Descent into Darkness

BY : Athey1024
Category: Harry Potter AU/AR > Slash - Male/Male
Dragon prints: 69307
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



– –



More than a week had passed since the dark arts and dueling lessons had begun. It was Wednesday, and Harry had slipped away from Ron after lunch, while Hermione made her way to her Ancient Runes class. Harry slipped on his cloak and pulled out the Map and activated it. He saw the second 'Harry Potter' dot entering the castle and heading towards the bathroom where he had made a habit of making his daily switch in. He slipped out past Ron, who was leaning against the wall talking with one of the Beauxbatons girls. Harry rose a single eyebrow and stifled a chuckle as he quickly hurried down the hall, under his invisibility cloak, and out of the castle.



Fifteen minutes later Harry was in the manor and climbing up the stairs to Voldemort's study. The afternoon began the same as always. Voldemort was sitting there, already into his meditative exercise. Harry could tell that the Dark Lord was getting very close to finishing the transformation, and was growing more and more curious as to what exactly the man would look like when he finally achieved it.



Harry settled down and began reading a dueling techniques book that Voldemort had had him start reading a few days earlier in preparation for their daily lessons. He kept on going, without pause, even when Voldemort stood up and then sat down in his chair to read through his papers.



As had become normal, Voldemort almost instantly began running his fingers through Harry's hair and all Harry could do was sigh and smile in content.



"I'm curious, Harry –" Voldemort began to speak, nearly a half hour later as he suddenly stood from his chair and began to move towards the door. Harry quickly jumped to his feet as he realized that Voldemort appeared to be preparing to leave the study.



"Yes?"



"I know that you used the accellerant potion and underwent the process to improve that rather impressive body of yours, but I'm wondering if you have been taking measures to maintain it?"



Harry gaped at him as he attempted to process the words that had just come out of the Dark Lord's mouth. Harry's oh-so-eloquent response was a simple, "Huh?"



"Have you been working to maintain your improved body?"



"I... wha... you mean, am I working out?" Harry asked, still confused and trying to wrap his mind around the fact that it sounded like Voldemort had just called his body 'rather impressive'.



Voldemort rolled his eyes. "Yes, Harry, have you been 'working out'?"



"Er... no. Not really, anyway. As I already told you, I used to get kind of physical with my dark arts practice down in the chamber. I would sort of roll around and mock dodge things. To practice falling and improve my aiming while moving. But I haven't gone down there for that in a while, so the only real exercise I've been getting is from our dueling lessons."



Voldemort gave Harry a thoughtful look for a moment before turning and heading towards the door. "Follow me," he commanded simply without pausing in his pace. Harry jogged after him until he caught up and matched the Dark Lord's long strides as the two briskly walked down the hall, down the stairs, and through one of the first floor corridors.



Harry was extremely curious as to what was going on, but knew that if Voldemort was going to tell him, he'd do it when he was good and ready to, and no sooner.



They came upon one of the doors that Harry had long ago sensed a space expansion charm behind and Voldemort opened and entered without even pausing. Harry followed but came to an abrupt halt directly upon entering. What he found was a large windowless, room with a floor that was oddly squishy beneath his feet, a couple of elevated horizontal bars attached to one wall, an assortment of strange contraptions that looked something like exercise equipment, a strange device that Harry thought vaguely reminded him of a muggle treadmill, and a weight lifting bench with a bunch of weights.



"You have a gym?" Harry asked as he gawked at the room. This was probably one of the last things he expected to find in the manor house. It just looked so... muggle.



"Wizards are fools to neglect their bodies as they do," Voldemort drawled as he rolled his eyes and sneered in disgust. "They think that just because they can use magic to do things and avoid menial labor, that they have no need to keep their bodies fit."



Harry turned all of his attention away from the bewildering room, and focused it entirely on Voldemort. He could hear the man slipping into his 'instructor voice' and whenever he did that, whatever he had to say was important.



"The biggest reason that the unforgivable curses are unforgivable isn't because of what they do – there are hundreds of curses that can kill you, control you, and cause excruciating pain – they are unforgivable because of the fact that they cannot be blocked or countered. There is no way to shield oneself from the cruciatus or the killing curse or the imperius – although one with a strong enough will can occasionally break free of the latter.



The killing curse can go through almost all substances. The only thing that can block the killing curse is the body of another living thing. If you have a expendable person around that you can use as a human shield, then you can shield yourself. Otherwise, the only way to avoid any of these spells is to dodge them.



Keeping one's body in shape improves reaction time, stamina, and endurance. If two wizards are of generally equal magical skill levels, the one with the best ability to dodge, and the endurance to last the longest, will be the winner. And since so many wizards disregard the importance of training their body, in addition to their magical training, it is an extremely easy and beneficial advantage to gain."



"How often do you work out in here?" Harry asked, turning his attention back to the room.



"Every morning. I get up fairly early and spend an hour in here each day. I have done so since the morning after my resurrection."



"Oh... wow," Harry said, rather lamely, before he refocused on the room again as he imagined what all the different exercise 'machines' were for. They were obviously of Voldemort's own creation, and had been magically constructed. Still, it was obvious that they were intended for various forms of exercise.



"I want you to join me each morning at 7:30am. Can you manage that?" Voldemort asked, pulling Harry sharply out of his mental wanderings.



"Join you?" Harry echoed in surprise.



"Yes. I think it would do your dueling practice an enormous good if you began a physical training program as well."



Harry's jaw floundered as he searched for the words to respond with that could adequately relate just how the idea made him feel. There were so many reasons to be utterly thrilled with it. For one thing, it gave him even more time each day with the man, who was quickly becoming the central focal point of his life. Any reason to spend more time with the man was welcome. Harry just felt so much... better around Voldemort. Everything fit better in his head. His mind worked faster and clearer. His temper was easier to keep control of. The constant itch and drive to curse everyone he saw was easily controlled. Everything felt better here. The second reason Voldemort's suggestion left him speechless and stunned was the fact that Voldemort had to actually want Harry around more too. Why else would he be offering something that would require Harry to intrude on even more of the Dark Lord's precious time.



He finally gave up on trying to voice his emotions and just nodded his head.



"Good. You can use the time-turner when done, of course. So you should be able to avoid any suspicion about additional strange absences. Obviously robes are far too cumbersome for activities such as what we'll be doing in here. Try to dress appropriately. Loose-fitting clothes are more apt to get caught in some of the devices I've created, so try to avoid them. If you have nothing appropriate, we can transfigure something for you when you come tomorrow.



"Also, I am nearly done with my transformation meditations, but not quite, so I still want you continue to come after lunch," Voldemort continued, and Harry quickly confirmed that he would still be coming for his other usual visits.



"We will continue the dueling practice after my meditation is completed. With all of the added hours and time-turner use, it may become necessary for you to fit in an extra meal, and perhaps a nap. If that become the case you can stay for dinner at the manor, and make use of the same room you stayed in last week, before using the time-turner to return to the castle."



Voldemort continued to lay out the plans for Harry's schedule and Harry couldn't help the wide, warmed smile that spread across his face as he realized how much thought Voldemort had put into his plans involving Harry. He truly couldn't believe the amount of time each day that the Dark Lord was willing to spend with and dedicate to Harry, and he felt a small pang of sadness when he thought about how it would likely all change once Voldemort finally succeeded at his transformation, and brought the other Death Eaters back into the fold. Once he was able to take on his 'scary Dark Lord' look again, he would begin tackling his plans, head-on, and Harry doubted that Voldemort would have nearly as much time to throw away on him.



He pushed back the niggling worry and refocused on the man standing before him, and explaining what some of the different 'machines' were and what muscles groups they worked. Harry was stunned how much the Dark Lord knew about the whole physical fitness thing. What 'muscle groups' aided in what sorts of movements, and what kinds of exercises and movements were necessary to work out each of those groups. But then Harry realized that there wasn't anything that Voldemort did 'half-assed', and realized he never should have been surprised in the first place. Whenever Voldemort decided to learn about something, he buried himself in the topic, and didn't put it down until he was a master of it. The Dark Lord consumed knowledge and skills like a starved man in a buffet. A trait that had always left Harry feeling inspired and determined to master as many things as well.



Harry left the manor that day finding himself feeling both anxious and eager for the next morning's exercise session. He'd never done an awful lot of physical exercise outside of quidditch, and riding a broom really wasn't all that physically intensive – outside of needing a strong grip with both his hands and his thighs. Still, the thought of being physically trained by Voldemort was exciting. He just hoped he could keep himself from acting like an idiot.



– –



Harry entered the 'gym' the next morning at 7:25am. Slipping away from his dorm had been extremely easy. None of his roommates were early risers, as were few Gryffindors, so even the common room was empty when he slipped down under cover of his invisibility cloak.



Getting up at 6:30am hadn't been terribly difficult since he'd been going to bed earlier and earlier lately. Since he'd been living longer days than normal, by the time it was 10pm at night, he had usually gone through enough hours in the day that it would have been after 2am for him. His new tendency for going to bed early had been just one more thing for Ron to gripe about, but Harry didn't honestly give a damn what Ron griped about. He knew he still needed to come up with some sort of strategy for diverting the suspicions of Ron and the other Gryffindors. His little rant to Ron and Hermione had given them the illusion that he was still willing to confide in them, and given them some things to think about. Hopefully enough to keep them from suspecting what was really going on. His evenings spent with Hermione and Ginny was helping to ease some of his fellow housemates concerns about his extreme reclusive behavior earlier in the year, and since he wasn't disappearing away to the chamber for hours a day, he at least no longer appeared to be sneaking off. Hopefully all the changes he had made over the last month would be enough, but he needed to make sure that when Dumbledore started asking his 'friends' questions, over the summer, after Harry 'vanished', that none of them would start telling the old goat that they were worried about Harry's strange Dark behavior.



When he got to the manor, he went to the second floor where the loo he usually used was, since he only knew of the large bath with the sunken tub on the first floor, and there were just far too many unidentified rooms down there to go searching for a 'normal' bathroom. Once on the second floor he changed into the clothing he had brought with him. He had a pair of gray draw-string sweatpants that he occasionally slept in during the winters, and a white sleeveless t-shirt that he had shrunk down so that it was fairly tight against his torso to avoid it catching in any of the exercise equipment. He hoped it would be sufficient. He suspected he was going to need to do some clothing shopping soon. There was a Hogsmeade weekend coming up, but he wasn't sure if any of the stores in the tiny wizarding village would carry what he needed.



He left his bag in the study and made his way downstairs to the gym. Voldemort was in the center of the open part of the room, and what Harry saw made him freeze in place in stunned awe. Voldemort was wearing comfortable-looking black cotton pants, and no shirt. He was doing push-ups, and Harry could already see the smallest indication of sweat appearing on the man's back.



The lean, lithe, and only lightly muscled body that he had seen a month earlier had already come a long way. The muscles were more defined now, but not overly so. Definitely not 'body builder' muscles, but this was undeniably the body of a strong, and powerful man who did not slack off.



Harry was stunned out of his dumbfounded staring by Voldemort pushing himself up onto his knees, and then standing to his feet. If Voldemort had realized Harry was staring, he didn't say anything. Instead, he quickly began to go over the schedule for the next hour, and discussing how Harry would work up to certain goals over time. Harry's head was quickly being filled with new concepts and knowledge, and he was being set to the machines he would use.



Voldemort demonstrated the proper way to move his arms while pushing out on one device, and pulling in on another. How to hold his elbows at a certain angle, and what things not to do, to avoid injury. During the demonstrations, Harry occasionally found his mind wandering back to Voldemort's exposed torso, and he found a growing fascination with the way the older wizard's muscles moved and twisted beneath his skin. But Voldemort loudly scolded him whenever he seemed distracted, so Harry quickly learned to pay attention and stay focused.



He returned to the school that morning sweaty, sore, and yet strangely exhilarated. He knew this was going to be hard work, but he was excited for it, too. The rest of the week passed easily enough, and while his strangely lengthened days were really starting to mess with his internal clock, he was slowly growing accustomed to them.



Voldemort incorporated lessons from his dueling into his morning exercises, and vice-versa. The break in the middle of the day where he just sat and read while Voldemort meditated was a welcome break from the action and activity of the rest of his time spent in the manor, and he found himself eagerly anticipating the light conversation and discussions they had after the Dark Lord was done with his meditation. Harry was even beginning to understand why Voldemort read the muggle newspapers.



Harry was stunned when Voldemort began to explain some sort of mass genocide that had been going on the previous year in Rwanda. Apparently before all the fighting was done, more than 800,000 had died during the Hutu-controlled Rwandan army attempt to exterminate the Tutsi minority from the country. Harry had trouble fathoming the fact that in the span of 100 days, over 800,000 people had been massacred and he hadn't heard a single word about it. There were loads of muggleborns at the school – didn't a single one take a muggle paper?



He could understand that most parents probably wouldn't write to their child about horrible African genocides, but it still seemed like such a big deal.



"Yes, but even most muggles are utterly ignorant of what has gone on over there, though," Voldemort said, after Harry voiced his shock at having heard absolutely nothing about this.



"What? How can they be?"



"Few people give a damn about some tiny African country that tried to annihilate itself last summer, Harry."



"Then why are you paying attention to it?"



"Genocide. It's described as the largest act of genocide since the Holocaust."



Harry felt himself freeze slightly, and he was almost afraid to ask the next question. It was one thing for him to kill Rita Skeeter and not feel remorse, but killing an entire race of people was something that he didn't exactly think he could live with.



"Are you thinking about wiping out all the muggles or something?" Harry asked, cautiously.



Voldemort barked out a harsh laugh. "No, Harry. I no longer have any ridiculous illusions about trying to rid the world of the muggle filth."



"You don't?" Harry asked, both relieved and surprised, as he twisted around and looked up at Voldemort, sitting in his chair.



"No, honestly I don't think it will be necessary. They will likely rid the world of themselves, saving me the trouble."



Harry scrunched up his face in mild confusion – not sure what the Dark Lord meant by that, but he didn't get the chance to ask, as older Wizard continued to talk.



"The fact remains, that at one point, I did have some rather ignorant aspirations of killing off most, and subjugating the rest, of the muggle population. Many of my followers will likely still hold some of those aspirations. I simply want to be able to provide them with with concrete arguments as to why such efforts would not only be ineffective, but idiotic, and a waste of our energies. We have bigger problems to deal with that will already require more than enough time and energy."



"Ah... well, that's... a relief," Harry said, turning back and leaning against the chair again.



Voldemort chuckled and let his hand fall into Harry's raven hair.



"Don't think you have the stomach for genocide?" Voldemort snickered.



Harry shrugged. "Probably not. Besides, I don't see the logic in it. Or how it would even work. There are just so many more of them, than us. Sure, we're superior to them, and can do things that they can't even imagine doing, but that doesn't mean that they're weak or stupid. They're still humans, and it's when humans are desperate that they accomplish the most unexpected things. Their science is still capable of some insane things. I mean, they can go to the moon. Magic can't even do that.



"If they found out about us – about magic – and felt threatened... I can only see that being very very bad. We can use magic, but there's just so many more of them," Harry finished with a sigh and a shrug.



Voldemort hummed in agreement and their conversation slipped back into other topics from the newspaper.



– –



Another week had passed and Harry was feeling extremely comfortable with his daily arrangement. He was having a little trouble staying focused in his classwork – having started to find it exceedingly boring. Very little of it had any practical daily value, and he had very little enthusiasm for learning things that would never serve him in his life. Especially when he had the incredibly fascination and exhilarating lessons from Voldemort to compare.



But at least his Defense Against the Dark Arts classes with Barty – or rather, with 'Moody', were interesting. Voldemort had had Harry deliver several notes to Barty, and Barty would give Harry letters to give back to the Dark Lord when he returned Harry's written essays to him. One day in class, 'Moody' had asked Harry to hang around after class to 'discuss his homework'. Moody had acquired an object for the Dark Lord and since Harry went there every day anyway, it was decided that Harry should just take it with him. It was a reasonably small box. Moody had hallowed out a book and placed an expansion charm inside it so that when the book was opened, inside was a hole large enough for the box. He gave it to Harry with the guise that it was something he might find helpful for the next task, and sent him on his way.



While leaving defense and making his way through the empty halls towards the Great Hall for dinner, Harry came across a pair of familiar, hushed voices. He slowed and peaked around the corner towards where he heard the voices and saw Snape and Karkaroff in the middle of a whispered argument. Harry wasn't close enough to hear what they were saying, and was about to pull out his wand to use his eavesdropping charm when he was startled by another familiar, and far more annoying drawl.



"Potter, what are you doing?" the annoying drawl of Draco Malfoy came suddenly, causing Harry to jump with surprise at having been come upon without having noticed. Apparently Snape and Karkaroff heard Malfoy's voice because their whispers stopped and they both turned towards the sound.



Harry turned and scowled at Malfoy. Apparently his glare was fierce enough that it gave Draco pause because the blond Slytherin's eyes betrayed a moment of fear and hesitation before they hardened to his normal confident sneer.



Harry was a bit surprised by Malfoy's behavior. The blond Slytherin had been mostly avoiding him ever since their encounter several months prior. Apparently enough time had passed that Malfoy had either forgotten what happened, or decided it wasn't bad enough to continue keeping his distance.



"Malfoy, I really don't have time for you," Harry said with an annoyed sigh.



"So it's Malfoy again? Are you over whatever weird thing possessed you over Christmas?"



Harry snorted out a laugh. "Hardly," he said giving the blond boy a leering smirk that caused Malfoy to straighten a bit and his eyes to widen. Harry snickered at Malfoy's reaction and began to turn away.



"Where are you heading off to?"



"Dinner," Harry said, rolling his eyes.



"Running off to the mudblood and the weasel?" Malfoy sneered.



"Well, you know. Gotta keep up appearances. Wouldn't want anyone suspecting me of going dark," Harry chuckled.



Malfoy's eyes bugged out of his face and he stood there, dumbfounded for a moment while Harry began to walk away.



"Wait!" Malfoy called out as he jogged after Harry and caught up to him. Harry huffed and stopped. He looked around anxiously, making sure that there weren't any witnesses. There weren't as far as he could tell. Snape and Karkaroff had vanished – most likely to somewhere more private to continue their argument – and the rest of the student body was already at dinner.



"What do you want, Draco?" Harry asked with a resigned sigh as he took out his wand and cast a small privacy ward around them.



"What's up with you? You've been acting normal again lately, but I see the looks you give them. The looks you give everyone. The way you walk, the way you hold yourself. And more than anything else, when I get close enough, you reek of dark magic."



Harry had to take pause of that proclamation. If Draco could tell he'd been practicing the Dark arts, what was stopping the professors? Or Dumbledore? Apparently something on Harry's face gave away his moment of panic because Draco was rolling his eyes and quickly began to speak again.



"Don't worry, Potter. It's only those with a dark affinity who can sense it. Neutrals and Lights only sense the magic of other Neutrals or Lights."



"Even someone like Dumbledore?" Harry asked, skeptically.



"Do you feel his Light magic?" Malfoy asked with a raised eyebrow.



"Er..." Harry paused, trying to think if he did. "I think I used to... But now that you mention it, I really haven't been able to feel that same energy that I used to when I was around him."



"Exactly – wait... you used to?"



"Well, my affinity definitely used to be Light. I'm sure of that."



"But now it's Dark?" Malfoy asked, a tremendous curiosity glowing in his eyes.



Harry clammed up and gave Malfoy a hard look.



Malfoy chuckled and smirked. "Smart, Potter. Never admit anything aloud."



Harry rolled his eyes. "I've still got a problem though, even if Dumbledore can't sense my Dark magic. My affinity was set to Light before." Harry mused quietly to himself.



Malfoy snorted. "As if anyone would ever honestly suspect the Gryffindor Golden-boy of going Dark. Besides, Dumbledore would only notice the lack of Light magic traces on you. He can't just tell that your affinity has changed. They need a spell for that I think."



Harry glared at Malfoy. "I told you not to call me that. I'm no one's Golden-boy. Besides, you suspected me of going dark."



"Only after you assaulted me," Malfoy said indignantly with his nose turned up.



Harry chuckled and gave the blond another leering look that clearly made him feel exceedingly uncomfortable. "Besides, you weren't the only person I got angry with," Harry said finally with a bit of a grumble. "I was a pretty angry mess there for a while..."



"That's what was going on!" Malfoy exclaimed suddenly, as if he had just made a great discovery. Harry looked at him with confusion, and an expectant look. "You were dealing with Dark addiction, weren't you! And now you've got a handle on it, which is why you're able to pretend to be normal again!"



Harry blinked at Malfoy. "Uh... maybe," Harry found himself admitting hesitantly. "You seem to have some personal experience here... How much Dark magic have you practiced?"



Malfoy scoffed and turned his nose up again. "I'm a Malfoy, Potter. What do you think?"



Harry rolled his eyes, but grinned and snickered.



Suddenly Harry paused and felt his blood run cold. If anyone who practiced the Dark arts could sense that he had practiced them, that would mean that Snape, and Karkaroff would know. Karkaroff was possibly not a problem, but Snape most certainly was.



Thinking back, the Potions master had been giving him some rather odd looks lately.



"How long have you been able to feel the dark magic on me?" Harry asked suddenly.



Malfoy blinked at the sudden shift in the conversation. "Well I can only feel it like... now. Now that I'm right next to you. You have to be really close."



"Shit," Harry muttered as he scowled at the wall beside him.



"What? It's not like anyone in the school who practices the Dark Arts would ever betray another Dark wizard to Dumbledore. And you don't exactly get that close to any of us Slytherins. You don't have to –"



"Snape," Harry said, resolutely.



Malfoy looked surprised, then confused, and then he looked like he was going to laugh. "Don't be stupid, Potter. Severus isn't really loyal to that stupid old man. He's as Dark as they come."



Harry shook his head. "Even if that's true, he hates the ground I walk on. I can see him just loving the opportunity to destroy my reputation as the beacon of the light, and crush Dumbledore's idea of me being the perfect good guy he sees me as."



This seemed to give Malfoy pause, because he looked thoughtful now.



"Hmmm... well, he certainly does hate you."



After a silent moment, Harry huffed and ran a hand through his messy black hair. It was getting longer and shaggier as the months went on, and he was thinking that he probably would start letting it grow out. Voldemort really seemed to enjoy the length. Harry shook his head, refocusing on the problem at hand and letting his hand fall to his side.



"Well, it's something I'm going to have to deal with soon, but for now, there's nothing I can do."



Malfoy gave Harry a long hard look but then nodded his head. "So... so what the hell, Potter? I mean... how did this happen? How did you go Dark? It just... it just doesn't..." Malfoy gave a frustrated growl and shook his head.



Harry began to laugh at the other boy's frustrated confusion, which really only caused Malfoy to scowl at him.



"What!" Malfoy spat angrily.



Harry's chuckled subsided a bit and he shook his head with an amused grin. "It's a very long story, and I highly doubt you'd believe a word of it. But the fact of the matter is, you already know too much. I need your word that you aren't going to start running around the school telling people that I'm going Dark. And if you can manage it, think you can keep an eye on the Slytherins who practice the Dark Arts, who start to notice me too?"



"Why the hell would I do that for you?" Malfoy sneered.



Harry's eyes narrowed on the blond boy for a moment before he smirked. He glanced around the empty corridor again, just for safety's sake. His privacy ward wouldn't let anyone year them, but he still didn't want anyone seeing him talking with the Slytherin boy.



"Tell me something, Draco," Harry began, moving a step closer and causing the Slytherin to tense up and look wary. "Is daddy still loyal to the Dark Lord?"



Malfoy's eyes hardened and his jaw tightened. "My father never –"



"Don't blow smoke in my face, Draco, I'm not stupid. How about this. Where do your loyalties lie? With the Dark? Or not?"



"My loyalties lie with the Dark," Malfoy said, standing tall and raising his nose into the air again.



Harry smirked. "So would you be loyal to the Dark Lord when he returns?" Harry asked in a conspiratorial whisper as he leaned into Malfoy's 'personal space'.



Malfoy looked slightly taken aback, and gave Harry a long scrutinizing look. He was probably debating the dangers of admitting this statement out loud to Harry Potter, of all people – Dark magic, or no. Harry figured he was probably also taking note of the fact that Harry said 'Dark Lord' and not, 'You-Know-Who', or 'Voldemort' – as many people knew Harry had been apt to do in the past. And then there was the fact that Harry had said 'when' he returns; not 'if'.



Finally, Malfoy squared his shoulders and stuck his chin, pompously high. "I would be loyal to the Dark Lord."



Harry's grin widened and he took a step back, giving the blond some of his personal space back.



"Good to hear that Draco."



"That doesn't tell me why I should keep your secret, or why I should watch the other Slytherins for you," Draco spat.



"I suppose it doesn't..." Harry mused, airily. "But it really would be in your best interest if you helped me out. That's what being Slytherin is all about, isn't it? Finding ways to serve your best interests, while making powerful connections and climbing the ladder to greatness?"



Malfoy scoffed and rolled his eyes. "And helping you would benefit me, how?"



Harry paused and looked thoughtful for a moment. "You remember back on the train ride before first year when you stuck your hand out, offering friendship and I was a stupid little soon-to-be-Gryffindor prat, sitting next to the weasel and I turned you down?"



Malfoy's face hardened and his look shifted to a glare. "Yes, I remember."



"I probably should have taken it and left Weasley behind," Harry said with a shrug. "Did you know the sorting hat wanted to put me in Slytherin? I begged it not to, so it stuck me in Gryffindor instead."



Malfoy looked dumbstruck by this proclamation. He also seemed to be rendered speechless by it, because he didn't say anything in return.



"Anyway, you really should tell your daddy to be prepared, because his Lord is back and will be calling on him soon. Can you do that for me?" Harry said, having suddenly shifted to a playful and patronizing tone as he reached up and gave a light, pat on the stunned blond's cheek before taking a step back and grinning evilly.



After a few silent seconds where Malfoy appeared too confused to comprehend what had just been said, his face went pale, and understanding dawned behind his gray eyes. "You're lying," Malfoy said in a disbelieving whisper.



Harry's smirk only grew larger. "Ask daddy if anything interesting happened to his mark on March 20th. Probably hurt a bit, but it also probably glowed and pulsed with power. That was the night it happened. He's already back."



"How do you know?" Draco asked, but his voice was still hardly more than a whisper.



Harry gave the other a toothy, wicked grin and leaned in close.



"I know," Harry began in a quiet whisper, "because I was there."



– –



"That was stupid and reckless," Voldemort sneered as the two walked down the hall towards the gym.



"I made him swear a wizards oath that he wouldn't tell anyone," Harry grumbled.



"You should have made him swear it before you told him anything of value!"



"Yeah, but he never would have agreed to it, then! Besides, he knows that if he blabbed you'd probably have him killed. He's terrified of you."



"Stupid boy. You just wanted to show off," Voldemort spat and Harry pouted. "Anyway, what was it that you wanted to tell me?"



"Oh! Right, so how come you never mentioned to me that people with a dark affinity can detect other people with it?"



Voldemort stopped and turned to give Harry an incredulous look before shaking his head and pinching the bridge of his nose. "I suppose I assumed you knew. Besides, it doesn't exactly work like that. People with a Dark affinity can detect an excess of dark magic use from another person, but they cannot simply tell what people's affinity is. If they could, there would be less value in the affinitatum reveleo spell. Are you telling me that you don't sense dark magic use on others?"



Harry paused and looked thoughtful. "Well, I do, but I haven't encountered anyone who had practiced Dark magic while at school. Just here, and occasionally I can feel it on Barty in class. But I've already told you about my weird magic senses. No one else I know ever seems to sense half the things I do. And I know I didn't feel most of this stuff back when I was blowing through all my magic keeping your soul at bay. So I sort of assumed that most people weren't sensing any of these things."



"That is true," Voldemort said with a sigh. "That was something that often confused me in my youth as well."



"So is there anyway I can keep other wizards with a dark affinity from being able to tell I've been casting a bunch of dark magic lately? I'm really worried about Snape blabbing to Dumbledore."



Voldemort scowled and then took on a contemplative look. He remained quiet for a long moment and Harry found himself suddenly realizing that he still had yet to ask Voldemort about the fact that it was Snape of all people, who had relayed the prophecy.



"Let's continue this conversation this afternoon," Voldemort said suddenly, startling Harry. "This is an important issue and we need to work through it. You're right that it's important, but we don't have the time to dedicate to it now. Gym first."



Harry opened his mouth to protest, but quickly snapped it shut and sighed.



"Fine, but this afternoon can we also talk about the fact that Snape was the spy who witnessed the prophecy too?" he said as the pair resumed their journey and quickly entered the gym.



"Yes, that is part of what we need to discuss."



Harry shrugged, glad that this wasn't something he was going to have to drag out of Voldemort through subtle prodding.



The pair quickly slipped into the routine that they had developed over the last two weeks. Harry was reluctant to leave when their work-out was over, but knew he'd be coming back after lunch and that they'd have plenty of time to discuss things then.



– –



"Severus's loyalties are of a legitimate concern," Voldemort began as he leaned back in his desk chair after having just finished his meditation. Harry quickly put away his book and stuffed it back into his book bag before leaning back against the side of the chair and turning his head to look up at the Dark Lord.



"You are aware that he was the spy that provided me with the first portion of the fake prophecy," Voldemort began again and Harry nodded. "Shortly after you were born, and I determined that you were the most likely subject of the prophecy, Severus came to me and pleaded that I spare your mother."



At this Harry almost choked. He turned around and gaped up at Voldemort in stunned silence. "What! Why?" he finally asked.



"It would seem that he was rather infatuated with her. Apparently they were childhood friends. He said that he knew her even before attending Hogwarts."



Harry's jaw floundered in continued shock. He couldn't even fathom what was being told to him. Snape was in love with his mum!



"Since he was the servant who had brought the prophecy to me in the first place, and I still had yet to reward him for that deed, I agreed to try to give Lily Potter the opportunity to step aside. Of course, I would make no such promises in regards to you or your father, but he made no such requests."



Harry snorted. "Of course not. He hated my dad."



"Yes," Voldemort drawled with a smirk. "Many people did."



Harry rolled his eyes.



"It is my belief," Voldemort continued, "that he did not believe that I would spare Lily. Or at the very least, she would not be willing to stand aside and allow me to kill you."



Harry's mouth formed a small frown as a blurry memory of screamed voices echoed through his mind.



"Not Harry, not Harry, please not Harry!"



"Stand aside, you silly girl…stand aside, now."



"Not Harry, please no, take me, kill me instead -"



"This is my last warning -"



"You did give her the chance..." Harry said quietly. Voldemort gave him a funny look, but continued.



"I believe that Severus went to Dumbledore at that point to warn him that you and your parents had been targeted. He soon there after came to me and told me that he had an opportunity to gain employment at Hogwarts as the new Potions instructor. The obvious insinuation was that he could go there to spy for me against Dumbledore. Obviously I was not so stupid as to simply fall for that."



"So you think that it was Dumbledore's idea? He wanted Snape to spy on you for him?" Harry asked.



"Precisely."



"And you think that the reason he went to Dumbledore in the first place was because he wanted to save my mum?" Harry continued with a hint of incredulity in his voice.



"Correct."



"But it failed. My mum died anyway, and I lived. So would he still be loyal to Dumbledore even though he failed on his end?"



"That is the question. I also imagine that Dumbledore would have required some form of proof of sincerity from Severus. Most likely an unbreakable vow."



Harry's eyes widened. "What do you think he vowed? To stay loyal to Dumbledore?"



"That would be the most troublesome. But it is possible it was something else. I can imagine Severus making an effort to avoid a vow such as that. Vowing his eternal loyalties to any one man is simply not something he would ever be stupid enough to do."



"Not even to you?" Harry asked, incredulously. Voldemort just laughed.



"He is a Slytherin, Harry. No one makes life-long commitments in Slytherin, unless they are sure that they can worm their way out of them, should the desperate need arise."



Harry nodded his head in understanding. "Alright, so what should we do about Snape?"



"You are correct that his remains a risk as long as we are unsure of where his loyalties lie. He can undoubtedly detect the excessive amount of dark magic on you from our dueling sessions, and a daily cleansing ritual would be far too annoying and time consuming. I am going to need to identify where his loyalties lie sooner than later..." his voice trailed off as his face took on the look that Harry had come to associate with his deep planning and scheming. Harry remained quiet to allow the older wizard time to think, and enjoyed the feel of the Dark Lord's fingers as they slipped into his hair.



Harry was almost lulled into a relaxed nap before Voldemort spoke again. "Alright, I have a plan, but I will need the rest of the afternoon to prepare an object for it. We will have to postpone today's dueling lesson."



Harry frowned for a moment as he felt a pang of disappointment, but he quickly pushed it away. This was more important, and he knew it.



"You will assist me," Voldemort continued and Harry's mood instantly perked up as he was consumed by curiosity.



Voldemort stood up and motioned for Harry to follow. The two quickly left the study and began to head downstairs. Harry was, once again, led to one of the doors he had never entered before and once it was opened, he found a stairwell reside behind it. Harry followed Voldemort down into the manor's basement, that, until that moment, he hadn't even known existed. At the bottom of the stairs was a short hall with only two doors. One of the doors was large, heavy, and Harry could feel it was heavily warded.



"What's back there?" Harry asked as he jerked his head towards the door.



"That is where I have begun to set up holding cells," Voldemort said dismissively as he began walking to the other door.



"Holding cells?" Harry echoed in surprise.



"Yes. The spells and protections are still rudimentary and will need far more work before I can consider them secure enough to make frequent use of them. Although, there is already one person enjoying a stay down there."



"There is! Who?"



"Barty's dear old father," Voldemort drawled with a chuckle.



"Mr. Crouch is down there!" Harry said, looking back over his shoulder towards the door. "Why keep him alive at all?"



"Polyjuice ingredients," Voldemort said flippantly.



"Does he need to be alive for that? Can't you just take a bunch of his hair and keep it?"



"Once the person has died, any hair removed from them is no longer viable for the potion. It's also why Barty has had to keep Moody alive."



"Oh. Huh. I didn't actually know that."



Voldemort continued in his journey as he led Harry through the other open door and into a large open room with rows upon rows of shelves along the walls, several large tables in the center, and a collection of various sized cauldrons. Harry blinked at the room as he finally entered and took it all in. It was clearly a rather elaborate potions lab, and Harry was impressed by the massive inventory of ingredients that filled the shelves.



"Wow," Harry said as he looked around. "When did you have time to build up such an inventory?"



"Mixey has been busy," Voldemort said, turning his head back and smirking at Harry.



"My potion brewing skills are really only so-so, so I can't guarantee I'll be a lot of help down here," Harry admitted sheepishly.



"You will be sufficient, Harry. I simply require a second set of hands. Now, lets get started."



– –




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