Harry’s insides relaxed and he let go of his godfather’s hand. Finite, he thought quickly; there was magic everywhere, in every colour, shape, style and concentration he could imagine and it was almost overpowering.
The extra sight dropped away and he glanced around curiously. The streets were nearly empty with only a few local witches and wizards drifting between stores. None spared either Harry or Padfoot any attention.
“Nicely done,” Padfoot said, looking around with a strange expression. He ran a hand through his short, blond hair. “It hasn’t changed a bit.”
“Is that the Shrieking Shack?” Harry asked, nodding to a dilapidated building, which rested alone – far away from any of the other buildings - on a hill above the rest of the village.
“It is,” Padfoot said. As they watched, a roof tile slid off and shattered in the grass.
“And that’s where you and Dad and Moony and Peter went to transform?” Harry glanced at the boarded windows, and wondered if Padfoot, James and Moony had put them up to keep other witches and wizards away while they were Animagi.
“It was like our hideout, yeah,” Padfoot said after a pause. Harry knew he was leaving something out but didn’t say anything. “I’ll take you inside sometime.” But not today, Harry knew. They had other things to do today. “Come on, Honeydukes is this way.” Harry took another curious look around and followed his godfather.
“What does the incantation ‘Pedis Offensio’ do?”
“Tripping jinx,” Harry answered promptly.
“If I wanted to make something explode...”
“‘Bombarda’,” Harry said after a moment. He hadn’t actually managed that one yet, but Padfoot said he was close.
“That’s... er... Oh! ‘Colloshoo’,” Harry said.
Padfoot stared at him for a moment, nodded once and waved Harry into a brightly coloured store. Inside was incredible. Harry didn’t know where to look first. Padfoot grinned at the sight of Harry’s face and pressed a galleon into his hand.
“Buy what you want.” Harry hardly dared to believe his luck.
“You’re joking?!” he said.
Padfoot gave him a patient smile. Hardly able to believe his luck, Harry darted off to look at one of the displays. He’d been given Chocolate Frogs and a bag of Sugar Quills for his birthday, but the rest of the sweets were all new to him, although he had heard of Bertie Botts because Padfoot had told him once that he and James had fed the bad ones to other students between lessons. After they’d charmed them to resemble the good ones, of course.
He prodded at a box of Bellyflies – ‘Flutter realistically inside your stomach for hours!’ – and then went to investigate a lollipop the size of his head, which changed flavour as it was eaten. In the end, Harry bought a little of everything.
“Someone’s got a sweet tooth,” the woman at the counter said, chuckling when Harry deposited a large box of Chocolate Frogs, a tin of Bertie Botts, a pack of Droobles, four Liquorice Wands, a bag of Fizzing Whizbees and packet of Sherbet Witch’s Hats on the bench.
“Like father like son,” Padfoot told the witch, obviously meaning James, but she didn’t know that; Padfoot had his arms full with four massive blocks of chocolate, an enormous box of Bertie Botts, a handful of Chocolate Frogs and a large Cauldron Cake.
He shifted his bounty and passed the witch another galleon. They stuffed their purchases into Harry’s rucksack - which was almost overflowing - and made their way out into the warm streets.
Padfoot offered Harry his arm. Harry took it, feeling a little relieved that he wouldn’t have to get them back so soon after Apparating them there. Padfoot spun on the spot.
They landed on Number Twelve’s doorstep. Padfoot tapped the door once and it swung open. Harry kicked it shut once they were both inside and then Padfoot removed the Appearance Alteration Charms they had on.
The hall was much nicer than it had been when they’d first moved in; they’d gotten rid of that atrocious umbrella stand and Padfoot had charmed the lamps on the walls and the large overhead chandelier to turn on whenever someone walked in – that way, it wasn’t dark all the time. The lamp light also reduced the severity of the dark green wallpaper.
They’d removed the worn carpet altogether and discovered floorboards underneath, which they’d spent hours polishing and repairing. No matter what they tried, one floorboard just inside the door always squeaked and they’d given up on that, deciding Padfoot’s father had charmed it to give warning of visitors, and that it might actually be useful.
Padfoot had moved the portraits of his ancestors - all save for his mother whose portrait was they hadn’t been able to get down - to the linen cupboard upstairs. Kreacher’s den had been relocated to the same place and he was thoroughly enjoying the larger space and the company of generations of Blacks.
“Kreacher!” Harry called. Mrs Black opened her mouth but Padfoot yanked the curtain back into place before she could articulate as much as ‘filth’. CRACK! Kreacher sank into a bow at the sight of the two of them, still a little stiffly but Harry suspected that had more to do with his age than anything else. “We’ll leave after lunch,” Harry told him.
“Kreacher will be ready,” Kreacher said reluctantly, wiping his bony hands on the pillowcase Padfoot had given him to replace his loincloth. His attitude toward Padfoot was steadily improving and while there were, of course, strained moments between the pair – and Harry thought that was why Padfoot hadn’t asked for Apparition lessons from the elf yet, so as not to destroy their fragile neutrality – and lingering qualms from Padfoot’s childhood, most of the animosity was gone. Harry suspected it had a lot to do with the regularity and quality of Kreacher’s cooking.
“Good,” Padfoot said. He stopped suddenly and Harry almost walked into the back of him. “Have you been cooking?” he asked delightedly.
“Kreacher is making food for hungry Master and the brat-” Kreacher smiled at Harry almost cheekily as he said it and Harry grinned back. “-oh yes, Kreacher is a good elf.” Harry perked up at the mention of food. Padfoot was already halfway down the hall, heading for the kitchen stairs.
“Thanks, Kreacher,” Harry said, thrilled, and sprinted after his godfather.
Kreacher was already there when he arrived, serving Padfoot sandwiches and pouring juice. Harry sat down, accepted a glass from the elf and dug into his own lunch. He was nervous but he pushed that down; he’d need all his strength for what they were about to do.
Despite knowing that, however, both Harry and Padfoot were only able to eat half of what they usually would and Kreacher didn’t eat at all. The elf’s movements were getting shakier and his croaky voice shriller with every passing moment.
“Empty your rucksack,” Padfoot told Harry, taking a nervous sip of his juice. “Just leave the sweets on the table and we’ll sort them out when we get home.”
Harry did that, keeping only three of the enormous blocks of chocolate in there; the fourth he gave to Padfoot who opened it, fumbling with the wrapper.
While Padfoot ate, Harry filled a thermos with hot chocolate, and then filled three water bottles and added them to his rucksack too; Kreacher had said there was no way to conjure water in the cave so Harry and Padfoot were going to try to carry it in.
And, if the water evaporated, there was always the hot chocolate, which would hopefully help to fight the effects of the potion; chocolate reduced the effects of Dementors after all. Harry also sent Kreacher upstairs to retrieve the container of fireworks they’d bought the day before.
Padfoot pulled his mirror out of his robes and murmured, “James Potter.” James appeared as he always did, smiling and laughing. “Today’s the day,” Padfoot told him, his voice lacking its usual on-the-verge-of-laughter quality.
Padfoot told James everything; Harry often heard him talking to the mirror at night. James couldn’t speak back, but that didn’t seem to matter, because he was there.
“Hi, Dad,” Harry said softly. James waved.
Padfoot swallowed. “Wish us luck,” he said. James laughed soundlessly. Padfoot glanced at Harry who was watching the mirror hungrily and then pocketed it.
Finally, they were ready.
Padfoot, who was wearing Harry’s rucksack, took one of Kreacher’s shaking hands and Harry took the other. Kreacher twisted on the spot and Harry felt himself being pulled.
“Urgh!” he heard, and a splash, then a squeak and Padfoot cursed.
“Is this it?” Harry asked, opening his eyes. He couldn’t see a thing but he could hear water gurgling quietly, hear Kreacher’s nervous breathing and hear his own voice echoing. He shivered. Kreacher made a terrified wheezing sound from somewhere to his right.
“Lumos,” Padfoot breathed. Pale wandlight lit the cavern. The walls were damp and caught the light, glittering in a way that made Harry shiver again. Padfoot was clambering out of a small pool in the ground with a wary expression on his face and dried his wet legs with a quick spell. Harry lit his own wand.
“Ostendere me omnia,” Harry whispered. He knew he didn’t need to say it aloud but his own voice was better than the eerie silence. He ignored his red and gold, Padfoot’s crimson and Kreacher’s pale green and focused on the new magic.
His mouth fell open. Lines of green and sliver pulsed on the stone, like veins. Harry immediately recognised it as the same magic that he’d seen in the locket, only there had been black in the locket and there wasn’t here.
“Where now?” Padfoot asked Kreacher.
“There,” Harry and Kreacher said together, pointing to what Padfoot must think was a blank stretch of wall. “It’s... glowing,” Harry murmured; there was far less green magic there, only silver, extremely faint however, and in the shape of an archway.
There were peculiar splatter marks too; some were pale green and some a misty silver - different to the rest of the silver, which was glittery. Though he’d never seen the misty silver before, both it and the green were strangely familiar.
“So the pool is the way out?” Padfoot asked.
Kreacher nodded. “The Dark Lord is making Kreacher swim the first time, through the crack in the rock. When Master Regulus is coming here, Kreacher brought him straight to this cave.”
“Why not just take us straight through?” Padfoot asked quietly.
Kreacher trembled. “The lake is always changing,” he whispered. “Never in the same place. Kreacher is not wanting to disturb them, oh no!”
“All right,” Padfoot said. “How do we get through, then?”
“The way is hidden,” Kreacher croaked. “But it opens for blood.”
“Blood?” Harry asked, paling. So that’s what the splatter marks are... The green is Kreacher, I think... and the silver... Regulus?
Padfoot wrinkled his nose but didn’t seem overly fussed. “Where?” was all he said.
“I can-” Harry began, but Padfoot just rolled his eyes.
Kreacher guided him over to the wall and then Padfoot pointed his wand at his palm and said, “Sectum.” A line sprung up on his hand, red to Harry’s normal eyes, and bright, constantly moving scarlet to Harry’s magic-enhanced vision. Padfoot smeared his palm on the rock and then healed the injury with a tap of his wand: “Sana. Novum Cutis.”
There wasn’t even a scar left, but the silver of the archway flared so brightly that Harry snapped his eyes shut and mentally shouted, Finite!
When he opened them again, the archway was glowing dimly and then it simply vanished. He and Padfoot stared through the black opening; Kreacher let out a wail and latched onto the back of Harry’s robes.
“Kreacher, you’ll stay here,” Padfoot said after a pause. Harry looked at him in surprise. “Look at him, he’s terrified,” Padfoot said. Harry found himself fighting a smile; that, if anything, showed how far Padfoot and Kreacher had come in the months since finding the locket.
“Master is... good... kind Master,” the elf sniffled.
“I mean stay here, though. I don’t know what state I’ll be in when we get back but it’s more than likely Harry will need help.” Kreacher nodded, his ears flapping. “If something happens to me, your priority is to get Harry out, all right? That is an order.”
Kreacher sniffed. “Are you sure you’re up for this?” Padfoot asked Harry. Harry swallowed and nodded. “We’ll see you when we get back, then,” he told the elf. With that, Padfoot strode through the opening. Harry darted through after him.
There was, as Kreacher had said, a lake and the water was so dark it was indistinguishable from the cave walls. The cave itself was so high Harry couldn’t tell where it ended and so deep that he couldn’t make out the far wall either.
What he could make out, thought, was a green glow - the island, presumably - right out in what was probably the middle of the lake.
Harry turned to get one last look at Kreacher but the wall had already sealed itself again. Padfoot turned to Harry, his face serious in the wand light.
“Don’t touch the water,” he said. Harry nodded. “I want you to stay here.”
“Here?” Harry asked. His voice echoed into the still darkness.
“Well, yeah, but-”
“Harry,” Padfoot said sternly.
“I didn’t think you were going to be alone! I thought Kreacher would go too-”
“He’s told us both the stories enough times,” Padfoot said calmly. That was true. Harry could probably tell it in as much detail as the elf could. “It’ll be all right.”
“But... what if it isn’t?” Harry’s green eyes scanned the cave mistrustfully.
Padfoot shook his shaggy, black head. “If something goes wrong, there’s not a lot Kreacher would be able to do to help me.” Again, Harry had to see the truth in that. He fixed Harry with another serious look.
“Remember what you promised.” Harry swallowed and nodded. “And don’t do anything stupid. If it comes to it, I want you to get out as quickly as possible. You’ll have to pay with blood to get back to where Kreacher is, but you can do it. Get him to take you home. Wait until this time tomorrow night, and if I’m still not home, I want you to find Remus.”
“Remus?” Harry repeated.
“There’s a letter in my bedroom-”
“You aren’t planning to die, are you?” Harry cried.
“No!” Padfoot said, so determinedly that Harry believed him. “No, I most certainly am not. I’m just making sure we’ve got a back-up plan. The letter will explain everything to him and it names him as your guardian. Do you understand?” Harry nodded. Padfoot slipped the rucksack off and passed Harry the container of fireworks. “Just in case you or I need a distraction,” he said.
Once Padfoot had undone the Shrinking Charm on it, he put the rucksack back on. “It’ll be all right, kiddo,” he promised. Harry prayed he would be right. Padfoot tapped Harry with his wand and said, “Frigus Ignis.” It was a Fire-Freezing Charm, so that, if it came to it, he could incinerate the place where he was standing and be unharmed.
Padfoot repeated the spell on himself, hugged Harry tightly and set off around the lake, keeping to the narrow path.
Ostendere me omnia. The entire cavern came to life and Harry was not entirely surprised to see the wards and charms protecting this one were much stronger than they were in the cave they’d arrived in. The gaps in the wards were much, much smaller and did not occur as frequently as the ones at Grimmauld Place.
He was impressed Kreacher had managed to escape twice. The lake was another matter altogether; he could see the Inferi, ghostly shapes, floating just beneath the surface.
They glowed with magic - Voldemort’s silver and green was there, as well as a pale colour unique to each of them - a different sort of pale than Kreacher’s, though, Harry knew - that had surely been their own magic once upon a time.
Harry’s eyes flicked to the swirling red mass that was Padfoot. He’d begun to walk rather peculiarly, with one leg kicking out over the ledge with each step. It took Harry a moment to realise he was looking for the invisible chain Kreacher had mentioned.
The chain though, wasn’t invisible to Harry. He could see it, stretching under the water from a hook on the wall and quite a way down, it connected to a tiny boat.
“It’s in front of you. Further. Further. About three feet in front of- there!” he called across the water. His voice wasn’t loud but it echoed impressively and Padfoot jumped when he heard.
He thought he saw Padfoot nod - though it was hard to tell through the magic - and then he walked forward confidently and felt through the air until his hands clamped around the chain.
He tapped it twice with his wand - once to make it visible, once to raise the boat, Harry thought, if Kreacher’s stories were to be believed and they were certainly right so far. Padfoot clambered in and the boat took off at once - Padfoot’s yelp echoed too - toward the middle of the lake.
Harry watched, hardly daring to breathe until Padfoot was safely on the island. It was so quiet Harry could hear his footsteps as he approached the basin that Kreacher had told them about. There was a flash of red magic as Padfoot conjured a goblet and then he called, “Cheers!”
“Yeah. Cheers,” Harry called back, his voice shaking slightly.
Everything was silent. Harry waited. After a few minutes, he heard a whimper from the island and a moment later, Padfoot screamed. His magic was flickering more than usual, Harry noticed, and felt his worry peak. It went quiet and then Harry heard a quiet groan and Padfoot talking.
“No worse than Dementors...” floated across the lake to Harry’s ears. Then, “I didn’t mean to! Prongs, I’m sorry. Lily...!” He whimpered again. Harry heard a thump as he took off the rucksack and the sound of a lid unscrewing, though he wasn’t sure if it was a water bottle or the thermos. “No worse than Dementors,” Padfoot insisted. His hoarse voice echoed through the cave. He moved to fill the goblet again. And then another. And another after that.
He was on his seventh, and Harry was just wondering how full the basin was when there was a flash and a clatter. “Padfoot?”
“Oops,” Padfoot said and then there was a heavy thump; the red dropped closer to the island.
“Padfoot!?” Harry shouted. He clapped his hands to his mouth but none of the Inferi-lights showed any signs of moving. There was a long silence. No, please, no. No, no, no, no, no, no, no-
“I’m all right, kiddo,” Padfoot called back, his voice sounding extremely weak.
Harry let out the breath he’d been holding. “Are- Are you finished?”
There was a scuffling sound and Padfoot’s red moved over to the basin, then, “No.”
“You have to keep drinking,” Harry told him.
“I don’t want to.”
“I know, but you have to. That’s why we ca-”
There was a clink and a slurping sound. “I can’t,” he called pitifully.
Harry wondered if there was any way to send the boat back to the shore so that he could get to the island. After a moment’s thought, though, he was forced to concede that - if it was even possible - he didn’t know how to do it. He let out a little noise of frustration and turned back to Padfoot, who was hunched over a goblet of potion, mumbling.
“Padfoot?” he called.
“James?” Padfoot called, his voice climbing an octave. “James, where are you?”
“I’m not- Padfoot, I-”
“You sound younger... I suppose that’s what happens when you die, right? You can be any age you want... I’m sorry.”
“Er... It’s fine,” Harry said quickly. “It’s fine, just drink.”
There was a quiet slurping sound and then the red mass that was Padfoot quivered. “I can’t. James, I can’t-”
“It’s all right,” Harry said, scared now. What am I supposed to do when he’s over there and I’m over here?! “Just... just drink.”
“I can’t, Prongs.” Short of tipping the damn thing down his throat - which Harry couldn’t get over there to do anyway - Harry was out of options. Padfoot was hallucinating for Merlin’s sake! He was in pain. What was Harry supposed to do? “Sorry,” Padfoot murmured. “Oh, Lily, I’m so sorry. Reg... Reg, I tried, I should’ve made you come with me...”
“Padfoot - Sirius - I need you to listen to me,” Harry said desperately.
“You’ve never exactly been easy to ignore, James,” Padfoot said, sounding weak.
“I need you to drink.”
“You drink it,” Padfoot snapped. “It fucking hurts.”
“I know, I’m sorry.” Harry swallowed. “But please... for Da- Jam- er... me and Lily? For Reg? For Remus?” Padfoot whimpered. “And... er... Kreacher and Harry.”
“Harry,” he heard from the island. The mass of red moved closer to the basin again and then there was another scraping sound. Everything was silent again. Another few minutes filled only with gulps and moans passed.
If Harry had to guess, he would say Padfoot had had ten goblets now. Surely it’s nearly empty... Padfoot collapsed with a loud, rattling breath that echoed over the water and then everything was silent.
“No,” Harry breathed. “No! Padfoot!” he shouted. There was no response. Padfoot’s magic was very still, and dimmer than before. “Padfoot! Padfoot, wake up, wake up, please! Please.” Still nothing. “Finite Incantatem!” Harry said urgently, waving his wand in Padfoot’s direction.
It might have been the wrong spell, or it might have had something to do with the distance, but nothing happened.
“Finite Incantatem! Please!” Harry took a step forward, thinking he’d swim if he had to, when Padfoot stirred. “Padfoot!”
“Water,” Padfoot croaked.
“The rucksack,” Harry said. “It’s in the rucksack, Padfoot, and there’s hot chocolate and-”
“Water’s gone... I can’t-” There was silence - Harry thought he heard the thermos open - and then, “I’m still thirsty. Really, really thirsty. I need... water. There’s water here. A whole lake of it...”
“No!” Harry screamed, his voice cutting through the darkness. “No, no water!”
“NO! Don’t move!” The red mass stopped. Harry needed a way to distract him until he came back to his senses. “There’s a locket in the basin,” Harry said, thinking quickly. “Open it - the locket. There’s a note, isn’t there? What does it say?”
“My throat... Thirsty...”
“I know. The note’ll make it better. It’s... er... magic.”
There were a few indistinguishable noises then: “T-to the Dark Lord...” Padfoot croaked. “I know I will be dead... long before... you read... this... but I want you... to know that... it was-it was... I... who discovered your... secret... I have... stolen... the real... H-Horcrux-” That was it, Harry knew. That was what they had come for. “-and... intend to... destroy it... as soon as... I can... I face death... in the... hope... that when you meet.... your match... you will be... mortal...once... more... R...A...B...” Harry knew he’d never forget those words, even if he lived to be a hundred or older, even; Padfoot said wizards had longer life-spans than muggles. “It’s not better... water...”
“No, you can’t!”
“Put the note back in the locket. Padfoot, I need you to put it back.” He knew what the note said now and Regulus deserved to have Voldemort read that letter. Harry almost smiled at the thought.
“Can I-” Padfoot was gasping and his words caught in his throat, which sounded dry.
“Refill the basin,” Harry said. “Please?”
“Done,” Padfoot said a moment later. “Water. I need... please...” Harry could hear his breathing now, and it sounded painful. There was a flash of red and Padfoot’s magic surged and then almost faded, but for a small, bright red core. He’d transformed; Harry could hear him panting, hear his claws on the stone.
“Sit!” he called desperately as Padfoot trotted toward the water. “Stay where you are! No!” It was too late, though. Padfoot had stuck his nose in the water and was lapping up as much as he could. “Padfoot, no!” Harry shouted, but the Inferi were already moving. One grabbed the dog around the neck.
Padfoot snapped at it and chased it back into the water with a weak growl. More were flocking to the island, though - the closest ones to Harry were now thirty yards away. The entire lake’s surface was rippling.
Unbidden, Harry’s mind flashed back to something he’d read in When The Dead Walk. Inferi often attacked the greatest threat first. At the moment, that was Padfoot - the bearlike dog was snapping at another one - but that could be changed.
Don’t do anything stupid, Padfoot had said earlier.
Yeah, well you didn’t exactly listen when I told you not to drink, Harry thought, frowning.
He summoned his courage, grabbed a firework and bellowed, “Incendio!” before tossing it into the air. It exploded a moment later in a shower of blue sparks above his head. He grabbed another firework and after lighting it, tossed it as far as he could toward the middle of the lake.
BANG! Green and red lights sizzled and popped and then hissed when they hit the water. Several of the Inferi were now drifting his way. But not enough, he thought, grimly.
He took a deep breath and then stepped forward and stuck the tip of his trainer into the edge of the lake. A few more of the eerie shapes were headed for him now. Harry took another deep breath, and ran out into the lake, planning to go until he was knee deep.
He skidded on a submerged rock and floundered in the water before he managed to find his feet again and sprinted back to the shore before anything could catch him.
Almost every Inferius in the lake was headed for him now. Padfoot was still fighting as a dog and he was having no trouble at all. It was Harry who needed to be worried, now, and he was. Fear threatened to overwhelm him, but they’d studied for this. They’d practiced. Fire, he thought. They hate fire. And light.
“N-nox,” he whispered, through chattering teeth. His wandlight went out, though he could still see everything - the Inferi, really, were all that mattered - perfectly clearly with his magic-vision. “Lumos Maxima,” he said a moment later as the first few got close enough to be a threat. The white, water-logged hands that had been reaching for him recoiled and their owners shrieked as white light bloomed out of his wand tip.
Harry quickly lit another firework and tossed it out in front of him while the creatures were distracted. It exploded and probably would have done him considerable damage if it weren’t for Padfoot’s Fire-Freezing Charm. As it was, he was knocked off his feet.
He scrambled back up and had a quick glance at the island. Padfoot was back in human form, stuffing things into the rucksack and every few seconds he’d blast an Inferius off the island and back into the water. Harry lit another firework and tossed it toward the edge of the lake.
The firecracker burst in a shower of multicoloured sparks, making more of the creatures shriek. Still, more were coming - far, far too many - and Harry was beginning to think that thinking he could handle them was not only optimistic but downright impossible.
“Ventus!” he shouted and sent two whizzing away. He could see several massing in one spot so he used another Wind Charm to send a firework in their direction.
“Incendio Pila!” he heard Padfoot shout. A moment later, a huge fireball exploded in front of Harry. The entire container of fireworks exploded and Harry was knocked over again.
This time he hit the wall, and with enough force that the wind was knocked out of him. His wand landed nearby. Harry struggled to get upright but couldn’t. He did manage to wrap his fingers around his wand.
“Incendio,” he gasped, pointing at the nearest Inferius. It burst into flames and Harry felt sick but the fire went out as soon as the creature dove back into the water. It went dark and then pale blue light burned his eyes.
He was forced to release his magic-vision and found himself staring up at the ghostly figure of an Inferius. It stank, like rotting fish, its hair was stringy, its teeth sharp - though most were missing - and its pale eyes were glazed over.
Harry crawled backwards, trying to get far enough away to be able to use his wand. “Petrificus Totalus,” he yelled. It dropped with a thud but another moved forward to take its place, its robes hanging off in tatters, teeth bared in a feral smile.
It was a child, too, and couldn’t have been older than nine when it died. No older than I am... “Pedis Offensio!” he said frantically and it tripped. He backed away but its hand latched onto his arm and his back had just hit the cave wall.
Another fireball exploded closer to the water’s edge - from Padfoot, which meant Padfoot was still alive, thankfully - but it wasn’t close enough to help Harry.
“Nox,” he said, and waited until the creature had tightened its grip almost unbearably and then he screamed, “Lumos Maxima!” The Inferius screamed and Harry wrenched his arm free. His shoulder popped painfully and his arm began to tingle but he gritted his teeth, kicked it in the face and sent it soaring back to the lake with a Wind Charm.
“Harry! Where are you?!” Padfoot called hoarsely.
“H-here!” Harry called back, still shivering. He couldn’t feel his left arm at all now, but it twinged every now and then with what he was sure was pain.
“Where’s here!?” Harry saw another fireball go up and then he heard, “Bombarda Maxima!” Several Inferi flew into the air and landed with splashes.
“Here!” Harry shouted desperately. Harry got a glimpse of his godfather, who was held by three Inferi. “Incendio!” Harry shouted. One burst into flames, making the other let go, and Padfoot punched the third hard enough to make it let go. Harry’s eyes met his for a moment and then Padfoot started forward. A moment later he was obscured by a mass of white.
How many are there!? Harry wondered, horrified. A freezing hand tightened around his neck and Harry had to drop his wand to fight it off. Lights flashed in front of his eyes and he couldn’t breathe.
His good hand scrabbled uselessly against the thing’s rotting flesh. Harry tried to shout for help, but couldn’t. Suddenly, it was gone altogether. Padfoot had come; Padfoot - in dog form - had tackled it to the ground, teeth bared, ears back.
The pair went skidding across the stone floor, Padfoot snapping, but then, somehow, it got its hand around his throat too. Harry picked up his wand but he couldn’t think of a spell and he didn’t think he’d be able to use wandless magic again after that massive blast before. In desperation he dropped his wand again and grabbed its ankle, trying to pull it off.
His hand kept slipping on its slimy skin. Padfoot was human again and trying to prise its fingers off but he was slowly going red and he was struggling to breathe, struggling to say something, when- BANG!
All Harry saw was orange, and he wasn’t cold anymore, he was burning, despite Padfoot’s charm. It was uncomfortably hot and he could taste smoke, hear Inferi screaming, hear Padfoot screaming and then his ears popped and he couldn’t hear anything but Merlin did it hurt.
He landed roughly. He’d lost Padfoot, and the creature’s ankle was gone from his grip as well. He felt pressure on his left arm, though he couldn’t tell if it was Padfoot or an Inferius, hot or cold.
He grabbed his wand to try to fight it off but he was being squeezed, everything was being squeezed and he couldn’t move, couldn’t fight it off, and he was going to die...
And then it stopped.