Descent into Darkness

BY : Athey1024
Category: Harry Potter AU/AR > Slash - Male/Male
Dragon prints: 69308
Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter, nor any of the characters from the books or movies. I do not make any money from the writing of this story.


 



Disclaimer: Don't own Harry Potter. JKRowling does.



First Beta Pass by Clemex



– –



After dinner, Harry stayed with Hermione and Ron, instead of running off to the chamber right away. They both seemed rather surprised by this, but Harry tried to play it off as a non-issue. He doubted he could get away with disappearing at 8:30 – which was when he planned to leave in order to make it to Voldemort's manor with enough time to spare – if he was also gone for his usual hour after dinner.



As he sat there, working on his homework, he asked Hermione a few remedial questions about arithmancy and ancient runes. She was clearly very excited to discuss her favorite classes with someone else and easily prattled on about both. At 8:20, Harry asked Hermione to recommend the best Rune dictionary for a beginning, and then said he was going to go to the library before Madam Pince closed it for the night. He said he might stay there and browse a bit.



It was obvious that Hermione was itching to come with him, but she had a huge pile of work in front of her, and he had known before he even mentioned it, that she wouldn't be willing to uproot herself from her study table.



Still, there had been a brief moment where he feared she would surprise him, and insist on coming with him.



Relieved that it didn't become a problem, Harry slipped from the common room with his bag slung over his shoulder. The first secret passageway he came across, he ducked behind the tapestry covering the entrance, and threw on his invisibility cloak while pulling out the map.



He quickly checked the Defense corridor where the statue of the one-eyed witch covered the entrance to a tunnel. It was empty, and the way there was pretty clear. It wasn't after curfew yet, so there weren't any people patrolling the halls to catch anyone out after hours.



Harry rushed there, and slipped into the tunnel without encountering any resistance. He jogged through the narrow tunnel, eager to get past the wards as quickly as possible. He finally made it, pulled up the left sleeve of his robes and hissed the command to activate the portkey.



A dizzying moment later, he was standing in the entry hall of Voldemort's manor house. He stood there for a moment and checked his wrist watch. He had arrived at 5 till 9 o'clock, so he had made it in time. He wondered if he should go up to the study, or if the ritual would be performed in the ballroom. He doubted it would be elaborate enough for such a large space, but at the same time, he really had no idea what would be involved.



Harry decided to just go up to the study to look for Voldemort there, and then if he wasn't, he would just have to... find him some other way...



...fff... feel him...



Harry stopped in his tracks at having suddenly heard his companions voice. The two hadn't conversed much outside of his nightly routine and Potions class, so he was a bit surprised to hear the voice in his head while at Voldemort's manor.



Once his surprise had faded, he finally thought about what had been said.



"Feel him?"



Hisss... magic... Follow your... ssscar.



Harry blinked and then did a mental 'face-palm' and grinned. It really was rather obvious, once he thought about it.



"Thanks," Harry thought mentally with a grin before closing his eyes and reaching out with his magic to sense the familiar magical signature of the Dark Lord.



He quickly realized that the man was not in his study. He was on the first floor, although he didn't seem to be in the ballroom that he had been in for the resurrection ritual.



He opened his eyes and followed the potent magical vibrations that radiated out from the most powerful dark wizard alive. He went down a long hall, and then turned off into another before finding himself in front of a very nondescript door. He had absolutely no doubt that Voldemort was on the other side of it, but wondered if it was alright for him to knock, or if he should wait a minute. For all he knew, he was looking at the door to the loo. And while his mind was quickly adjusting to the knowledge that Voldemort was in fact a living human being, it was still odd to think of the man going to the bathroom.



He stood there awkwardly for a minute, debating whether or not he should knock when the door suddenly flew open and Voldemort was standing there, looking at him with impatient annoyance.



"How long, exactly, did you plan to just stand there?" He asked as he spun around and began to walk back into the room, not bothering to wait for a response. Harry quickly hurried after, and closed the door behind him.



When Harry turned around to face the room, he froze and his eyes widened in shock.



It was the loo.



Well, it was a bathroom. A very large bathroom, that had tub that was sunken into the tiled floor that looked more like a small pool, or perhaps a hot tub, only without the bubbles.



To one side of the room, was a cauldron with a potion of some sort boiling away in it. Voldemort was walking back to the cauldron at that moment, but Harry was just too confused by what he was looking at to know what to do.



Surely the man had a more appropriate place for brewing potions than a bathroom?



"You will need to soak in a special bath for the next five hours. At the end of that time, you will speak the ritual words, endure about one minute of mild pain, and the trace will be dispelled," Voldemort said as he added one last thing to the cauldron and stirred it a few times.



"Whuh? I... wait... Five hours!" Harry said, finally catching up with what had just been said.



"Yes, Potter. Five hours," Voldemort responded with a flat and slightly annoyed tone.



"I really didn't make a suitable excuse for disappearing that long," Harry said hesitantly as he finally took a few more steps into the posh, tiled bathroom.



"I told you it wouldn't be a problem, and it won't be," Voldemort sighed in exasperation.



Harry sighed and shrugged. "Alright. If you say so. So... what do I need to do, exactly?"



"Very little. I've done all the work for you," Voldemort said as he finally turned his head to look over his shoulder back at Harry. He was smirking, and there was mild amusement in his eyes, which helped put some of Harry's nerves at ease. "Like I said, you quite literally just have to soak in the tub." Voldemort stood up and walked over over to a table at the side of the room that had a number of folded towels sitting on top of it. To one side of the table was an open book, and a couple pieces of parchment. Voldemort picked up one of the parchments and walked over to Harry.



"It has been charmed to be waterproof. At the end of the five hours, an alarm will sound. Pick up your wand, follow these instructions for the proper focus, and speak these words," as he spoke he pointed at different areas of the parchment before handing it over to Harry. "When you finish, come get me in my study, I have something I need to explain before you leave."



Harry nodded his head and began to read the piece of parchment. Voldemort walked over to the cauldron, and with a wave of his wand, it floated up into the air, away from the fire, and hovered over the tub, that was already filled with water. He flicked his wand and the cauldron turned over and its contents fell into the tub.



Harry looked at it with mild apprehension but quickly pushed past it and began to remove his robes. He folded them and set them on the edge of a counter behind him and began to remove his undershirt. He hesitated at that point, wondering if the man intended to leave soon, or if he was going to wait until Harry got into the water.



"Don't be so modest, Potter. I need to add a few additional ingredients after you've entered the water. Get on with it."



Harry blushed and ducked his head as he reached down and unbuckled his belt and began to undo his trousers. He turned away, hating how idiotic he felt, as he pulled his boxers down and took a deep breath, as he tried to compose himself. He quickly made his way over to the sunken bath and slipped one foot in. He could feel Voldemort's eyes on him as he stood there, stark naked for all the world to see. Or... for the Dark Lord to see. His gaze was piercing – or at least, it felt that way. For all Harry knew, Voldemort had his eyes closed, seeing as how Harry was pointedly refusing to look the other man in the face. He quickly tested the water, wanting to sink down into it and obscure his nudity as quickly as possible. It was really quite hot. A bit hotter than he was comfortable with, but he figured he'd adjust.



He quickly forced himself to sink down into the water and found that it had a raised seating platform along the outer edge. Harry's hand sank into the water and he tried to casually cover himself with them, which caused Voldemort to snicker. He walked around the bathtub adding in various sand-like looking ingredients, and a few leaves that Harry didn't recognize.



"That is all that is necessary until the five hours are up. You may read, just make sure you don't do anything stupid like drop your book in the water."



Harry grabbed his cypress wand, that he had placed on the edge of the tub and used it to levitate his book bag from against the wall to the edge of the tub where he could reach it.



"Oh, and definitely do not drop your wand in the water. You will have to start over completely if that happens."



Harry's eyes went wide and he nodded his head. "Right. Got it. Erm... thanks... for this. All of it. I really appreciate it. I mean, you didn't have to go to all this trouble for me, so I can't express how much I really am thankful."



"Oh, shut it, Potter. Come get me when your done. Nagini might drop by for a visit. She enjoys the warmth of the room," Voldemort spoke with easy disinterest as he gathered a few things and quickly left the room.



Harry blinked after him before taking in a deep breath and sighing heavily. Of all the things he had imagined for this 'ritual', a long soak in a hot bath, was most definitely not on his list. After a quiet, peaceful minute had passed, the stunned confusion that had filled him from the moment he had entered the room, up until Voldemort had left, finally abated, and he found himself calming down and truly relaxing.



He let himself just soak for a while. Relaxing his mind and letting himself drift away. About forty-five minutes in, he was starting to get rather bored, so he pulled a book from his backpack, cast a temporary waterproofing charm on it, and began to read.



After an hour of that, his eyes felt strained, and he decided to try doing some laps. He wasn't sure if whatever Voldemort had put in the water would be bad for his eyes, so he avoided dunking his head under the surface. He'd been playing around in the misty-looking water for a while when he heard a hissing sound that he had only ever heard in visions. He looked towards the door, but it was still closed shut. He glanced around again, and finally noticed that the hissing sound was coming from a metal vent in the wall, towards the floor. The vent cover appeared to have a hinge along the top, and no sooner had he spotted it, then he saw it getting pushed open to reveal the head of a large black snake.



Nagini slithered down the foot of space between the vent and the floor, and then slowly muscled her entire length out of it and onto the floor. Harry watched her move and was actually rather transfixed with the way she moved, and the way the light glittered off her obsidian scales. She was a really beautiful snake. He could see why Voldemort had chosen her as his familiar.



§Hello, Nagini,§ Harry hissed and the serpent froze and instantly jerked her head in his direction.



§Master sssaid you were a ssspeaker...§ she hissed with an air of surprise in her voice. She paused and seemed to consider him for a long minute. §Make me a rock to perch upon,she demanded simply.



Harry blinked at her.



§Pardon?§



§Make me a rock with your sstick and make it warm. Masster always uses his ssstick to make my perch.§



Harry looked around the room for anything he could easily transfigure into a rock large enough to house Nagini. There was a chair off to one side of the room that had potential. Harry grabbed his wand from the side of the tub, summoned the chair closer and set it in the center of the floor a few feet from the edge of the tub.



§What are you doing?§ Nagini hissed in impatience.



§I'm going to transfigure the chair into a rock for you,§ Harry hissed back, a little annoyed at her attitude.



§Masster can make a rock from nothing with his sstick.§



§Yes, well your master is indescribably more experienced with magic than I am. Conjuring something from nothing is not exactly easy, and I haven't really covered that in my classes yet. But I can transfigure the chair into a rock.§



§And you will make it warm?§



§And I will make it warm.§ Harry echoed with an exasperated eyeroll.



§Good.§



Harry chuckled and quickly transfigured the chair into a large, flat rock and then cast a warming charm on it. Nagini slithered over and curled up into a coil on top of it. She made a pleased sort of hissing noise and seemed to slip off to sleep.



Harry read a couple chapters from a book, did a few laps, and read a bit from another book, before Nagini began to stir.



Harry noticed that she had her own unique magic vibration. It was strangely familiar, and comforting, in the same sort of way he felt around Voldemort himself. There was no rational explanation behind it, he just felt an easy relaxing sort of vibe off her. Which was exceptionally odd since she was such a brat.



The best Harry could figure was that Voldemort had to have put some of his own power into her, and it was that that he was feeling so comfortable with. The two of them carried on a bit of a conversation for a while. Nothing serious was really discussed, although they did spend a bit of time talking about how pathetic Wormtail was. Nagini said that he was an abysmal and utterly inadequate servant to her master, and that she enjoyed terrorizing him. Apparently, having spent more than a decade as a rat had only intensified his natural fear of giant serpents, and Nagini absolutely terrified him. Harry laughed at the sight he imagined in his mind of the short, pudgy, balding man, running in terror from the large snake.



Nagini finally told Harry that she was hungry and that she was going to leave. She slithered off the heated rock and made her way back to the vent that she had entered the room from. She easily nosed it open and disappeared inside, leaving Harry, once again, alone.



He relaxed back in the still-hot water and let his head rest against the tile edge. Before he'd even realize it, he had begun to doze off. He wasn't even sure how long he had been out when a ringing bell sounded in the room, jarring him awake.



Harry blinked owlishly at the room, slightly confused for a long minute as to what was going on before his fuzzy brain cleared up enough that he remembered where he was. Quickly, he grabbed his wand and the parchment that Voldemort had left for him. He did the proper focusing and quickly read through the ritual words. The moment he had completed the last word his skin began to prickle with pins and needles. It escalated into the point where it felt like his limbs had all painfully fallen asleep. It was decidedly unpleasant, but it really wasn't that bad.



The prickling spread across every surface of his body and slowly intensified until he found himself sitting there in the water stiff-backed and clenching his teeth, hands, and toes.



And then it was gone.



Harry sighed heavily feeling the sensation completely disperse and began to haul himself out of the water. His body felt heavy after having been suspended in the water for so long. To call his skin 'pruney' would be putting it mildly. His hands and feet were wrinkled up like a giant raisin and he laughed at the sight of himself. He dried off with one of the towels and then quickly got dressed. He collected all of his things and quickly left the room.



He climbed the stairs to the second floor and went straight for Voldemort's study. He knocked gently on the door before pushing it open a crack and peering inside. Voldemort was hunched over his desk again, scratching away with his quill at some large parchments. There were a few open books scattered around as well.



"It's done, I assume?" Voldemort's voice called out, breaking the silence and startling Harry.



"Yes, sir."



"Any complications?"



"None."



"Good," Voldemort said as he gracefully stood from his seat and began to stride confidently towards Harry. Harry stepped to the side as the Dark Lord walked past him through the door and began to lead the way down the stairs. Harry followed wordlessly, and was surprised when he was lead out the front doors of the manor, and into the overgrown garden of weeds and grass beyond. The two of them kept walking until they had reached an untidy hedge and Voldemort came to a stop.



"The current wards end here. Step beyond it and cast a spell with your cypress wand. I will remain on this side of the wards, so if the trace is still in place, it will not detect the presence of an adult wizard. If the spell has failed, we will know very shortly."



Harry's eyes went wide and he felt legitimate fear in the pit of his stomach. If he got a letter from the improper use of magic office, they would know he had been outside of school. How the hell would he ever explain that he had snuck out and gotten to... where ever the hell Little Hangleton was?



"Don't look so terrified, Potter. Do you honestly think I would let you do this if I had any concerns about whether or not it had worked? I simply wish to confirm it for sure."



"Er, right. Sorry," Harry muttered before taking a deep breath, stepping beyond the shrub and pulling out his cypress wand. He cast a lumos, because that seemed the easiest to get away with, if he did get caught, and then stood there and waited. His heart was hammering in his chest, no matter how much he scolded himself for being an idiot. Getting caught was probably the only thing he really was afraid of these days.



Several minutes passed and no owls appeared carrying howlers. Harry sighed in relief and then a very wide, triumphant grin spread across his face.



He could do magic out of school, and no one could find out. He turned back to Voldemort, who was standing beside the hedge with his arms crossed, looking poised and relaxed at the same time. He was smirking down at him with a knowing expression. He jerked his chin back towards the manor and began to walk back. Harry quickly matched his stride, still grinning widely as he walked.



"This is so brilliant," he finally said under his breath when he couldn't help it anymore.



"I vaguely recall feeling much the same way when I first performed that ritual."



"Did you do it while at Hogwarts?"



"Yes. I used the Room of Requirement."



"It can have a bath tub?" Harry asked, suddenly intrigued.



"It can have anything you need. You just have to ask the room for it when you are walking in front of it. You can also ask it to provide you with any book that is also contained in the school library and it can." He hesitated for a moment and a sly grin spread across his thin lips, "Even the ones in the restricted section. It was quite handy. It had always been such a bother convincing the professors to write me a permissions slip to gain access to it. The Room made that unnecessary."



Harry gaped at him. "For real? That's incredible!"



"Mm. Yes. It was quite a boon when I discovered it."



They climbed the steps to the manor's doors and stepped into the entry hall. Voldemort continued leading Harry down the hallway past the stairs and stopped at a door not very far from where Harry always port-key'd in at. The door seemed just as nondescript as all the rest at first glance, but Harry suddenly realized that it didn't have a doorknob.



Voldemort leaned forward and hissed §open§, and suddenly there was a click sound and the door popped open an inch. Voldemort pushed on the door and slipped inside. Harry followed and found that they appeared to be in a room the size of a small walk-in closet. There was absolutely nothing in the room except for a shelf on the wall opposite the door. On the shelf were two small wooden boxes with hinged lids. They were identical and looked to all the world to just be jewelery boxes.



Voldemort reached forward and opened one of them. Inside, on a thin chain-link necklace, was –



"A time-turner!" Harry gasped as his mind registered what he was looking at.



Voldemort looked back at him and smirked. "Seen one of these before, have you?"



"A friend of mine got one for her classes last year. We ended up having to use it in order to save me and Sirius from a hundred or so dementors."



Voldemort rose a single eyebrow and the look on his face told Harry that he wanted Harry to elaborate.



"Sirius and I... it was after Wormtail got away, and Professor Lupin had transformed into a werewolf, so Sirius and I were running. We ended up getting cornered at the edge of the lake and were surrounded by dementors. There were literally a hundred of them, and I thought we were doomed. But then, out of nowhere, I saw someone across the way appear in the shadows and cast a huge corporeal patronus. It drove them all away.



"In my own moronic idiocy, I convinced myself it was my dead father, because the patronus was his animagus form. But then just a bit after that, I was with that friend – Hermione – and Dumbledore basically told to her to use the time-turner... bloody hell, he even told her exactly how many hours back we needed to go... manipulative old bastard... anyway – we went back and it turned out that the shadowy figure I saw who cast the patronus was actually me."



Harry paused as he saw a look of mild disbelief cross Voldemort's features.



"Are you saying that last year you cast a corporeal patronus, powerful enough to drive off a hundred dementors?"



Harry blinked and then ducked his head. "Er... yeah. It was one of those moments where I just knew I could do it, because I'd already seen myself do it, so I just... did. I never could get my patronus to be that clear or well formed before that. I had so much trouble with it. I practiced that spell almost all year, but there at the end it just worked."



Voldemort was quiet for a long moment before he began to laugh. Harry looked up at him, slightly bewildered by the reaction, but didn't say anything.



"You are truly an oddity, Harry Potter," Voldemort said with a smirk. "Now that you are no longer fighting off the piece of my soul that exists within you, I imagine you would find it much easier to tape into that power at will. You've already told me how learning magic comes much easier to you now. I believe you've already come to the obvious conclusion on your own – all of the magical energy that you dedicated towards restraining my soul was holding you back in your magical development. Now that you are no longer doing that, you should have access to that great power whenever you want it, not just when facing off a hundred dementors."



Harry nodded. "Yeah, I sort of figured that was the case. I've also tried casting a patronus recently, just to make sure I still could."



"And?"



Harry shrugged. "Easy. Still solid and corporeal. I was afraid I'd have a hard time with it now, since it's a light spell."



"It doesn't quite work that way," Voldemort said dismissively with a wave of his hand. "Anyway, we are getting off track. This, as you accurately observed, is a time-turner. I am going to permit you to make use of it when you are here, but you cannot take it with you. After you have spent an evening here, you will let yourself into this room, remove the time-turner from one box," Voldemort motioned towards the open box he had just taken the time turner from, "use it to go back to the time that you arrived here, and then, at that point in the past, you will leave the time-turner in the other box. Do not put the two time turners into the same box. They cannot exist beside each other at any point in time. Is that understood?"



Harry nodded his head. "Yes sir."



"Good. Once you are done, leave the room, return to the entry hall, and use the portkey to return to the castle. Problems solved. You will not have to worry about when you come here, or how long you spend here, and no one at your school will become suspicious about extended absences."



Harry looked at the time-turner, and then Voldemort with awe. "This is perfect. I... I just keep thanking you for things. You've done so much for me these last couple days. It's just so much. I don't know what to say..."



"Despite what Dumbledore and the Ministry would have everyone believe, I did not simply rule my followers through fear and torture. I treat my followers with as much respect as they earn and deserve."



"But what have I done to earn this? I'm... I'm the stupid brat who prevented you from getting the stone. I –"



"That is in the past, Potter. And while that may be true, you are also the stupid brat who willingly came to me, and offered up your body and blood in order to help my resurrection, even though you already knew I was after you, and that by coming to me, you could easily have been walking to your own funeral. Continue to prove yourself useful, and I will continue to treat you with the respect you earn from me. Fail me, or betray me, and you will wish for death. Do you understand me?"



Harry blinked at the man, but instead of feeling fear like he rationally knew he should, he felt a wide grin spread across his lips. He quickly nodded with odd enthusiasm. "Yes, my Lord. I understand you perfectly well."



Voldemort rose a single curious eyebrow in response to Harry's reaction.



"Good. That is all for tonight. Return tomorrow and you will continue reading the chapter on countering the affinitatem reveleo spell. When you feel sufficiently comfortable with it, we will practice. I imagine you will catch on quite quickly."



With that Voldemort handed the time-turner to Harry, and slipped out of the room. Harry was left feeling a bit odd with the abrupt dismissal, and stood there for a few long seconds, at a bit of a loss. Finally he shook his head clear and turned down to the time-turner. He looked at his watch and saw that it was just after 2:30am. He put the time-turner's chain around his neck and turned the tiny hour glass six times. A moment later, the world swirled around him, and was suddenly still again. Harry cast a tempus and saw that it was now 8:34pm. He took the time-turner off and put it into the second box. He looked in the first box and saw the time turner already resting there.



He wouldn't be arriving at the manor for another twenty minutes. If he used his portkey to return to the tunnel, would he run into his other self on the way? He hadn't before, so he would obviously find a way around that. He could either hang out in the manor for another twenty minutes and leave after his other self got here, or he could go and make sure he got out of the tunnel before his other self entered it. Would he have enough time for that?



He would, he decided. He left the 'closet' and made his way back to the entry hall. He hissed §morsmordre§ and activated the portkey, bringing himself back into the tunnel where he had departed from. He put on his invisibility cloak and ran down the tunnel at a rather quick pace. He got to the end, surprisingly fast, used the password to move the statue away from the entrance, climbed out, put it back to rights and quickly ran from the hall.



He pulled out the marauder's map and checked it. It was odd seeing two different dots marked 'Harry Potter'. He watched as his other self got to the statue and disappeared into the tunnel. Remembering that his excuse for leaving had been to visit the library, Harry figured he'd go there now just to add some validity to his story. He checked out the book Hermione had recommended and then made his way back to Gryffindor tower.



By this point, he was really really tired, and wanted to just head straight to bed. But of course, to everyone else, it wasn't even 9pm yet, so going to bed this early would look decidedly odd. Harry forced himself to stay up another hour and a half, and when he did finally fall into bed just before 10:30pm, he was so exhausted that he fell asleep almost as soon as his head hit the pillow.



– –



Tuesday morning brought History of Magic; which meant that Harry took a nap. After lunch, Harry had a single section of Potions, followed by a free period, where Hermione was in Ancient Runes, before he had to go to dinner. Now that he knew he could rely on the time-turner, Harry decided to try visiting the manor during the daylight hours instead of waiting till late at night.



After potions, Harry managed to give Ron the slip, which wasn't that hard these days since the red-head had basically come to accept that Harry would disappear at least once or twice a day and not tell him. Harry slipped on his invisibility cloak, and walked straight across the grounds and towards the path to Hogsmeade.



As soon as he felt himself leave the wards of the castle, he activated the portkey and reappeared in the entry hall of the manor. As he recovered from his temporary disorientation, he stood up straight and blinked in surprise at the man staring back at him.



Wormtail was standing – rather, he was cowering, in the open door way to the front of the manor. He had a several newspapers folded under his arm, and what looked like a grocery bag, in his other hand. The sight was entirely odd, for some reason.



The two stood there, in a tense silence for a very uncomfortable minute. Images of Sirius flitted through Harry's mind. Despite everything that had changed in Harry and his life, he still desperately wished he could clear his godfather's name.



But there was no going back now. Harry knew that. He really and truly had no choice now. If Wormtail were somehow captured by the Ministry, they would use veritaserum on him, and if that happened, not only would it reveal that Voldemort had returned, earlier than he wished this to become common knowledge, but he would also tell them about Harry's involvement with said Dark Lord's resurrection.



It was a matter of self-preservation now, too. He wondered if there would be a way to obliviate the last year from Wormtail's memory...



Harry shook his head and gave the short repugnant man a confident smirk.



"Wormtail," he sneered in greeting. The pudgy, balding man flinched and jerked back slightly, bumping into the door frame.



"H-h-harry," the man stuttered as he gave Harry a desperate, pleading smile. "W-what brings you here so, ah... early, in the day?"



"Paying the Dark Lord a visit," Harry said dismissively before glancing down at the papers under Wormtail's arm. "I'm heading up to see him right now. I can take those with me."



Wormtail blinked in confusion for a moment before his head bent down and he looked at the papers as if he had completely forgotten they were there. Then he stiffened and straightened up some.



"That's quite all right Harry. I can take them there myself," he said as he sniffed the air a bit.



Harry almost laughed out loud at the man's poor attempt at being pompous. As it was, someone else, did laugh. Only it was a strange, hissing sort of chuckle.



§Ssstupid little man...§



Harry paused and turned just in time to see Nagini slithering down the hall towards them. Harry grinned.



§Hello, Nagini,§ Harry hissed to the snake, and he heard Wormtail give a tiny yelp from the doorway.



§Greetingsss brat. Tell the fat man to get me my food or elssse I will eat him instead.§



Harry laughed out loud and turned back to Wormtail, who was, once again, looking decidedly timid and afraid as he cowered by the door.



"She says that you are to go get her food ready or else she's going to eat you instead," Harry relayed with a wide smirk across his lips.



"W-huh?" Wormtail sputtered for a moment before he looked up at Harry with a confused expression.



Harry rolled his eyes. "She says go feed her, you idiot. She threatened to eat you if you don't hurry it up."



Wormtail gave a startled squeak and began to hurry inside the entry hall, while sticking to hugging the wall with his back and strafing sideways, always keeping his eyes trained on the enormous black snake. As Wormtail came within Harry's reach, his hand darted out and Harry grabbed the newspapers.



Wormtail gave an indignant start and glared at Harry for a moment. Harry glared right back with a sneer on his lips, and the man was instantly cowed.



Harry rolled his eyes in annoyance at the stupid fat little man and turned to make his way up the stairs.



§See you around, Nagini,§ Harry hissed as he climbed. The sound caused Wormtail to yelp in surprise again, and both Harry and Nagini hissed out some chuckles.



Harry reached out with his magic and confirmed that Voldemort was in his study, so he quickly made his way there. He knocked lightly on the door and waited a moment.



"Come in," called the familiar voice of the Dark Lord. Harry pushed the door open, expecting to find Voldemort sitting in the chair behind his desk, but instead finding the man sitting on the floor in the center of the room. He appeared to be sitting on a cushion on the floor, with his legs crossed and his arms stretched out in front of him with his wrists laying across his knees. His eyes were closed and he was breathing in slow steady breaths.



He seemed to be meditating or something. The way he was sitting actually reminded Harry vaguely of the exercises he had performed when learning his sea serpent transformation.



"Stop gawking Potter, you're disturbing my focus," Voldemort's voice cut through the room harshly, shocking Harry out of his stunned stupor. "Now, get in here."



"Sorry, my Lord," Harry said quickly as he took a few steps in and closed the door behind him.



Voldemort let out a slow breath and then opened his eyes, giving Harry a mildly annoyed look.



"Place the papers on the desk. You'll find the book is there as well. Begin reading where you left off," he said shortly before closing his eyes again and resuming his earlier breathing.



Harry foundered for a moment, thrown off by the unexpected turn of events, but he quickly sorted himself out and walked over to the desk. He placed the papers in the center and saw the book he had started reading a few nights ago sitting to the side. He picked it up and turned back to look around the room. Voldemort's desk chair was still the only chair in the room, and he was damn well not about to sit in it while Voldemort was sitting on the floor.



Harry decided to sit in the same spot he had last time – directly beside the Dark Lord's chair. This put him far enough away from Voldemort's position on the floor that he hoped he wouldn't disturb his meditation.



He sat down and opened the book to where he left off. Harry felt part of himself was yearning to be closer to Voldemort, and he mentally scolded himself for being weird. Despite being a good six feet from the Dark Lord, he still quickly found himself slipping into his comfort zone in the quiet room with Voldemort's steady breaths as the only sound.



Harry lost himself in the book and the comfortable atmosphere of the room, so deeply, that he completely lost track of time. He finished the chapter on the affinitatem counter, but didn't want to interrupted Voldemort's meditation to informing him so, so he flipped back to the start of the chapter and started reviewing the material. He felt like he had a pretty solid handle on the theory of it, but it actually sounded like a pretty complex bit of magic. Stopping the spell from working didn't sound too difficult, but it would look suspicious. The tricky part was casting the counter magic fast enough, and with the proper focus to make the spell return a false reading.



While sitting there, Harry could feel variable waves of magic rolling off the Dark Lord. The sense of them was vaguely familiar, but Harry really had no idea what Voldemort might be doing. Harry considered asking him once he was finished, but wasn't sure if it was his business to ask such things... even if he was insanely curious.



He'd gotten half-way through the chapter again before Voldemort began to stir from his spot on the floor. The man sighed and relaxed his position. Harry watched with a strange sort of fascination as Voldemort rolled his neck and then shoulders before stretching out his long slender arms. It was just such a human thing. Such a normal thing. He was surprised, and honestly rather honored, that Voldemort trusted Harry enough to sit there in such a vulnerable state in his presence. It was honestly remarkable that the man could trust Harry at all, let alone this much. The realization startled Harry quite a bit.



Voldemort heaved a long sigh and gracefully stood to his feet. He stretched his back before turning and walking back towards his desk and Harry. Harry sat up straighter and watched as Voldemort walked right up to him, and then slid into the chair at Harry's back.



Harry waited for a moment in the continued silence, and started to wonder if he should just go back to reading when Voldemort finally spoke.



"I assume you've finished the chapter by now?"



"Yes, I finished," Harry said as he shifted around and began to push himself to his feet. His back was a bit stiff from having sat on the floor so long, and he gave it a bit of a pop as he came to stand straight.



"You said once that you only have one class on Wednesdays, correct?" Voldemort asked, catching Harry slightly by surprise. "Yeah, that's right."



"When?"



"Second block. Right before lunch."



"Good. Come right after lunch tomorrow. I'll have some something for you to read."



Harry felt suddenly that he was being dismissed and felt rather disappointed by this. He really didn't want to leave yet. Plus he'd been hoping to actually try out the affinitatum counter. He couldn't do that without someone to cast the affinitatum reveleo spell on him first.



"Alright, sir. I'll be here," Harry said as he began to shuffle awkwardly. He ran his hand through his hair and heaved a sigh as he bent down to pick up his bag.



"Going somewhere?" Voldemort asked as he opened the newspaper on the top of the stack and began to skim through the headlines.



"Er... I thought –" Harry started, trailing off.



"Wait a few minutes and then we can go practice what you have read," Voldemort said as he turned to another page.



Harry was surprised a bit by this, but was then flooded with relief, and he smiled widely. "Great, er... okay. I'll just wait."



Five minutes passed before Voldemort stood up and led Harry to one of the rooms that Harry had never been in before. From what Harry could tell, it might have once been a guest room, but it had been mostly emptied out. There were a few what looked like a davenport, and a couple stuffed armchairs shoved against the wall with sheets draped over them.



Voldemort instructed Harry where to stand and then walked a few feet away from him. They both drew there wands, Voldemort gave some simple instruction, and then cast the spell. Harry called forth his magic, but it took three tries before he had finally got it sorted out enough to properly block the spell. It took considerably more time before Harry was finally able to start getting faked readings to show up instead of nothing at all.



Voldemort's instructions made perfect sense though, and Harry thought that the way the Dark Lord was explaining it made a lot more sense than the book had. Harry doubted he would have had any success at all, if it weren't for the man's instruction.



Voldemort made a number of dry remarks, but he never made Harry feel weak or inferior for taking as long as he was. In fact, Harry found himself shocked at just how patient the Dark Lord was being with him.



Harry was getting pretty warn with all the precise magical focusing he'd been doing, and realized suddenly that they'd been at it for over two hours He was actually panting and he bent over with his hands on his knees.



"Sorry," Harry said between heavy breaths. "That spell takes a lot out of me."



"It should. I don't think you quite comprehend just how advanced this spell is. It's honestly extraordinary that you've come as far as you have in such a short time." Voldemort said dryly as he examined his finger nails absently.



Harry looked up at the man and felt his cheeks and the back of his neck warm slightly with mild embarrassment. Had he just been complimented?



"Er, well... yeah, thanks," Harry mumbled as he stood up straighter and ran his hand through his hair.



"Do try to not act like such an incoherent idiot, Potter," Voldemort said with a sigh and an eye roll.



Harry blinked, ducked his head and grinned. "I'll work on that."



"Do that," Voldemort said as he smirked down at Harry. "I think we should call it an evening. You'll be here tomorrow right after lunch, correct?"



"Yes, I'll be here."



"Good. Feel free to use the time-turner before you leave," Voldemort said as he turned and began to leave the room. Sensing his dismissal, Harry walked over to the wall beside the door where he had left his bag, picked it up, and headed down to the time-turner closet.



– –



Wednesday, Harry left Charms and then hurried his way through lunch. Hermione and Ron were both looking at him curiously, but didn't say anything. He knew they weren't going to put up with his continued secrets for too much longer and that he was going to have to come up with some way to address their growing concern, but he wasn't ready to deal with it yet.



He did tell Hermione that he was going to spend the afternoon trying to get another large batch of pages copied from the Old Aldric book, and that her copy should update as he goes. He figured that once he was done with his visit to the Dark Lord he could just come back and use his second go at the afternoon to do it.



Hermione seemed pleased that he was going to provide her with more to translate, since she was apparently approaching the end of what he'd already given her. She clearly wanted to inquire further about the 'room' he kept going to that had this mysterious book, but they'd had enough little spats over it already, and she tended to avoid bringing it up when they were somewhere public like the great hall.



Harry bid Ron and Hermione goodbye and quickly left. Once again he donned his cloak, slipped out across the grounds, and headed down the path towards Hogsmeade, and the boundary of the castle's wards.



Once he had arrived at Voldemort's manor house Harry instantly sought out his magical signature and headed straight to the study. He knocked on the door, and Voldemort bade him enter. He pushed the door open and, once again, found Voldemort sitting on the floor in the center of the room meditating.



Even after having encountered this yesterday, Harry still found it entirely bewildering. He silently slipped into the room and went straight over to the desk. It was bare except for a single book placed in the center, which he assumed was meant for him. None of the pages were marked on this one, but upon quick examination, he had a pretty good idea why it had been sat out. The book seemed to be written by a magical archaeologist or something. It was all about how to handle, care for, and restore ancient magical artifacts. One section was on how to properly approach ancient items that could possibly be cursed. The following two chapters were on common detection spells, and then spells for temporarily sealing nasty curses until you could get an item back into a safer environment for dismantling the curses.



The last few chapters were all about restoring exceptionally old objects, so Harry skimmed through that part until he came across something dealing with books. He quickly settled himself into 'his spot' on the floor beside Voldemort's chair, and began to read.



Voldemort's rhythmic breathing, and the subtle pulse of the Dark Lord's magic began to lull Harry into a blissful state of relaxation. He almost felt like he was meditating right along with the Dark Lord, and it made him wonder, once again, just what the man was doing.



An hour passed, and by that point Harry had long sense finished reading up on the book restoration spells. He had flipped back to the curse detection chapters and found them rather interesting. The magical energy, radiating off of Voldemort had been slowly shifting and growing, and they had increased to a powerful peak without Harry even really realizing it until the intensity made his vision blur and he felt lightheaded for a moment. His eyes rolled back in his head as his whole body began to feel tingly and warm.



He realized with a sudden start that the magical type wasn't really that of dark magic so much as it was parselmagic. Extremely powerful parselmagic. This realization really only served to make Harry that much more curious as to what Voldemort was up to. He had really only found a couple books in the Slytherin study about parselmagic, and most of them were simpler things like a parselmagic equivalent for locking, privacy, and levitation charms. The only truly advanced book he'd found on parselmagic was the serpentine transformation book, which he hadn't really looked at much since before the second task.



The waves of powerful parselmagic in the air began to ebb and wane, and eventually died down to a simmer. Harry felt his head clearing up again and heaved a sigh as his body suddenly felt like a heavy lead weight. It had been strange and overwhelming, but now that the magic was gone, he felt a bit disappointed. Voldemort's magic was just so... something... Harry couldn't really put words to it. But being near the man just made him want to be closer. Made him want more... whatever the hell that meant. He really wasn't sure.



Another half hour passed before Voldemort stood up and stretched. He was wearing loose, comfortable looking black pants, and a white button-down shirt intended to be worn underneath open robes, sewn in a style that Harry had only ever seen in wizard shops. Harry noticed that the top few buttons were undone, and his eyes were drawn to the bit of bare chest he caught a glimpse of. Harry didn't know why, but he blushed and looked away.



His eyes were drawn back to the man as Voldemort walked over and sat down, heavily into his chair. He leaned back, sighed, and ran his hand through his black hair. It had a soft wave to it. Just as Harry had thought, Voldemort had trimmed it several days ago. He had it slicked back slightly, out of the way of his forehead, and neat. It was layered in the back and reached the base of his neck. Harry couldn't help but stare as the Dark Lord relaxed into his chair and began to sort through a newspaper that he pulled out of one of the desk drawers. You would think that Harry wasn't even in the room by the way the man was acting, and Harry couldn't help but wonder why he'd been told to come right after lunch if all he was doing was sitting there for a couple hours while Voldemort meditated.



The idea that Voldemort would want company was just too absurd to even fathom. But Harry found he desperately enjoyed being able to just sit in the quiet, comfortable room, in the Dark Lord's presence, while reading. Even if he was sitting on the floor, getting a crick in his back. The room, and the magical vibrations, and just being near the man made Harry never want to leave the room, if he was being completely honest with himself. He knew that was stupid and irrational, but he also knew it was true.



Another fifteen minutes passed in silence before Voldemort stood up from his desk. "Come on Potter. Time for some more practice," He said shortly and Harry scrambled to his feet.



They only spent an hour in the 'practice' room, as Harry was now dubbing it in his mind. He was starting to make a little progress on his affinitatem counter, but it was still difficult, and he could only do it if he was prepared and knew it was coming. Voldemort said that he would need to practice it enough that the moment he sensed the magic of the reveleo spell incoming, that he would instinctively cast the counter. He would only have a fraction of a second to respond in a real scenario, and only repeated practice would help that happen.



"Alright Potter, that's enough for today," Voldemort said rather suddenly and Harry blinked at him in surprise as a small wave of disappointment washed over him, but he quickly squashed it.



"What is your class schedule like tomorrow?"



Again, Harry was caught off guard, but quickly recovered. "Transfiguration in the morning, then a free block, then lunch, and then double Defense, followed by dinner," Harry said quickly.



Voldemort looked thoughtful for a moment. "Can you come during your free break after transfiguration?"



Harry's jaw floundered slightly, but he nodded his head dumbly. He really didn't understand why, but he certainly didn't mind. He would have a bit of trouble getting away from Ron. Thursday's morning free period was one of the few times that Harry made it a point to try and be social with the ginger outside of meals. But all he really had to do was get away long enough to use the portkey. With the time-turner he could be back with Ron moments later and make it seem like he'd never left at all.



"I'll be here," Harry said, and even he was surprised by how eager he sounded.



"Good," Voldemort said as he began to leave. "You can let yourself into the study."



"Alright," Harry said as he grabbed his bag and ran after the man.



"You can also bring one of the older books from the chamber if you would like," Voldemort said as Harry caught up to him and the two walked down the hallway. "I can help you make sure you do the charm properly and don't damage the book.



Harry nodded his head thoughtfully. "Okay, I'll do that. Any particular book I should bring?"



Voldemort sighed and rolled his eyes. "It has been many many years since I was last down in the chamber, Potter. I do not remember the entire library. Just pick one and bring it."



Harry ducked his head, feeling a bit stupid for his question. "Right... I'll... do that."



"What did I say about acting like an awkward idiot?"



"To not do it?"



Voldemort turned his head and gave Harry a pointed look.



"Right. Working on that. Swear it." Harry said, trying to put a bit more confidence into his voice, and grinning a bit. Voldemort rolled his eyes.



They reached the study and Voldemort gave Harry a few parting words that made it clear he was dismissed. Harry hurried down the stairs and slipped into the time-turner closet before portkeying back to Hogwarts.



– –




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