Hermione clenched her hands into fists at her sides as she waited, her body stiff. "What if Kreacher doesn't come back?"
Fred shut his eyes and clenched his jaw to keep himself from yelling. "Hermione," he said, with a conscious effort to keep his voice steady. "He's been gone all of ten seconds, give him some time."
Hermione frowned, "But what if–"
"Stop it, would you?" said Fred. "Kreacher is fine, all right? Harry is going to be fine! We are going to get him back! So just–shut–up."
"Oi!" cried Ron, rounding on his brother as Hermione stood there in shock. "That was out of line. We are all worried about Harry, so just–"
"He's gonna be fine," Fred muttered under his breath, staring at nothing. "Harry is gonna be fine. He's going to make it out of this. Come on, Harry, please, you've got to make it out of this."
Ron's anger evaporated. "Fred," he said softly, and his brother's eyes snapped to his.
"Kreacher," Ginny cried in relief, "Did you see him? He's not with you–Was he all right? Where were they?"
"Merlin," said Fred in exasperation, "was he even alive?"
Kreacher was frowning and gripping the locket around his neck with one hand while the other fiddled with the hem of his clothes. "Kreacher found Young Master Harry. Kreacher could not retrieve Young Master without endangering him further. Kreacher had to leave before the bad men caught him, too."
Ron was still for a moment before he let out a small breath. His gaze turned iron. "Where are they?"
Harry struggled against the hand that was wrapped around his neck and pressing him into the wall, but he was too weak to achieve any kind of success. He opened his mouth as he tried to draw breath, but the hand around his neck only squeezed tighter.
Too soon, Harry found his vision darkening and his strength leaving him. He gave one last valiant push against Lestrange's chest in a feeble attempt to shove him off, but it was a futile effort.
Just as his head began to slump forward and his eyes were drooping shut, the hand was removed. Harry collapsed to the ground, on his hands and knees, gasping for breath.
Rodolphus smirked down at him in amusement and shoved him with his foot. Harry went down, landing weakly on his back. He stared up at the rafters in the ceiling, still gasping for desperately needed air, too tired to move.
"I grow weary of this game, Potter," said the Death Eater as he stepped back in his boredom. "I thought that the savior of the wizarding world would at least put up a bit of a fight. I find myself disappointed."
"You want a fight?" breathed Harry from the cold, stone floor. "How 'bout you give me back my wand and have a go?"
Rodolphus looked confunded. "You can't even lift your arm. How would you expect to have the strength to duel?"
Harry grunted as he pushed his upper body off the floor at great cost to his remaining strength and leaned against the wall. "If you're so sure you can beat me," he said, "then there's no harm in giving me my wand, is there?"
Rodolphus raised his brow. "I'm not an idiot, Potter," he said. "I'm not giving you your wand back."
"Worth a…" Harry rested his head against the wall and shut his eyes. "Worth a shot."
"Ask me to kill you, Potter," said Lestrange. "Ask me to kill you, and I will."
Harry opened his eyes again, but this time, they possessed a fire that Lestrange had thought to be long extinguished. "No."
Lestrange glared and straightened in resolve. "Fine," he said. He pulled his wand back out of his robe. "Just remember that I have supplied you with an out, Potter. Two words. You can remember them. 'Kill me.' If you throw in a please, I may even decide to do it as painlessly as possible."
Harry stiffened, bracing himself.
"It could all be over," said Rodolphus. "Just two simple words, Potter. Admit that you're broken, and I'll end it all. You'll be able to see your parents again. And any other pathetic person in your miserable little life that was too weak to fight back–"
Harry's eyes sharpened in fury. Feeling a sudden burst of adrenaline, he kicked out with a cry using all of his remaining strength. His foot connected with Lestrange's left leg with a resounding crack.
The man screamed and went down, his right tibia suffering a clean break. His wand clattered out of his hand and landed only a few feet away, but that last burst of energy had cost Harry dearly. Harry heard Rodolphus cursing and gasping in pain, even as the man was turning, fury in his eyes, towards his wand.
Fletcher, who was standing a ways off, let out a cry of surprise and began making his way over. Harry knew that if he was going to get out of this alive, he had to move now.
Harry cried out as he forced his body to comply with his wishes. He moved through the pain, gritting his teeth against the burning of every cell in his body. He reached out a hand that had blood steadily running down his fingers from who knew what injury and grasped the wand. He turned and pointed the short, knotted wand at the overbearing form of Fletcher who was fast approaching and bellowed, "Stupefy!"
It wasn't until the spell bounced harmlessly off of the man that Harry realized he must be part giant, like Hagrid, and he hastily cast a shield charm between him and the man. Fletcher was repelled backwards from the force of the spell, but the precious time it had taken Harry to cast, not one, but two spells, had given Rodolphus enough time to reach him from behind.
Lestrange, crawling like Harry, had managed to grab Harry's trainer. He heaved the boy towards him with a mighty cry.
Harry desperately kicked, not knowing where his energy was coming from, but knowing that there was no way that it could last long. His left trainer came off, letting him free of Lestrange for a brief moment. In his desperation to get free from Rodolphus, he had lost concentration on the shield, allowing Fletcher to break through it easily.
Fletcher grabbed Harry by the hair and lifted him to his feet.
With a cry, Harry's hands automatically went to his head, and the wand he had acquired fell from his grasp. Rodolphus snatched it up triumphantly and wasted no time in healing his broken leg. Then he was back on his feet with a vengeance.
Harry felt his eyes water through the pain as he struggled against the death grip that Fletcher's fist had on his hair. Rodolphus' eyes were sparking with the promise of a very long and painful death. Harry would not be sane by the end of it. He made a quick, slashing movement with his wand, and Harry cried out. His throat burned from screaming.
And that was when they heard it again. A soft pop.
The first thing that assaulted Ron's ears was something that he had never wanted to hear again. Harry's cries of pain had him frozen for a moment as he stared at the sight before him. The old Divination room was void of furniture, and there was Harry, and the only thing keeping his best friend on his feet was the beefy hand of an equally beefy man that was clutching Harry's hair. Harry was covered in blood and bruises, and he was visibly shaking from the pain of the curse that the man was casting. There were clear tracks from his tears that made a path down his dirty, sweaty, bloody face.
Neville felt a fit of rage come over him and he pointed his wand at Rodolphus with no thought on his part.
A feral grin overcome Lestrange's features as he ushered Fletcher out of the way and grabbed Harry for himself. He wrapped his arm around Harry's neck in a sort of choke hold to keep him standing, and Harry weakly raised his hands to pry the arm away. Lestrange's wand was aimed at Harry's head.
Ron pushed down on Neville's wand hand, pointing it away from Harry. Fred and George took the opportunity to attack Fletcher. Two spells did what one of Harry's would not, and Fletcher fell to the floor with a massive thud.
Rodolphus didn't spare his fellow Death Eater a glance. He simply stared at the small mass of people, children really, that had come to retrieve Potter.
"Well, this complicates things, now, doesn't it?" said Lestrange.
Harry seemed unaware that his friends were even there. His breathing was heavy and his eyes were closed. If it weren't for Lestrange's arm, he wouldn't be standing on his own two feet.
"Let him go," growled Fred, his grip tightening on his wand.
"I don't think I will, actually," said Rodolphus. He tightened his hold around Harry's neck, and Harry's eyes shot open.
Ron stepped forward angrily.
There was a soft pop. Kreacher had gone again, and now they just had to stall until he returned.
"Your friends are here for a visit, Potter," said Rodolphus. "Care to say hello?"
Harry's eyes found Ginny's. Ginny made a sharp intake of breath.
"I said," said Rodolphus as he made a jabbing motion with his wand and Harry winced, "say hello."
Harry looked up and grimaced. "Would somebody just stun the bastard already–" but he was consumed by pain again.
Luna and Ron shot a few spells that wouldn't do any permanent damage if they hit Harry, but Lestrange ended his curse to construct a hasty shield in front of them.
"Do you really think I'm so inept that I can't–"
Pop. And there was a flash of green light.
Lestrange's eyes went wide in realization, before he collapsed to the ground with Harry.
Kreacher had returned, this time behind Lestrange, with someone else in tow.
And there was Arthur Weasley in all his glory, his fiery red hair sticking up in many directions, covered in grime and ash and bruises from battle, his wand arm outstretched, his face screwed up in a mixture of rage and grief. "Get away from my family," he growled.
"Dad," cried Ginny and George in relief as Ron, Fred and Hermione rushed forward to Harry's side.
Arthur bent down next to them and lifted the now limp Harry into his arms. "He needs Madam Pomfrey," he said, his voice cracking as he looked down at the boy that he considered a son. He had nearly lost one son tonight. He would not lose another.
Harry heard voices floating around, but ignored them, choosing to instead concentrate on the softness of the surface he was lying on and the stale scent of the air that held no trace of blood or smoke.
It wasn't until he heard his name that he cautiously let himself listen.
"We all really miss you, Harry, and we need you to wake up soon. Ron is driving me absolutely crazy with his worrying. Ginny too. And Hermione. Frankly, everyone's worried. Not me, obviously, I'm too tough for that, and I know that you're going to wake up. So stop being selfish and get off your lazy arse already."
Harry opened his eyes, and turned his head weakly to the right to see George Weasley sitting at his bedside in what appeared to be a hospital.
Except it wasn't George.
Because George only had one ear.
This George had two.
"There you are," said Fred in relief. "Blimey, I can't say how glad I am to see those green eyes of yours. Green as a freshly pickled toad, if I recall correctly."
"Fred," Harry rasped.
Fred's expression softened. "Yeah. It was supposed to be a surprise. So, surprise."
Harry felt his eyes sting and he looked away in embarrassment.
"You're okay, Harry," laughed Fred, and damn him if he sounded a little choked up. "You're okay, and it's finally over."
Harry looked back at him, no longer caring that his eyes were a little bright. "It's over," he said emptily, before settling his head back down on the bed, and letting out a small sort of hysterical laugh. "It's over.."