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Later that day, Remus and Dumbledore banged open the door to Sirius\'s temporary room. He looked up from the Quidditch magazine that he was reading, his eyes wide. \"What is it?\" Sirius sharply asked. \"What\'s wrong?\" \"Harry\'s missing,\" Remus said. \"Did he say anything to you?\" \"WHAT?!\" Sirius shouted. He sat up straight. \"What- when-\" he fell back against his pillows, shocked. \"Oh God.\" \"Apparently, he felt that with Ron and Hermione infected-\" \"Ron and Hermione are sick?!\" Sirius burst out. Dumbledore held up a hand. \"The letter that Harry received this morning only throws this entire situation into sharper relief. Harry is needed to stop the Plague, but how, I do not know.\" \"You DON\'T KNOW?!\" Sirius roared. Remus tried to hold him back, but Sirius, even in his weakened state, was putting up a terrific fight. \"WHAT DO YOU MEAN, YOU DON\'T KNOW?!\" \"Harry is no longer in the castle,\" Dumbledore said. \"My only guess is that he either used a Portkey, or was abducted. And the latter I am having trouble believing. I feel as though he felt it was his personal responsibility to stop the Plague. He most likely left voluntarily.\" \"Voluntarily, who cares?! We have to help him-\" Sirius angrily said, moving to get out of bed. However, his energy soon left him and he collapsed onto the floor. Remus tried to help him stand, saying, \"Get back into bed, you\'re not well-\" \"I let him go without even explaining myself this morning,\" Sirius rambled on, his eyes wild. \"He asked about Lily and James and I just made him go to class-\" \"So you put his education first, that\'s fine,\" Remus snapped. \"Did he say anything else?!\" \"NO!\" Sirius shouted. Dumbledore looked at the two men. \"I have an idea,\" he said. \"Remus, I need you to round up the children of the Death Eaters we have in this school.\" \"What?\" Remus asked, distracted. \"Voldemort could not operate freely here himself, but through the actions of another, he most certainly could. If Harry did use a Portkey, then it is the only possible explanation.\" \"Right,\" Remus said. \"So, that would be-\" \"The Slytherin children. Bring them here.\" \"Right,\" Remus repeated, striding out of the office. Dumbledore stared gravely at Sirius. \"I must ask you to remain here, Sirius.\" \"Never,\" Sirius retorted. \"Harry just got you back, Sirius. Would you really endanger yourself again?\" \"Yes,\" Sirius firmly said. \"He might die, Albus.\" Dumbledore sighed. \"Then you leave me no choice.\" He pulled out his wand and muttered something- Sirius reeled and fell unconscious onto his pillows, the Quidditch magazine falling to the floor. \"I\'m sorry, Sirius,\" Dumbledore murmured as he left the room to wait for Remus to return. \"So sorry.\" Harry and Draco hit the ground with a sickening THUD- stars winked cheekily in front of his eyes as he tried to make sense of his surroundings. He was in a dark room, and, looking out of the window, he could see a wild, gnarled landscape quiet unlike anything he had ever seen. He shakily stood up. Hearing a door slam, he realized that Draco had already left. Tugging at the door, he found that it was locked. \"Damn,\" he muttered. He looked around the stone room. It was quite unremarkable, with naught but a desk and two chairs in front of a simple fireplace. He found that he did not have long to wait before the door opened again. A black-hooded man stood there. \"Follow me,\" he said, and Harry fell into step behind him. They walked through many hallways until they reached a pair of double-doors. Glancing at the man, he nodded. The doors slowly opened. It was dark inside, save for the candles set up in a large circle on the floor. There were other black-hooded people silently waiting for him. As Harry walked into the room, the doors slammed shut behind him. His escort took his own place in the circle. And then, as Harry walked to the center of the hundreds of candles, a high, cold voice hissed, \"Welcome, Harry Potter… so good to see you again.\" ********* Blackness. That was all he could see. How ironic, \'blackness\'…. He laughed, but he could not hear it. Where was he? Not the Veil, he knew that instantly. The Veil was all-consuming, a fiery emptiness that flowed over one like water and where one drowned in the air. It was a world of contradictions, a world of everything and nothing. White was black, day was night, and life was death within the folds of the fabric. That was not where he was. He knew that. How did he get here, anyways? And where was \"here\"? He was in a crushing blackness. His eyes showed the same thing open and closed. He felt calm, relaxed. But why? \"I\'m sorry, Sirius… so sorry.\" A whisper on the non-existent wind in Hell… Wait. He turned his head to look at nothing. HIM? Never. He would not. There was no possible way. \"…So sorry.\" How? A slow fury entwined in the darkness of his soul, oily tendrils of rage coiling and seizing his good judgment. His sense of calm was ebbing… being replaced by anger. A slow, thick, horrible anger. He flailed his arms out, and the darkness started to come crashing down around him. \"…So sorry.\" LET ME OUT, he screamed in his mind. LET ME OUT! And then, his eyes shot open and he did not see the blackness. He was lying on his pillows in his room in the headmaster\'s office. Breathing quickly, he slowly sat up, feeling sick. His door was slightly ajar, and he could hear voices. \"… We\'ve got Crabbe, Goyle and Nott, but Malfoy\'s missing.\" \"Then it is as I feared,\" another voice said, and Sirius trembled with rage as he realized it was Dumbledore. \"Malfoy has taken Harry somewhere. You,\" he suddenly said. \"Drink this.\" \"Why?\" came the slow voice of Crabbe. \"It\'s good,\" Remus said encouragingly. \"No, I don\'t want-\" his voice choked as he was apparently forced to drink something. \"Can you hear me?\" Dumbledore said. \"Yes,\" came the flat voice of Crabbe. Sirius knew that he had been force-fed Veritaserum. \"Where has Harry Potter been taken?\" Dumbledore asked. \"Draco Malfoy used a Portkey to take him to Scotland,\" the flat voice drawled. \"He is there for a Ceremony.\" \"What ceremony?\" \"I don\'t know.\" \"Is he with Voldemort?\" \"Yes.\" Remus swore loudly. Dumbledore ignored him and continued his questions, but Sirius paid no attention. He was looking wildly around his room. He had to get out. He had to help Harry. He shakily stood up and silently fell back onto the bed. His strength was next to none, but he could not just sit here and wait for news. He dimly heard Dumbledore dismiss the students. \"What did you tell Sirius?\" he heard Remus ask. Dumbledore sighed. \"I had to put him to sleep so he would not come. He will not wake until we return.\" \"Oh dear,\" Remus sadly said. \"He\'ll be furious.\" \"I know,\" Dumbledore heavily said. \"But he is far too weak. I am not going to let him fall again.\" \"Why did we even tell him in the first place?\" Remus groaned. \"Now he\'ll kill me, too.\" He paused. \"So, how do we know where in Scotland Harry is?\" \"There are many spells on Harry that he is not aware of,\" Dumbledore stated. \"One of them allows me to know where he is, if he is in the general vicinity of where I am. So, for instance, I can tell where he is in this castle. If he is in another country, however, it is much weaker and I cannot track it. If I am in Scotland, however, I will be able to discover his whereabouts.\" \"Right. So, to Scotland, then?\" \"Yes. Let us get to the castle gates, we can Apparate from that point…\" the two walked out, leaving Sirius quite alone. Furious, he grabbed hold of tables and the backs of chairs to keep his balance. He saw his wand lying on the nightstand next to his two-way mirror. He grabbed both and then, looking at his wand, decided to do a strengthening spell. \"At least it\'ll help me stand up,\" he muttered. He performed the spell and found he was able to walk without falling. \"Alrighty, then,\" he said to himself. \"Let\'s go.\" He transformed into the shaggy black dog and bounded down the steps, hitting the stone wall occasionally as he stumbled his way out the door. ********* Harry stared at the gleaming red eyes in the darkness. \"You,\" he whispered, fury igniting within him. Lord Voldemort smiled. \"Me.\" \"Why? Why are you doing all of this?\" Harry growled, flexing his fingers as though itching to go for his wand. The Death Eaters closed the circle around him. To his right, he saw Draco Malfoy standing next to his father. The candles burned brightly, showing a large, stone bowl on the floor filled with water. The flames flickered across the glassy surface like diamonds. Voldemort touched the surface of the water with his wand, and Harry\'s eyes narrowed as he saw the pale form of Lavender Brown, albeit less than a foot tall, rise out of it. \"Do you know why we created the Plague, Harry?\" \"To piss me off, no doubt,\" Harry snapped. Voldemort laughed. \"I\'m sure… no, Harry, that was not my primary intention, although it does make me quite happy to \'piss you off\', as it were. We created the sickness to strike down those around you.\" He prodded the surface once more with his wand and the still form of Lavender morphed into Dean Thomas. \"I knew that we could not harm you, not with Dumbledore\'s protection. However, judging from the events of last spring-\" Harry fought the urge to flinch as he remembered the Department of Mysteries- \"the fact that you are a born rescuer was pronounced even more so than before. And I knew that, even if I had managed to infect you, I would not have been able to kill you. That is not what the Prophecy meant to happen. You are not destined to go that way, Harry… not at all.\" He prodded the water again, and Dean morphed into Seamus Finnigan. \"So, I gathered what information I had pertaining to your personal character and my dear friend Lucius devised a wonderful plan. From what Draco had told him, added to what we already knew, we realized that you would go to any lengths, not to save yourself, but to save others.\" Harry dimly registered what Voldemort was saying as Seamus\'s face melted into that of Colin Creevey, and then into his little brother. Voldemort glanced at Harry. \"Do you know how many have fallen from the Plague?\" \"Not the exact number,\" Harry admitted. \"Seventy two,\" Voldemort hissed. \"Seventy two, which is plus the Ministry workers. Do you know how many have died?\" \"No,\" Harry whispered. \"The Ministry workers have,\" the evil face continued. \"And one student who I am quite sure has never been important to you- Colin Creevey.\" It was as though Harry\'s heart had been turned to ice. He gasped, his eyes wide and disbelieving. \"No,\" he growled. \"You\'re lying!\" \"I am afraid that it IS the truth, Harry,\" Voldemort pleasantly said. \"So that is eighteen dead so far. How many more are you willing to lose before you come to the rescue?\" \"But there\'s nothing I can do,\" Harry shouted. \"NOTHING!\" \"On the contrary,\" Voldemort quietly said. \"It is your intervention that will cause the Plague to die.\" \"Then what do I need to do?\" Harry whispered furiously. \"Just tell me.\" \"Every antidote developed by the hospitals has only caused the patients to relapse,\" Voldemort said. \"because they lack the key ingredient.\" \"And what would that be?\" Harry angrily asked. Voldemort stared at him, clearly enjoying himself. \"It would be you, Harry Potter.\" Harry glared at him. \"What are you talking about?\" \"YOU are the key ingredient- or, rather, a necessary part of you. Your blood is what I am speaking of.\" Harry could not say anything. Suddenly, everything began to fall together. \"You were not infected by the Plague, even though you were around the sick children. Why? Because in your veins was the antidote.\" This is crazy, Harry thought wildly. There is no way- \"So, do you see what I am saying, Harry?\" Harry\'s voice failed him, so Voldemort gleefully continued. As he spoke, the people in the bowl of water began to flicker quickly from one person to another, finally ending with Ron, and then Hermione. \"The bottom line, Harry Potter, is that you must give your blood if you want these people to survive. If you refuse, then they all die.\" He smiled evilly. \"So, my dear boy, what is it going to be? Sacrifice yourself, or sacrifice your friends?\" Harry, who felt as though he was going to vomit, looked around. \"Can I have five minutes to think about it? It\'s not exactly a light decision.\" Voldemort raised his eyebrows and then pointed to a small anteroom. Before he let Harry go, he suddenly shouted, \"ACCIO WAND!\" and Harry\'s wand flew through the air into his long, white fingers. Then, he calmly said, \"Now you may go.\" Dazed, Harry stumbled into the tiny room and slammed the door. There was nothing inside but a bench, and he collapsed onto it. He was shaking madly. Beyond the door, he could hear the murmurs of the Death Eaters. So this is what Voldemort had planned for him. This was how he planned to fulfill the Prophecy. \'For neither can live while the other survives\'… Voldemort had not managed to kill Harry like any normal person would have, so he was going to attack what he knew Harry would never defend if others were at stake- himself. And it was genius, too- Harry slammed both of his fists against the wall in frustration. It was sly, devious… where had he heard the saying? \'The cunning warrior attacks neither the body nor the mind- he attacks the heart\'. He had struck his sword deep into Harry\'s heart by bringing down his best friends. How would Harry sleep at night, knowing that, by choosing to save his own life, he let those people dearest to him die? But Dumbledore… Dumbledore would want him to survive. The world needed him, they needed Harry Potter. They didn\'t need Ron or Hermione or Dean or Lavender or any of them. He was the Boy who Lived, who would fulfill the Prophecy as he saw fit. \"But it is in my hands now,\" Harry said to himself. \"It is as I see fit.\" If he chose himself, they would all die. If he chose them, he would die. The hope of the world would die. Images of Ron and Hermione flickered through his head- Ron, his best friend in the universe, going on all of his adventures with him… his bright red hair, his gangly limbs, his sarcastic sense of humor. And Hermione… beautiful Hermione, who had once been so bossy and domineering and was now the link to his sane side… she was the logical one, the smart one. In his mind\'s eye she smiled at him, her brown eyes shining trustfully. Choose himself, let them die… choose them, die himself… which would he choose, which- Suddenly, he heard something. There was a voice in the room with him. \"HARRY!\" He realized that it was his two-way mirror and immediately moved to yank it out of his pocket. However, he froze halfway. \"HARRY!\" Sirius was shouting. \"HOLD ON, I\'M COMING FOR YOU!\" \"No, Sirius,\" Harry said quietly. \"You can\'t this time.\" \"What, Harry?! No! NO! I\'m so close, Harry! You can\'t!\" \"Goodbye, Sirius,\" Harry said. \"HARRY! I KNOW YOU CAN HEAR ME! YOU CAN\'T LEAVE US! YOU CAN\'T! I\'M SORRY THAT I DIDN\'T TALK TO YOU THIS MORNING! I\'M SORRY! WE NEED TO TALK, HARRY! WE NEED TO-\" Harry stuffed the mirror back into his pocket. \"Goodbye, Sirius,\" Harry repeated. Then, his decision made, he pushed open the door and headed back out to the Death Eaters. ********** Dumbledore and Remus stared around the wild Scottish landscape. Looming in the distance was an old, abandoned house that seemed as though nobody had set foot near it in years. The weeds were thick and tangled, and as Remus tried to move by one, it snagged his shabby robes and he cursed as he tried to free himself from them. They wrapped tightly around his ankles and Remus fell to the ground, flailing wildly. \"The weeds have been spelled,\" Dumbledore calmly said. \"Remus, hold still.\" The old man raised his wand and repelled the writhing weeds. Remus brushed off his robes and nodded his thanks. \"We should try to find a better way in,\" Remus stated. \"We\'ll be eaten alive by these weeds if we go in this way.\" They headed around the house, and to their delight they discovered a back door that, once they blasted away the weeds, would be quite simple to use. \"All right,\" Remus said after they cleared the plants out of their path. \"We should- oh dear,\" he suddenly said, looking back at the road. Dumbledore followed his gaze and sighed, for bounding up the path was a gigantic, shaggy black dog. \"Sirius,\" Remus almost shouted. \"Why did you come?!\" Sirius transformed back into a man, glaring fit to kill at the both of them. \"He\'s my godson. I\'m not leaving him to die.\" \"But you\'re far too weak,\" Remus argued, looking worried and angry. \"You\'ll kill yourself!\" \"I heard him through the two-way mirror,\" Sirius snapped, coughing. \"That\'s how I was able to get here. But you don\'t even know what you\'re dealing with! I could hear what Vol-\" \"Don\'t say his name!\" Dumbledore hissed. \"Saying it will give him power over us while we are in his presence now.\" \"Fine- well, HE was telling Harry- well, I only heard bits of it, but HE said that the Plague could only be stopped if Harry decided to stop it, and then he gave Harry a choice, but I couldn\'t hear what.\" Dumbledore\'s eyes opened wide. \"Oh, no…\" \"What?\" Remus sharply asked. \"We must get inside. Now. We have to stop this before it goes any farther! Hurry!\" They charged through the door, their wands up and ready. Harry stared at Voldemort, shaking inside but calm to his face. \"Will that be your final decision?\" Voldemort hissed, his red eyes gleaming. Harry nodded. \"You realize that there is no going back now? You cannot change your mind?\" \"I realize that,\" Harry quietly said. \"Ah.\" Voldemort vanished the water from the stone bowl. \"Right,\" Harry said. He desperately wondered if he was doing the right thing. \"Good bye, Harry Potter,\" Voldemort quietly said, a grin slowly stretching across his white face. Taking a deep breath, Harry extended his left arm over the stone bowl and slowly dug the blade of the ancient knife into his skin. He let out a quick hiss of breath as the pain shot through his arm, and he saw the blood begin to fall. \"More,\" he faintly heard Voldemort say. Harry kept digging the blade into his arm, his eyesight dimming as he watched his life stream into the bowl. He fell to his knees. He stabbed his other arm, dragging the blade along the length of his skin. \"MORE!\" Voldemort snapped again, but then stopped. Behind Harry, although he could not see it, the door burst open. Dumbledore, Remus, and Sirius strode in. They all stared in horror at Harry, who was shining crimson. Sirius numbly watched his godson slowly fall, and then move no more. *********** \"NOOOOOOOOOOOO!\" Sirius screamed, jumping forward and brandishing his wand like a sword. There was an excited mutter from the Death Eaters as they recognized him. Bellatrix Lestrange, horrified, moved towards him. \"I killed you,\" she firmly said, though she looked disbelieving. \"You were DEAD!\" \"Obviously not, you wench!\" he roared, leaping for her. She whipped out her wand and they began to duel furiously, sending sparks up this way and that. Remus quickly stunned a number of the Death Eaters, and then moved to help Harry. Dumbledore went straight for Voldemort. \"You cannot win this time, Tom,\" the headmaster thundered. \"Oh, but I\'m afraid I already have,\" Voldemort sneered. \"You see, even if Harry survives, which he won\'t, only one of us here knows how to make the antidote. So, if Harry dies from blood loss, then the infected children will die. If Harry survives, the children die anyway, because if you take us in now, why should we tell you how to make the antidote?\" \"There is no need,\" Dumbledore stated. He raised his wand and began to duel with Voldemort. The other Death Eaters hovered on the edge, clearly unsure of what to do. Sirius and Bellatrix were ignoring everything but each other. \"You were supposed to DIE,\" she snapped, dodging a particularly nasty curse of Sirius\'s. \"You\'re not walking away this time, Lestrange,\" he growled. He rolled onto the stone floor as she shrieked, \"CRUCIO!\", just barely escaping. \"There\'s no use in fighting me, Black,\" she shouted. \"You lost last time, you\'ll lose again!\" \"I-THINK-NOT!\" he bellowed, raising his wand as she turned to battle once more. \"PETRIFICUS TOTALUS!\" Bellatrix Lestrange fell, as stiff as a board. Sirius stood over her, a tiny smile on his face. \"Now you\'re mine,\" he softly said, grinning. \"I win.\" Fear entered her eyes as she realized the immensity of what had just happened. He paced around her. \"Maybe I could kill you. Or I could do something that\'s even worse than that…\" he then whipped out his wand again, pointed it at her, and Transfigured her into a pocket watch. He stuck the watch into his pocket. \"I\'ve got plans for you, dear cousin.\" Then, he whirled around and went to see what he could do for Harry. Harry was lying in a pool of his own blood, his eyes blank and staring. Remus felt for a pulse, but could not find one. Sirius did not even bother with that, but slapped his godson\'s face repeatedly. \"Harry?\" He urgently said. \"HARRY!\" \"It\'s- it\'s no use, Sirius,\" Remus choked out. \"He\'s gone.\"

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