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Harry came to his senses screaming. He felt someone holding him down but he didn't have the mental capacity to care about who it was. He just wanted to jump out of his skin, anything to escape the pain. It only took a few minutes of frantic struggling for Harry's body to tire out and grow still, and his voice to grow hoarse and then silent. Rabastan's voice finally managed to penetrate through the pain induced haze,
"Harry, it's alright. You're safe."
Harry could only groan weakly as he took in his surroundings. He was lying face down on a bed. There was no doubt that he was back in Rabastan's place in Knockturn Alley. It was a miracle that they had managed to escape from Hogwarts. It was an even bigger miracle that he was able to walk out of there on his feet. He was burning for whatever pain relief potions Rabastan had fed him earlier. His back felt like it had been sliced open which was probably true. He considered it a small feat when he managed to croak out,
Harry closed his eyes and felt Rabastan's finger comb through his hair,
"I wish I could, Harry, but I can't. Too much of it will get you addicted to it. I already feel guilty about the amount I fed you in Hogwarts to get you back on your feet."
Harry tried to curl his fingers and grab the covers as he was consumed by another wave of pain, only to be greeted by brutal agony, that pushed away all coherent thoughts out of his mind. He didn't know how he managed to scream out again. He was pretty sure he had worn out his throat earlier. Harry was glad he was slipping into oblivion. It felt like a blessing.
When Harry returned to his senses again, some lucid part of him felt as if he was back in Malfoy Manor, restrained to a bed. A little later, when he was able to regain some of the sensations in his body, apart from the mind-numbing pain he realized that he was indeed restrained. It made him panic and his body tensed which only brought on an onslaught of pain. Where the hell was he? What had happened? Rabastan's soothing voice managed to help him calm him a bit,
"Relax, Harry. I had to restrain your hands. You kept trying to use them and that was hindering the healing process."
Harry couldn't utter a single word. But Rabastan spoke softly, answering all his unasked questions and distracting him from the pain,
"You've been out of it for more than a week now. I was extremely worried about you in the start, you were so unresponsive. I was seriously considering taking you to a properly qualified healer or bringing one here but circumstances wouldn't have allowed it. You started showing signs of improvement by the third day. Your back's been healing well along with your hands. I have no idea what other damage Dumbledore inflicted upon you when you were alone with him. You coughed up blood a couple of times in your unconsciousness but that hasn't happened for a day now so I guess that is getting better too."
Rabastan paused for a while, running his fingers through Harry's hair, no doubt to check whether he was still in his senses. More than a week? That was just terrible and Rabastan had cared for him through it all. He was relieved about the coughing up blood part. Dumbledore had actually done him a favour by torturing him. Harry moved his head a bit and Rabastan started talking again,
"You asked me at Hogwarts how I managed to get to you and what I did to Snape. That day at the meeting, there was an odd kind of tension between you and the Dark Lord. It wasn't difficult to see that The Dark Lord was ignoring you and you were subdued. No snarky comments, no playful banter. Almost everyone picked up on it. When the meeting ended, I hung around outside your office for a while, waiting for you to return but when you didn't I thought you must be in The Dark Lord's office and so I reluctantly returned to work. About an hour later, I saw you coming out of the Dark Lord's office looking like death warmed over. I was about to chase after you when I saw that the door to the office was open and the Dark Lord was nowhere in sight. I don't know what made me do it but I went inside when I saw your resignation letter on his desk, I…..umm…. I sort of took it."
Harry felt partly shocked, partly amused and partly warmed by the information Rabastan had provided him up until now. How could he care about him so much when Harry had categorically stated that he couldn't offer him anything but friendship? He wanted to ask why and willed himself to talk,
He didn't like how broken and weak he sounded. Rabastan spoke again,
"I…..I didn't want to let you go. If you resigned from the ministry then that would have meant that you would leave here as well. I know it's irrational and I had no right but….I just….I've never had anything like this before. I never fit in with my family. Rodolphus was the ideal son, the perfect pureblood scion and I was supposed to mould myself according to him. No one asked me what I wanted to be. No one ever really saw me for who I was. I never had any real friends at Hogwarts as well. Bellatrix and Rodolphus fit in with all the other Slytherins in The Dark Lord's fan club, aspiring to be the perfect death eaters and I had to pretend to be like them. I escaped from them whenever I could. I discovered that passageway in my second year. It used to be my way out whenever I felt like I couldn't pretend anymore, whenever I came close to breaking. I've been pretending for so many years that I felt like I was slowly becoming one of them and then…."
Rabastan went silent. Harry wanted him to talk. He wanted to listen. He was dying to know what happened next. He had known that Rabastan was different the moment he had asked him out but now he knew what made him stand out. After a few minutes of silence, Rabastan spoke again,
"Then you came along, defiant and so independent. When you vanished from your room, I was really hoping that you had escaped from the manor. I didn't want to watch the Dark Lord break you. I felt like my heart jumped to my throat when Nagini brought you to him. You were bleeding out but you stayed on your knees, refusing to submit, as defiant as ever. I didn't enjoy your pain like they did. You made me remember that I was only pretending to be like them. At the ministry when the Dark Lord had you chained to that chair, you looked so relaxed, so carefree, so fearless. I was worried for your well-being, worried that The Dark Lord would torture you, but you weren't worried at all. And then he made you Senior Undersecretary, that was something none of us had expected and that's when I came to realize how obsessed the Dark Lord was with you. He adored your rebelliousness more than I admired it. That day when I heard about you wrecking your office, heard everyone talk about how insane you were, I felt oddly enraged and protective about you. That night I saw how you manipulated the Dark Lord, how easily you made him bend to your whim and made us all kiss your feet, even Bella. You weren't just fearless, you were powerful and The Dark Lord was intoxicated by it, by you. The next day, you displayed your first signs of weakness, when you broke into a coughing fit in the Atrium. But when the Dark Lord appeared you were back to your normal self and appeared as unfazed as ever. And I wondered how you did that. That night at dinner, you attempted to kill Bella and that was just…"
Rabastan paused and chuckled. Harry had forgotten all about his pain, listening to Rabastan's perspective was so intriguing that his mind was completely focused on Rabastan's voice, his tone and all the varying emotions that underlined it as he spoke. The fact that Rabastan had been paying so much attention to him even when he hadn't known him was astounding. He felt unworthy of it though. He felt like he didn't deserve all that praise. Rabastan didn't know that he was dying. Everything would probably make sense to him if he found out and then he wouldn't admire him, he would only pity him. Rabastan started talking again,
"That was priceless, seriously I wish you had succeeded in causing a little damage and the Dark Lord hadn't stopped the knife. Anyways there was something going on between you and The Dark Lord. You actually blushed for him. That made me add another one of your qualities to the already limitless list. You were beautiful. Absolutely gorgeous. I made up my mind to approach you. I just couldn't stay away any longer. The next day when you showed up late at the meeting, I saw bit of remorse cross your face when the Dark Lord showed disappointment. So, it seemed to me that you did care a bit about his wishes or at least you were growing to. After the meeting, I caught up to you. I half expected you to decline and you surprised me by offering me your friendship. It was more than I had ever hoped for. That day when I found you bound and gagged in your office, I was momentarily shocked and when you asked me for help, I felt extremely conflicted. I could finally be my own person or I could be what I had been pretending to be for so long. That disappointment I saw on your face when I was leaving your office made me decide to help you because if I didn't you would hate me and I didn't want that. I needed your friendship more than anything else. You were crying when I brought you the antidote. Seeing you so vulnerable broke my heart but the hope in your eyes after I had helped you was priceless. The Dark Lord tortured me later and that hope I had seen in your eyes got me through the pain. He told me to stay away from you but I knew that I would never be able to. I would gladly do it all over again even if he killed me. When you came to me that day, took my hand and told me to take you away, I knew it was all worth it. You were worth all the pain, suffering and agony I would ever have to endure."
Rabastan's voice was heavy with emotions. Harry wanted nothing more to wrap his arms around him and hold him. How had he ever wound up with such a wonderful person? Rabastan was outright amazing and he didn't just think that because Rabastan seemed to hold him in such high regards, it was because Rabastan had managed to keep his own distinct personality for so many years. He respected the man. He respected him immensely,
"Anyways after I had taken your resignation letter from your desk, I chased you down to the atrium. It was extremely dark and I don't know why but I was terrified for you. I ran into Snape. I know that because he cursed and I would know his voice anywhere. I was going to ask him what he was doing there when I heard your voice and tried to light up my wand but nothing worked. I tried to reach my mark but Snape tried to stun me, he missed but I was still knocked to my knees by his elbow. He didn't know he had missed. There were several cracks and I don't know why I just instinctively grabbed onto Snape legs. He apparated and we appeared somewhere. It didn't take me long to realize that he had splinched. I must have made him lose his focus. Anyways, it didn't take me a lot of effort to overpower him since he was already weak and with a little persuasion, he told me all about where you were taken and what Dumbledore intended to do with you. After that all I needed was some Polyjuice and Snape's robes. After ensuring that he wouldn't be able to escape. I went to Spinner's End to get everything I needed. I already knew how to get into the castle. The first person I ran into when I reached the castle was Nymphadora. I mean I literally ran into her and she fell all over me. Something just clicked inside me and I managed to pluck out some hair from her head. That was just pure dumb luck. I was just terrified for you and it took me all my restraint to wait in the dungeons. Finally, Dumbledore showed up with your lifeless form hovering behind him. I thought he had killed you, you looked close enough to death. I wanted to kill the old man right there and then but then you moaned and I regained some patience. That sadistic bastard lectured me about the greater good. About how bringing you back to the right path was important and torturing you was the only way to do that. He mentioned your mother…said how her sacrifice would be in vain if you weren't brought back…"
Harry wanted to shout out his protest but only a groan escaped his lips. Rabastan patted his shoulder and whispered soothingly,
"I know, Harry….I know. We're going to kill that bastard as painfully as possible."
Harry wanted to convey how grateful he was to Rabastan, for everything he had shared, for everything he had told him, for saving me and looking after him but his voice refused to cooperate and he felt frustrated,
"You need to relax, Harry. I must have given you a headache after all the talking I've been doing. But I just wanted you to know how special you are to me. This friendship means the world to me. I don't have to pretend to be a stuck up pureblood. I can be myself and you have no idea how freeing that is."
Harry shook his head. If anything, Rabastan's voice had soothed the pain in his body. He was feeling so much better. He was so moved by everything Rabastan had said, everything that he had done. There was no way he could ever repay him for all his kindness before his death.
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