunt Marge, one after the other, seemed to call either to tell his uncle of his sister's sickness, or to ask about it. In between phone calls, Vernon's footsteps could be heard padding up and down in the hallway downstairs.
Dudley and Aunt Petunia had been out shopping all day, and though his uncle had tried to call them several times, Harry assumed he hadn't got through and was simply waiting for them to get home. It was three o'clock by the time Dudley came bounding through the door with bags of shopping attached to both arms.
"Take them upstairs, Duddikins!" Harry heard Aunt Petunia shout.
"Petunia, where have you been? I've been trying to get through to you for hours!"
"You knew we were going shopping, Vernon – Vernon? What's wrong?"
"Marge is sick, Pet. They haven't told me what's wrong, only that she's very unwell. I've thrown some clothes into a suitcase for us just in case –"
"Vernon, we can't leave! You know what those people said about the boy! The protection!"
"Forget the boy! Marge needs us," Vernon growled before barking a quick, "Dudley, bring your Gameboy downstairs and get your shoes on!"
Harry, realising that they were planning to leave without him, opened his bedroom door, but was quickly pushed back inside by Dudley, who then proceeded to whine, "But I'm tired! We've just got home!"
"Your Aunt Marge is sick, Duddikins," Petunia said sweetly, "we'll be going away for a bit."
Harry picked up his glasses from the floor and held onto his bed to regain his balance again. As Dudley flew by his bedroom door again, Gameboy in hand, Harry followed him down the stairs. Aunt Petunia was busying herself by closing the downstairs curtains and locking all the windows and the back door. Uncle Vernon was pulling his coat over his huge shoulders as he caught sight of Harry.
"Uncle Vernon?" Harry said cautiously.
"You have some nerve coming down here!"
Harry took a step back, but strived to keep his voice confident. "You can't leave without me. What about the wards?" Harry said and cringed at the nervousness his voice carried.
Vernon ignored him, handing the suitcase to Dudley.
"Aunt Petunia?" Harry pleaded, his voice wavering with worry.
For a second, Harry thought her expression looked almost apologetic, but she quickly schooled her features. Harry was sure she was about to say something, but Vernon interjected before she had the chance. "Petunia, take Dudley to the car. I'll be out in a minute."
She eyed him warily, but did as he said, offering Harry nothing more than a quick glance as she passed him.
At the sound of cars doors closing, Vernon took a menacing step closer to Harry. Leaning down, he pointed a shaky finger in Harry's face. "You listen to me, boy. You did this. You know you did. Now, you put her back to normal!"
"U-Uncle Vernon, I didn't! It wasn't me, I swear –"
The sharp sound of a slap rang through the air before Harry felt the stinging pain spread through his cheek.
"Don't you give me that, you little whelp! She's not been right since that day, I just know it."
"That was an accident. I never meant to...it's been almost three years, it can't be me, can't you see?"
For a moment, Vernon's face looked pained. Harry saw the lines appear in his forehead and realised just how worried his uncle must have been. In true Potter fashion, despite everything, Harry tried reaching out. "I know you're worried about her. She's your sister. She's family. Just...please, Uncle Vernon, if you leave, they'll –"
Without warning, the back of Vernon's hand collided with Harry's face, knocking him to the floor. Droplets of blood began dripping from Harry's nose. Glasses askew, he looked up fearfully at his uncle, but the expression on Vernon's face caught him off-guard. Swirling in his eyes was pain, upset, concern...but Harry was sure he saw a glimmer of remorse. In that instant, in spite of what had just transpired, he felt a small amount of sympathy for the man.
"Get upstairs, boy." When Harry made no move to get up, a large hand shot out, grasping the shoulder of his shirt. Harry protested as Vernon gripped him under the arms and began hauling him up the stairs. Harry kicked out but Vernon seemed unaffected. "You bring this on yourself! Could have just done what I said, boy!" Near the top of the stairs, Harry tried to grab the banister, but Vernon wrenched his hand away. "Could have gone of your own accord!" Vernon heaved Harry's body up the final step. "But you always have to be," he all but threw Harry into his room, "difficult!" Harry tried to get up straight away, but Vernon held up a warning fist. Quickly, Vernon retreated to the door and pulled a set of keys from his pocket. Harry knew he was about to be locked in. As if in slow motion, the door was pulled closed, slowly taking with it the light from the landing. The last thing he saw before the door closed was the peculiar look on Vernon's face. The man had hesitated.
All Harry could think was, my wand. Down in the cupboard under the stairs, his wand lay atop his trunk. The sound of the front door closing sent a haunting chill down Harry's spine. It's only a matter of time, he thought. The wards would fail soon. He just hoped to Merlin that the Order would reach him before the Death Eaters did.
Within seconds Harry realised how fruitless it was to keep trying the door. Without his wand, he wasn't physically strong by any means. The door would barely budge when he tried to barge it down. He had no clock in his room; his Aunt would usually signal the time by calling for him to make breakfast. The sun was fast going down and all Harry could do was alternate between sitting tensely on his bed and looking agitatedly out of his bedroom window. Being locked in his room wasn't nearly as terrible as being locked in his cupboard, so it could have been worse – he was thankful to his uncle for that much at least – but the eerie silence of an empty house made him feel more isolated than usual. Worst of all, however, was the anxiety. He knew something had to happen now the Dursleys were gone, but he couldn't stand the waiting.
As he sat rigid on his bed, Harry's stomach growled loudly, reminding him that he hadn't eaten since the slice of toast he had at breakfast.
No food. No water. No wand. Nothing to protect me. Harry's thoughts fired like rogue bludgers through his head. No need for protection if I've nothing to keep me alive though...He scoffed resignedly to himself, finding it almost difficult to believe the situation he's suddenly ended up in. Once again, trouble had found him, rather than the other way around. I'd love to see Snape pin this one on me,he thought angrily. He scrunched up his nose, feeling the dried blood flake away.
The next hour was uneventful. Harry looked through his photo album, imagining himself in the pictures with his mum and dad. As the sun dropped below the horizon, Harry hoped that Hedwig would visit, but he doubted she would as he'd only sent her to the Burrow yesterday. With nothing else to do, Harry stretched himself out on his rickety old bed and lay there, keeping his ears open for anything unusual. His room was lit only now by the dim streetlamp outside his window. Within minutes, Harry's eyes had fluttered closed and the silence was broken by his quiet snores.
He'd dreamt about Sirius, but not a nightmare. No, this was worse because it was a happy dream. It made Harry sad to be waking up. On the bad days it made Harry sad to be alive.
At first Harry didn't know what woke him. He just knew he was awake and that it wasn't Aunt Petunia like it normally was. Dread filled him as he abruptly sat up, waiting for his eyes to adjust to the darkness. His breath hitched. There it was. The familiar crack of apparition.
There were no voices at first so he didn't know whether to be relieved or scared for his life. He was trapped, but only now did the full danger of the situation drop down on him like a tonne of bricks. He couldn't get out, but other people – other wizards – could get in. So he did the only thing he could. He hid. Pulling up the loose floorboard, he grabbed for his invisibility cloak and draped it around himself. As he squirmed his way under the bed and squashed his body against the back wall, he hoped he might blend into the darkness just enough.
Lying as still as he could, he heard the front door creak open.
"There's no lights on. Told you 'e wouldn't be 'ome. They'd never let the wards fall if he were 'ere." You don't know the Dursleys. Harry didn't recognise the voice. It was gravelly, definitely not filled with kindness.
"What, cared of him or something, Gable? Just look, will you! Little toe-rag could be waiting to pounce on us." Harry tensed. Definitely not the Order then, he thought, subconsciously edging further back under the bed.
"Quiet you two!" hissed someone else. His voice was more familiar. "Do not forget the Dark Lord's orders. If Potter is not here, find out where he's been taken. Then we...dispose...of this dingy little house and make sure they cannot come back." Harry cringed. Lucius Malfoy. He'd recognise that stilted tone anywhere. "They cannot ward what doesn't exist."
The voices kept fading in and out as they searched each room downstairs. His heart pounded deeply in his chest as Lucius Malfoy's voice carried up the stairs. "Dolohov, check the garden. Gable, check upstairs."
As soft feet padded up each step, Harry prayed for divine intervention!
Come on Mrs Figg. Alert the Order. Do something. Please!
Gable, Harry could hear, was muttering to himself as he ascended the stairs. "Bleedin' Malfoy. Do it yourself you pompous –" He stopped. A small blue-ish light glowed through the gap at the bottom of Harry's bedroom door. Wand light. "Look at this then." Harry heard the Death Eater fiddling with one of the chain locks on his door. "Hidin' something, I bet." Harry wondered briefly why the man didn't just unlock the door himself. Maybe Dolohov was right, Gable was scared of him. "Up 'ere, Malfoy!" Suddenly, more feet were bounding up the stairs and Harry thought he might be sick with the worry of it all.
But before they reached his room, Harry heard several more cracks of people apparating, some louder than others. He heard a commotion by the stairs and Gable quickly shout back in panic, "It's Dumbledore! He's brought a small army with 'im it looks like!"
Harry's heart leapt. They came. They came to save him!
The Death Eaters ran down the stairs and saw a number of wizards approaching the front drive.
"Destroy the house," Malfoy commanded aiming his wand into the kitchen.
"This'll keep 'em occupied!" Gable sniggered to himself. "Incendio!" Gable's spell was echoed by Malfoy and Dolohov.
The blaze didn't take long to spread. When the heat got too much, Dolohov and Gable disapparated, but in one last taunting action, Malfoy threw the living room curtains open, revealing himself to the aurors and Order members outside. He sneered in the face of Dumbledore. As the fire behind him caused ornaments to shatter violently, he quickly disapparated in a cloud of black smoke.
"It's on fire!" someone shouted outside, but Harry was too distracted by the wisps of grey smoke snaking under his bedroom door. The fire was, so far, contained to downstairs, that much he knew because he couldn't see yet see a fiery orange glow, but he was still trapped. Harry didn't know what to do. He couldn't get out, even if he wanted to. The Dursleys had redone the bars on his window and he couldn't do wandless spells yet. He hoped that his accidental magic might kick in, but it hadn't helped him in years, not since he blew up Aunt Marge.
Aunt Marge. For a moment, Harry found himself worried about his relatives, worried the Death Eaters would find them next. He needed to get out. Needed to make sure they were safe. He needed to tell someone to watch out for them.
Climbing out of his cloak, Harry moved to shimmy himself out from under his bed, but began coughing because of the smoke. The grey wisps were now black plumes, rolling like waves through every crack in his door and rising to the ceiling.
All of a sudden, Harry heard the frantic voice of Remus Lupin. "Harry! Harry, Cub!" Lupin shouted from outside. The telltale crackling sound of burning was getting louder. A tremendous heat seemed to be filling the room. Harry was sure he could feel it through the floor, prickling the hairs on his torso. Somewhere in the midst of everything, he could hear shouts of aguamenti, some in voices he recognised, others not. The sound of sloshing water was somewhat reassuring.
Not a moment later, Lupin's voice carried up the stairs and Harry knew he was in the house. "Harry! Cub, where are you?" Harry kept to the floor, trying not to breathe in the smoke, but it wasn't working. The smoke made him nauseous and the floor was so damn hot! He was wheezing now every time he took a breath.
"Potter!" Was that...? No, it couldn't be.
"Harry!" Lupin shouted, but his voice was hoarse this time.
"Remus!" Harry tried to call back, but all that came out was a harsh whisper.
"Aguamenti!" he heard Lupin shout from downstairs and for a moment Harry's worry for himself was replaced with worry for the people risking their own lives to save him.
Not knowing what else to do, Harry tried to wave away the smoke and squirmed the rest of the way out from under the bed. Staggering towards the door, floorboards creaking ominously underfoot, he beat his fist on it, trying to be as loud as he possibly could. Within moments, he was heard.
"Lupin!" that deep, familiar voice bellowed. It is him! Snape! Harry would know that deep baritone anywhere. "He's upstairs!"
Harry stepped back, a fleeting feeling of hope catching him before it subsided into his body trying to cough out all the smoke it had inhaled. The footfalls got louder as two sets of feet scrambled up the stairs.
"Harry!" Lupin called and, for a moment, at the sound of his voice so very close, Harry forgot himself, taking an eager step forward. Snape and Lupin barely had time to register all the locks on the door before the house groaned loudly and a sudden crash resounded throughout the building.
Despite the worst of the fire being extinguished, the house seemed to rock unsteadily. The sound of walls coming down around them rang in their ears and the only thing Snape and Lupin could do was take cover in the peculiar little cupboard under the stairs. Snape hoped that the old theory would hold true, that the safest place to hide is always under the stairs.
Even when it seemed the house had calmed, something new seemed to come down and rattle its foundations again. All they could do was sit and wait it out in the hope that Harry was alright.
Snape whispered a quick Anapneo to clear his and Lupin's breathing, and mentally kicking himself for not thinking right under pressure, he told Lupin to cast abubble-head charm over himself until the smoke cleared, and promptly did the same to himself.
"Lumos," they both incanted in unison.
When the house appeared to have settled, they could hear the booming voice of Dumbledore calling their names. Cautiously opening the cupboard door, Snape cast his patronus with a message to tell Dumbledore they were fine. The last thing he wanted to do was to shout when the house was in such a precarious state. Once out of the cupboard, Snape took in his surroundings. It was a mess. If it wasn't burnt, it was covered in dust or crumbled to the floor. The stairs, he noted, however, were fully intact. He stalked carefully to the stairs, but quickly noticed Lupin wasn't following. He was about to call out to him, but Lupin looked preoccupied, an expression of confusion on his face. Walking back to him, Snape spied what he was looking at. Lupin's fingers felt over the words carved into the inside of the door. Harry's Room.Snape was just as confused as Lupin, but that was not their priority.
"Come, Lupin, we must find Potter," Snape said quietly.
One minute, Harry's feet were firmly on the ground, the next he was falling gracelessly and the sound was deafening. He hit the ground with an almighty thump. He gasped for breath and tried to breathe through the remaining smoke and the dust raining down on him. Around him he could hear bursts of things collapsing, of glass breaking and the faint sound of voices outside, otherwise drowned out by the din.
He tried to sit up, feeling disoriented and fuzzy, but a bout of coughing sent him back to the floor. When the coughs subsided, he tried to catch his breath again, listening to the comforting voices of people outside. Though his glasses were cracked and misshapen, he looked up to the hole above him. He could see his bedroom ceiling, and it finally dawned on him that the floor must have collapsed through to the kitchen, taking him along with it.
The panic really set in, however, when, even through his smashed up glasses, he spied a dark crack way above him on the ceiling of what used to be his bedroom. Fairly sure it wasn't his eyes playing tricks, he was certain the crack was getting bigger. Flakes of paint floated like snow down onto his face. He could hear the crack worsening, even through the cacophony of other sounds around him. Frozen in fear, Harry could only watch as the crack extended across the entire width of the ceiling. Smaller cracks began spidering out of it. All of a sudden, he heard a tremendous snap and immediately turned to pull himself out of the way, but he was too slow.
His own wheezing breath was the last thing he heard before the ceiling buckled under its own weight, crashing down on top of him.
"Harry," Lupin said, his voice hushed. Lupin followed Snape to the stairs, but Snape stopped, holding his hand out to Lupin as if to quieten him. This time Lupin heard it too. A cough. Only faint, but it was there.
"This way," Snape said, sweeping passed Lupin and heading for the kitchen. There was so much rubble. The dust was settling, but the room was still clouded. One wall of the kitchen had also collapsed, revealing the back garden, or at least what could be seen of it through the dust. The rest of the kitchen that wasn't rubble was a charred black and brown mess. His heart dropped when he looked up and it hit him that the ceiling had fallen through. Glancing quickly to Lupin, who was now by his side, he realised he felt inside the amount of dread Lupin was displaying on his face. Both daren't move for the rubble.
"Potter," Snape clipped, keeping the volume down. "Potter, are you in here?" It was the tiniest groan, but Snape heard it. In that moment, all reason and rationale left the two men and both frantically headed towards the sound. From the corner of his eye, Snape saw them. Harry's fingers were the only part of him visible. The only part of him not buried beneath the rubble.
Merlin. Snape's eyes grew wide.
"Harry," Lupin said breathily. Lunging forward, he made to start digging through the rocks, but Snape's firm hand on his shoulder pulled him back. "Severus, please! Help me get him out!"
"Lupin, listen to me! Go to the headmaster and tell him we need healers and trained rescuers." Lupin went to speak again, but Snape cut him off. "Trainedrescuer's Lupin, they will get him out unharmed. Now go! We need strengthening charms cast over the house before we can even think about moving anything."
"Stay with him, Severus." Lupin's eyes pleaded more than his voice gave away.
"Lupin. Go." Snape's tone left no room for argument.
Lupin darted from the room and Snape could hear him calling out for Dumbledore before he'd even left the house. Eyes moving back to Harry's dusty fingers protruding from the wreckage, Snape bent down onto his knees, leaned in and called Harry's name. "Potter, it's OK, we've found you, but I need you to listen to me. I need to you make a sound, anything you can." Snape listened intently, but heard nothing. His mouth became dry and his heart involuntarily sped up. "Potter, if you can hear me, I need a sign." Anything, Snape thought anxiously, anything at all. And then it happened. The boy's fingers flexed, albeit feebly, but they moved. Snape stared down at them as they curled slightly and then extended as though Harry was reaching out to him. "That's it, Potter. Help is coming," Snape reassured, finding that it was difficult to hold any animosity for somebody in such a dire state. Seeing the boy trapped, buried alive...Snape couldn't help the twinges of concern that tugged on his insides. Not to mention the mystery behind the reason the wards were down in the first place. He had noticed so many things out of place, peculiar, wrong, since stepping foot in the house. Whatever it was, Harry was in the middle of it..., Snape moved to take the boy's fingers in his hand when Lupin tumbled back into the room, followed by a small team of wizards and Dumbledore himself.
Snape shrank back, but felt momentarily ashamed that he was too proud to offer the boy that small comfort. Rising to stand, he allowed Lupin to crouch where he was kneeling, watching with a frown as Lupin hesitantly took hold of Harry's fingers and the boy gripped them weakly. The relief on Lupin's face as he whispered words of reassurance was echoed deep inside Snape as he released a heavy breath.
"Severus, my boy." Snape turned and found himself staring into Dumbledore's sorrowful face. Dumbledore's gaze, however, had shifted now to the scene between Lupin and who he could only assume was Harry. Snape cleared his throat, successfully recapturing Dumbledore's attention. The headmaster's voice was small, deep. "The aurors have cast disillusionment charms for now. A few of Harry's muggle neighbours had to be obliviated, but otherwise, they should know nothing. The rescuers are casting strengthening charms as we speak, but the house appears to be stable."
"What of the healers?" Snape asked, trying to keep the impatience from his voice.
"The rescue team are all trained healers, Severus." Dumbledore signalled to the three men assessing the rubble and busying themselves by lighting the room. One was crouched by Lupin telling him to keep Harry awake if he could. "They have to dig Harry out the muggle way. Healer Thompson says there are too many cases of magic exacerbating injuries in cases like this to risk using their wands for anything but healing." At Snape's incredulous look, Dumbledore continued, "They don't know the extent of Harry's injuries, Severus. One wrong move, one stray spell, and they could damage him beyond repair. Healer Thompson is a distant member of the order; he knows everything we know. He will do his best for Harry. I trust him."
I should hope you do,Snape thought. He nodded before resolutely looking Dumbledore in the eyes. "Tell him I will help. Whatever he needs."
The rescuers were sweating. Hands covered in ash and dust, they moved the broken plaster and brick bit by bit. Lupin had barely moved, still speaking into the wreck and holding Harry's hand like it would fall apart if he let go.
Snape's outer robes had long since been strewn to the side, his sleeves carelessly scrunched up to the elbows. Healer Thompson's only advice was to tread carefully.
Staying close to Lupin, Snape worked strategically, digging outwards from Harry's fingers. Harry's bare forearm was soon uncovered, bruises and bloody scratches marring the skin. Snape and the other rescuers worked relentlessly, and as Snape removed one particularly large block of brickwork, Lupin's eyes flashed.
"Harry!" Lupin's fingers tightened around Harry's hand. Snape quickly removed the smaller pieces of rubble, throwing them unceremoniously behind him, a lump forming in his throat as he uncovered the boy's head and neck. The blood dripping from Harry's nose was disconcerting, as was the blood matted in his hair. Harry's left cheek was pressed to the ground, his face looking out of the rubble towards Snape. His glasses were twisted and smashed, laying a couple of inches from his face, covered in broken brick. One of the boy's eyes was already sporting a black bruise.
"Harry, come on." Lupin sat forward. "It's me, it's Remus. Can you look at me?" Harry's eyes, however, remained closed, though the weak grip on Lupin's hand still remained.
Crouching down to Lupin's level, Snape put on his best stern voice and called out, "Potter! Potter open your eyes!" Seconds later, there was a twitch in Harry's face. His eyes fluttered. "That's it, Potter. Open them." A weak groan escaped Harry's lips. Slowly but surely his eyelids parted and Harry looked blearily through the slits. Capturing the wide gazes of Snape and Lupin, Harry sucked in a breath and tried to open his eyes wider too, but instantly regretted it, pain surging through him. Squeezing his eyes closed, a distressing noise escaped his throat.
"Harry, Cub, calm down," Lupin said in hushed tones.
"Open your eyes, Potter. We need to keep you awake, OK?"
Harry's eyes opened again brimmed with hot tears.
"Lupin, you need to keep him awake. Keep talking to him. Keep him responding," Snape ordered. "Thompson," he called out, quickly climbing to his feet. Healer Thompson looked harassed. The other rescuers were digging through the rubble around him. As Thompson, stared up from the other side of the room, Snape noticed he had some gauze in his hand and was pressing it to the side of one of Harry's half-uncovered legs. Rounding the rubble, Snape strode over to him, eyes widening at the mess that was Harry's lower leg. He tried his best to look unaffected, but he could almost feel the paleness of his own face. "It's Potter," he said, clearing his throat. "He is awake. He has movement in the fingers of his right arm and he seems to be responding when I talk to him. He has a head wound –"
"How bad?" Thompson said strongly whilst picking up his wand and whispering incantations under his breath. After every tergeo left his lips, the blood would disappear, but reappear within moments. Snape watched. Harry's blood was soaking through the gauze again.
"Not nearly as bad as..." Snape said distractedly. He didn't finish what he was saying. Shaking his head, he said, "I can heal it. I am trained."
"He needs to see people familiar to him, Mr Snape. Keep him awake. If he becomes unconscious, tell me right away. Heal him as best you can and get him talking. Try not to touch anything that would be better healed at St Mungos. We can take the rest from here," he said signalling to Harry's lower body, "you just make sure he stays with us."
Snape nodded curtly. When he got back to Lupin, Harry was talking. His words were pained and raspy and he only spoke to answer Lupin's questions, but he was awake, conscious, and that's all that mattered. As he knelt down, Lupin looked to him expectantly. "We keep him awake and alert Thompson if he stops responding," he said succinctly. Resting his gaze on Harry, Snape stretched a hand over to the wound on the boy's head. "Potter, does this hurt?" He pressed around the wound and Harry grunted, hissing a soft yes between his teeth.
Harry eyed Snape warily as he pulled out his wand and steadied himself. Catching the boy's gaze, Snape could see the distrust even through Harry's pain. "I am going to heal the wound on your head, Potter." Snape thought it best to be direct and truthful. "It may hurt at first, but I will be done within a matter of moments. Lupin will be here all the way." Lupin and Snape exchanged glances, and when Lupin saw that Harry was looking to him for confirmation, he tilted his head to the side, offering Harry a smile and a nod.
"Professor Snape will make it better, Cub. Just keep your eyes open and on me, OK?"
Thankfully the bleeding was slow. Snape conjured a cloth and cast a disinfectant charm on it. Harry hissed as the wound was cleaned and dressed.
"Anapneo," Snape incanted to clear Harry's airways of smoke from the fire. "Episkey," he said finally and the droplets of blood from Harry's nose stopped falling. "You will likely have a headache, though I suppose that is the least of your pain at the present moment," he muttered.
"S-sir," Harry said through a tired and pained expression. "Th-thank you, Sir."
Snape said nothing back, instead deciding to lean across and knock some more of the rubble away from Harry's body.
Lupin kept Harry talking, asking him trivial things about his friends and quidditch. The rescuers were making good progress, though Snape was doing his best to stay calm and ignore the amount of blood surrounding Healer Thompson.
Eventually, most of Harry's back was uncovered, as were his arms and one of his legs. A bone in Harry's left arm was shattered, but Snape decided, under Healer Thompson's order, that it would be better healed with a large dose of painkillers, Skelegrow and somebody more adept at the episkokaley spell. Harry tried to move once, but once was enough. The pain was intense and Lupin squeezed his hand. "No, no, Harry. Stay still. Stay still." The only things left to dig out were Harry's lower back and the rest of the leg that Healer Thompson was frantically working on. As one of the rescuers removed some rubble from the top of Harry's mangled leg, however, Harry's eyes screwed together and a loud sobbing whimper escaped his lips. Lupin held onto Harry for dear life.
"What's wrong? Where's the pain?" he asked with concern.
"Make...stop," Harry forced out. "Make it stop." Harry seemed to try and bury his head into the ground to hide his suffering.
"Guys, stop! Don't touch anything!" Healer Thompson shouted and the rescuers stepped away from the rubble.
"Thompson?" Snape said questioningly.
"There's too much blood. Don't move anything else, not from his leg."
"He's in pain," Snape found himself saying as if looking for an answer – looking for a cure.
"A spinal block. Mr Snape, are you familiar with the spell?"
He'd had to administer spinal blocks to many a Death Eater under orders of the Dark Lord. When one of his more faithful servants came back from a task injured, he would take pity on them and allow Snape to administer the spinal block to numb them while they were healed. Snape wagered he could do it in those circumstances with his eyes closed, but an inaccurate spell at this stage for Harry could cost them the war. It could cost the boy his life. Snape's usual air of confidence faltered with the weight of it all. This was Lily's child. Just a boy. He was hurting. Lily's child was hurting. Had he failed her?
"Mr Snape?" Healer Thompson said urgently breaking Snape from his reverie.
He nodded back numbly. Lily's child was hurting, but he had the means to take the pain away. Sucking in a breath, Snape steeled himself before sinking back down to face Harry and Lupin. Lupin looked to Snape with eyes full of fear.
"Don't look so worried, Lupin. I've done this before," Snape said, trying to sound as sure of himself as he could. Harry's face was twisted as he fought waves of nausea. "Potter." Harry shook his head weakly and moaned into the ground. In a move that shocked himself, Harry, and Lupin, Snape rested a hand gently on Harry's shoulder. "Look at me." His voice was softer this time – still deep, but less frantic than the voices that seemed to be surrounding the boy. "Potter, trust me."
Harry shifted until he could look Snape in the eye. All he saw was sincerity. This time he didn't look to Lupin for assurance.
"Try not to move," Snape said, holding the boy's gaze. "There will be a pinch and then it should fade. I cannot stress the importance of holding still." When it looked as though Harry had got the message, Snape stood up and gave Healer Thompson one final nod before tearing the back of Harry's t-shirt open, doing his utmost to ignore the bruising and bloodied cuts, and kneeling over the boy's body, moving his fingers gingerly down Harry's vertebrae. Reaching the right spot, he held his wand above it, keeping his hand steady. Enunciating every letter, he cast the spell.
"Siste Morsus." The words, though muffled in his ears, cut through the haze of his pain. Laying there as still as he could, he couldn't help the sound wrenched from his mouth as he felt the 'pinch' that Snape was talking about. He bit down on his lip and Lupin must have noticed because he squeezed Harry's hand harder, cupping it with his other hand. When he noticed the effect of the spell, it was bizarre. One minute the pinching pain was there, the next it was replaced with a strange warmth that spread down his body. Then there was nothing. He could feel himself breathing, and he noticed more than he'd noticed before that his head was throbbing – just like Snape told me it would, he thought – but everything else had gone. It was numbness like he'd never felt before. The pain elsewhere was still prominent, so much so that he daren't move a muscle, but it was less intense. He allowed himself a strained sigh, closing his eyes for a moment.
"No, no, Cub! Keep them open."
His eyes fluttered open again at Lupin's voice. They hurt, Harry thought, I just want to close them. A minute or two...that's all...
"Potter, open your eyes." Startled, Harry's eyes shot open to see Snape crouching close to him. "You need to stay with us." Snape got to his feet and leant over Harry's body. "Do you feel that?"
Harry frowned in confusion. Feel what? he thought, though it quickly became apparent he'd said it out loud.
"What about this, Potter?"
Harry went to shake his head, but hissed in pain.
"Words, Potter. It'll help keep you awake."
"I don't feel anything." His words came out rough, sounding muffled in his ears.
"That's what we were hoping for," Snape mumbled, as if to himself. "I must speak with Thompson and the headmaster. Keep him awake, Lupin." The or else went unsaid.
Snape's boots crunched in the grit on the floor as he stalked from the room. Harry couldn't help but feel a certain sense of safety was going with him. He felt his hand being squeezed and swiftly turned his attention to Lupin who was looking at him with relief etched into his features. Harry smiled back weakly, but he knew it must've looked more like a grimace. The fog in Harry's mind was slowly clearing. For a while, all he could think of was pain, voices and how much he wanted to close his eyes, but just as the dust settled in the wake of the house collapse, so too was the dust settling in his head. Yes, he was still groggy, but at least he was aware.
"How do you feel?" Lupin's voice was soft and soothing, his eyes warm yet searching.
"OK," Harry croaked. "Sore."
"We'll have you up and about in no time. Molly will be fussing over you like it's nobody's business." Lupin smiled and laughed.
"Ron will be jealous," Harry added weakly, exhaling with a nervous half-laugh.
Staring deeply in Lupin's eyes, Harry couldn't help himself. Lupin frowned when Harry's lip quivered. Damn it, Harry thought. Why now? He didn't want to let his emotions win. Not in front of Remus.
"Harry, what's wrong? What hurts?" Lupin sat up and looked about ready to call for help when a breathy no stopped him. "What is it?"
"I never got to...to apologise." Harry averted his gaze to the floor.
Lupin's grip on Harry's hand slackened and Harry immediately regretted saying anything. But he found it so damn hard to look Lupin in the eyes, knowing what he'd done to his best friend. His breath hitched. It was painful, but he didn't say so. A wave of nausea seemed to roll through his stomach and up to his throat, but then the hands were back holding his, this time with more force. Harry could feel Lupin's fingers rubbing soothing circles in his palm.
"You have nothing to apologise for, Harry." Lupin sounded choked, but Harry still couldn't bear to look up. "You had no idea what was going to happen. If anyone's to blame –"
"I should have known!" Harry bit out as loudly as his voice would let him.
"You are only human."
Harry's torso shook with pent up emotion and this time he couldn't hide the obvious grimace as each shudder caused his pain to flare.
"No more talk of that now, Harry," Lupin said forcefully, "we need to get you calm again." Harry nodded as well as he could. "Tell me about Ron and Hermione. You said in your letters that they were spending some of the summer together?" Lupin raised his eyebrows and Harry's lips couldn't help but curl upwards.
"They're not...not...y'know," Harry said between breaths. "Ron would like it if they were. He hasn't asked her yet."
"And what do you think to all of this?" Lupin said, cocking his head.
I'm worried. I'm scared. I don't want to be left alone...
"They're made for each other."
Lupin noticed but said nothing of Harry's non-answer, deciding instead to change the subject.
"Mrs Figg alerted the Order. She saw the Death Eaters apparate. If it wasn't for her –"
"Oh God." Harry's face suddenly looked stricken.
"It's OK, Cub, they weren't here when the attack –"
"No! Y-you don't understand! Death Eaters came."
"I know, but what does that –"
"They were going...after them!" Harry wheezed.
"Harry, what are you talking about?" Lupin looked serious.
"They couldn't find me, so they're looking for the Dursleys." Harry's panic was tangible. "Find them."
"No, Harry, you are my priority right now –"
"Please!" Harry implored. "They'll kill them. Please, find them. Please, please..."
Lupin looked down at Harry's panicked and worn face, at the battered and bruised body. It broke his heart to see him this way.
"Please, Remus. Please."
Those eyes pleading with him...Lupin couldn't take the sorrow in them. His thoughts turned to Sirius. He would have done anything for Harry. Anything.
Reluctantly, Lupin nodded, a barely whispered OK escaping his mouth before his mind had even made the decision.
Harry felt relief wash over him. "Thank you," he whispered back.
With one last look into Harry's green eyes, Lupin sat up, still firmly gripping Harry's hand, and shouted for Snape.
Outside was cold and quiet, the complete opposite of the chaotic atmosphere inside. Dumbledore was telling him of the protections around the house, reassuring him that if the Death Eaters were to return, they would be ready. Having undoubtedly been seen by Lucius Malfoy, it dawned on Snape that his cover was almost certainly blown. His position as a spy could not be recovered if he was seen arriving at Harry Potter's house with Dumbledore at his side.
"You realise I can't go back there, Headmaster," Snape stated.
"I know, dear boy. You have served us well. You are still a valuable member of the Order, Severus. Don't forget that. The cause needs as many supporters as it can get, and so too does Harry." Dumbledore's eyes twinkled and Snape looked away, knowing how well Dumbledore could read him. Suddenly, a sharp call captured his attention.
"Severus!" It took but seconds for Snape to stride into the house, eyes wide with alarm.
"What's happened?" Snape said, coming to settle by Lupin's side.
"Nothing, Severus. Nothing's happened, but I have to leave."
"Leave? What do you mean leave?"
Dumbledore floated into the room seconds later as Lupin tried to explain.
"The Dursleys are being targeted. I need to find them." Snape made to speak, but he was cut off. "Harry needs me to find them." The determination burning behind his eyes was the only thing keeping Snape silent. Lupin leant close to Harry and asked him where his family had gone.
"Hindhead. The country. Aunt Marge is sick." Harry dropped his voice as low as it would go and winced as he tried to shift forward. "Please, Remus, keep them safe. Don't let him..." Harry couldn't say it, the scenario reminding him too much of Sirius, but he didn't need to finish. Lupin knew.
"I will join you, Remus," an old, wise voice said. Dumbledore stepped forward, purple robes billowing behind him. "It would not do to go alone."
For a moment Snape looked stricken. Dumbledore placed a hand on his shoulder and squeezed. "Severus, I leave Harry in your capable hands." Leaning closer to Snape's ear, he added, "Do right by him." Striding to the door, Dumbledore looked back at Lupin. "Come, Remus. Time and tide wait for no man. Neither, regrettably, does Voldemort."
Snape inwardly flinched at the name.
Remus gave his cub one lasting look before reluctantly wrenching his hand free. Harry's fingers curled as though already missing the touch. Snape, still dumbfounded at the prospect of suddenly being left alone and in charge, was looking down at Harry who, without his glasses, reminded him so much of Lily. Lupin startled him out of his trance by ushering him off to the side. The werewolf seemed panicked, nervous. He obviously didn't want to leave Harry's side.
"Severus Snape, you listen to me now," he said, his voice low and strong. "He's a fifteen year old boy. He isn't James. He never has been. It's funny, even Sirius never saw that." For a moment, he looked wistful. "If you say anything out of line..." Lupin's voice shook. Snape stood stoically. "Severus, I saw how you looked at her." Snape knew who he was speaking of and his heart skipped a beat, though of course his face showed nothing but indifference. "If you really love her, Severus –"
Leaning forward menacingly, Snape interrupted. "Never question my love for her, wolf! Never."
"Then prove it!" Lupin urged. Chancing a small glance at Harry, who was looking at them both, tired and weary, he smiled slightly. Turning back to Snape, his features softened. "He has his mother's eyes."
I know, Lupin. Merlin, I know.
"Mr Potter will be in safe hands," Snape said and that was the truth, a truth he was finally sure about.
"Stay with him. Please, Severus."
With a slight nod, Snape said quietly, "Good luck, Lupin." And then Lupin was gone and the small sound of two people disapparating echoed from outside.