Descent into Darkness

BY : Athey1024
Category: Harry Potter AU/AR > Slash - Male/Male
Dragon prints: 70162
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



– –



Getting away from Ron was easy. Harry simply timed the use of the time-turner really well. As far as Ron could tell, Harry simply slipped away to use the loo, and came back a few minutes later.



In reality, he had gone to the manor and spent two and a half hours reading while Voldemort meditated on the floor. The magic had done that peaking thing again about two hours in, and Harry had found himself sitting with the open book on his lap, discarded, with his eyes closed and head leaning back against Voldemort's chair. He let his mind get lost in the delicious lull of Voldemort's magic and literally lost track of time. It wasn't until the peak in the magics decreased suddenly, that Harry was jerked out of his stupor.



The book he brought was in pretty bad condition, but it didn't seem like it would be a devastating loss if he somehow botched the spell up, so he wasn't terribly worried when the two of them finally got down to actually practicing the spell.



The first few times he tried it, the restoration seemed to be exceedingly slow. Voldemort seemed to instantly understand what Harry was doing wrong and explained it in such a way that just made it all make perfect sense.



"You would have been a brilliant teacher," Harry mused as he cast the spell on the book and it began to mend and restore itself to order.



Voldemort actually snorted. "Yes, well, tell that to the old man," he drawled.



Harry looked up at him with his brow furrowed in confusion. "Dumbledore? What do you mean?"



Voldemort paused and gave Harry a long look as if he were contemplating something.



"I applied to work as a professor at Hogwarts... many years ago. Actually, I applied twice."



Harry gaped at him, stunned by this revelation. Voldemort – the Voldemort – had applied to teach at Hogwarts?



"When?" Harry asked, incredulously.



"The first time was the year after I graduated. Professor Dippet was still the Headmaster at the time, and the old Defense teacher, Professor Merrythought was retiring that year. She had thought I would be a shoe-in for the position and even personally recommended me to replace her. However Professor Dippet thought I was too young and told me to come back in a few years after having had more life experience," Voldemort finished with a sarcastic sneer.



"And the second time?" Harry asked eagerly. With every word Voldemort spoke, Harry felt like some ravenous monster had reared up inside him, and the monster was starving for information. These little tidbits of information about the Dark Lord's past was like gold to him, and he couldn't even rationally say why.



"The second time was about ten years later. Dumbledore had gotten the Headmaster's job by then. The man never liked me. He was the only teacher I had at Hogwarts who mistrusted me. I knew there was next to no chance he would award me the position, but it had become available again and I had to try."



Harry blinked in confusion for a minute before he finally voiced the one word that just kept repeating in his mind.



"Why?"



Voldemort was quiet for some time, and Harry wondered if he would actually get an answer.



"It was the only other thing I ever wanted to do... I suppose... I suppose there was some tiny part of me that considered it as my one and only out." He paused in thought for a moment before smirking widely. "Ah, if only the old fool had any idea what he missed out on. He was truly convinced that the only reason I would apply for the job was as part of some larger, evil scheme. I had already begun to form the Death Eaters, you see. He was convinced I was up to something. That there was no way that I could possibly ever want to teach." He scoffed humorously.



"You would have given it all up, to be a teacher?" Harry asked in a stunned whisper.



Again, it took an extremely long time for the man to reply, and when he did his voice was very quiet, and yet still rather sure. "I do believe I would have... just maybe." He chuckled. "But I am also a very bitter man, so of course, once he denied me the job, I cursed it."



Voldemort said this in a very flippant way and it took Harry a moment to register what had been said.



"Wait... you mean that your the reason that we've never had a defense teacher last more than a year?" Harry guffawed.



Voldemort looked down at Harry with his nose turned up again, and a sly grin on his face.



"Maybe," he drawled.



Harry laughed and shook his head. "Do you have any idea how much that has sucked? I mean, aside from the dark arts, defense is my favorite subject, but aside from bloody Barty, all my teachers have been rubbish. Well, Lupin was good, but he really only taught us about defending ourselves from dark creatures, not really anything about the nature of dark magic.



"Ah yes, Barty... I am going to have to figure out what to do about that situation..."



"What do you mean?"



"If he sticks around long enough to return to teach a second year, Dumbledore will get exceedingly suspicious. After all, only someone of whom I approved, could make it past my little curse. Dumbledore will be expecting something to go wrong with 'Moody', or at the very least, for the ex-auror to refuse to come back a second year. I doubt that we can maintain Barty's cover for much longer than the school year anyway. Obviously we cannot risk the real Moody getting away either."



"So he is still alive? I've seen his name on the map, but he's always inside Barty's office. I've been in there had haven't seen anyone."



"I believe Barty is keeping him locked up inside a trunk. One with a very large space expansion charm on it."



Harry blinked. "The real Moody is locked up in a trunk? And he's been there the whole year?"



Voldemort chuckled darkly. "Yes, marvelous isn't it."



"Why not just shave his head and off him? Seems like keeping him alive just for Polyjuice ingredients is a bit risky."



"Yes, but there have been a few incidents where he was necessary for Barty to bring him out, under the Imperius curse, to take care of a few tasks.



"Oh..." Harry said before shrugging and moving on. "So Barty won't be coming back to teach next year?"



"It would look too suspicious," Voldemort said, waving his hand dismissively.



Harry sighed and his lip stuck out a bit in a pout. Voldemort gave him a strange look that made Harry quickly stop and clear his throat; suddenly feeling awkward.



"I wonder what idiot we're going to end up with instead," Harry mused. "I just hope that, whoever it is, isn't as big an idiot as Lockhart was..." Harry paused for a moment before he began to laugh. Voldemort gave him an odd look and waited for Harry's giggles to subside.



"Care to explain what was so funny?"



"I was just thinking about how hilarious it would be if you somehow managed to sneak in as the Defense professor for next year. I mean, you already suck in on the back of Quirrell's head one year, and you got one of your Death Eaters in this year... it would just really be a laugh if you could put one over on Dumbledore so much that you actually got the job for next year.



Voldemort chuckled and rolled his yes. "Yes, that would be humorous, but I'm afraid that I will be much, much too busy. No matter how badly I would enjoy making Dumbledore look the fool for it, teaching is no longer on my list of goals. I have commitments to address, and a war to renew."



Harry sobered up and nodded his head. "Yeah, you do."



"Although it certainly wouldn't hurt to try and engineer who takes up the post for next year," Voldemort mused.



"Well, I certainly wouldn't mind, as long as you find someone who actually knows what they're talking about. Barty's been brilliant, even if he is trying to act like an insane auror at the same time."



– –



Harry's class load was completely full on Fridays, so he had no real opportunity to slip away for another afternoon visit to Voldemort. He only had a few minutes between classes, and no decent opportunities during that time to give Ron and Hermione the slip, since he shared every class with both of them.



When Harry visited that evening, Voldemort was sitting at his desk, scratching away on some parchment. Harry slipped in, realizing suddenly that he didn't actually have any reason to come that night. He hadn't even been told to come to practice the affinitatem counter. He had just gotten into the habit of coming every day, that it felt like he just should go.



Just as this was going through his mind, and he was suddenly feeling nervous about even being there, now that he realized he had no valid excuse for it, Voldemort interrupted his musings and handed him a book. Harry blinked at it, and then grinned. Not because of the book or anything it contained, but at the fact that he had an excuse to stay.



He easily slid down onto the floor, sitting beside Voldemort's chair and relaxing against it. Being literally inches away from the man seemed to ease the tension that seemed ever present in his body whenever he was close to Voldemort, but not quite close enough.



He found himself feeling utterly relaxed and just happy to be there. The book was interesting too, but he often found his attention drifting off as he let the feel of the man's magic that always lingered in the air around him, as it lingered around Harry.



Voldemort heaved a small sigh and pulled out his wand. A simple flick in the air and a moment later a book sailed across the room and into his hands. Voldemort leaned back in his chair, crossed one leg casually over the other knee and let the book fall open in his lap. The two just sat there in the comfortable silence of the room, reading for at least another hour. Harry felt his eyelids growing heavy and caught his head lulling to the side several times before he would jerk himself back awake.



It was one such moment, when his head was falling just a bit towards the right, and his eyes were slowly closing when he felt Voldemort's left hand drape down over the arm rest behind his head, and the gentle, almost there, brush of fingers in his hair. In his half-dozed state, Harry almost convinced himself that he had imagined it until the fingers brushed through his hair again, but deeper. Three of the long slender fingers seemed to comb lazily through his black nest of hair again and again. They threaded deeper into his hair as more minutes passed, gently brushing his messy locks. Harry's book lay utterly forgotten in his lap as he leaned his head back against the chair and held his eyes closed against the utterly wonderful, foreign, and confusing experience. He could feel the most indescribable magical sensation, each time the man's fingertips brushed against his scalp. It was like some unnameable force had been calling to him. Pulling at him with great strength, and that pull had been calmed suddenly by the touch. Like this was what he was being pulled to, and now that he was here, everything was right.



A tiny irritating voice in the back of his head pointed out that he was currently sitting on the floor beside the Dark Lord's chair letting the man pet him, and that this should somehow be humiliating or something, but the rest of him squashed that voice with a violent force. He was enjoying the amazing, comforting touch too much to give a damn if he was being 'pet' or not. Besides it was the Dark Lord who was doing it. The Dark Lord could do whatever he damn well pleased to Harry and he would accept it openly... as long as it didn't mean dying. He still didn't want to die by the man's hands, but he readily acknowledged that, outside of death, he would probably do just about anything for the man. And what was happening at that moment was in no way a bad thing for Harry. In fact, Harry felt that the world was more right at that moment than he could ever clearly recall. Voldemort was touching him, and it felt intimate and caring, and simple, and right.



Harry never wanted it to end...



He had no idea how long he sat there with his eyes closed just reveling in the sensation, but at some point he must have actually dozed off. He came to with a start as the fingers left his hair and Voldemort shifted in his chair as he set the book aside.



"Come on, Harry. You should head back. You'll end up sore if you sleep against my chair like that," Voldemort said as he stood to his feet and offered his hand to help Harry stand up.



Harry blinked at the hand, still trying to clear his fuzzy head.



Did Voldemort just call him Harry? Had he ever done that before?



Harry shook his head, gave Voldemort a weak, sheepish grin, and took the offered hand. The touch was... indescribable. Harry's breath caught in his throat and he had to fight to keep his eyes open as a powerful energy curled up inside him and tingled through every limb. He almost thought he heard Voldemort's breath catch, but it was too quiet to be sure. Harry stood to his feet and reluctantly released the other man's hand.



"Thanks," he said, ducking his head a bit in embarrassment. "Sorry about passing out like that."



Voldemort seemed to be pointedly looking away before he seemed to recover from something and looked back at Harry. "It's fine. You should head back to the castle."



"Right..." Harry said, nodding his head and quickly gathering his bag up. Harry quickly made his way to the door and pulled it open to make his way out.



"Goodnight, Potter," called the soft, smooth voice of Voldemort.



Harry gave a bit of a start and looked back at the Dark Lord with a startled expression, but Voldemort had already turned his attention back to something on his desk and was no longer looking his way.



"Goodnight," Harry replied hesitantly. His dismissals had always been abrupt before. It was the first time that Voldemort had actually said goodnight to him. He wasn't even sure why, but this felt... important, somehow. But of course, the Dark Lord had slipped back into using his family name again. He wondered if the man even realized he'd called him Harry at all.



– –



Harry returned after lunch on both Saturday and Sunday. Just like the previous early afternoon sessions, he arrived to find Voldemort meditating on the floor. Voldemort had a book ready for him sitting on the desk and Harry had simply picked it up and taken his usual spot on the floor beside the chair.



Voldemort's parselmagic swirled and peaked and Harry sat there letting himself get lost in it. After an hour or two, Voldemort had stopped and migrated to his desk where he began to read, or began to scratch away at some parchment. Harry kept relaxing and reading. He finished the reading that Voldemort had left for him on Sunday, and switched over to his reading for Charms class instead. They didn't do any practical work either days. No practicing the affinitatum counter or repairing old books. They just read and sat enjoying the quiet company. Or at least, Harry sat there enjoying the company. He was still rather bewildered as to why Voldemort would want him there since there really seemed to be no reasonable explanation for it.



Sunday afternoon, after Harry had been reading in Voldemort's study for several hours, Voldemort spoke suddenly, startling Harry out of his relaxed stupor.



"Potter?"



Harry jumped slightly at the sudden break in the silence. "Yeah?"



"What is your class schedule like tomorrow?"



"Oh... well, Mondays are pretty full. First block is Herbology, second block is Care of Magical Creatures, then lunch, and then my last two blocks are Divination. I'm going to make another attempt at getting into Trelawney's head. I slipped in last Monday but couldn't find anything. Anyway, after Divination is dinner. Mondays and Fridays are the only days that I don't have any free blocks."



Voldemort nodded slowly and Harry was surprised to see a mild scowl flit across the man's face for a moment before it disappeared.



"As long as you use the time-turner, you can still come here after lunch and return without missing any classes. I would like you to try and come again tomorrow directly after lunch. Can you do that?"



Harry stared at the man with a rather bewildered expression, but quickly snapped his mouth shut and nodded. "Yes, sure. I'll be here." Harry hesitated at this point. He was absolutely dying to ask why. He really enjoyed the time he spent in the study, so he certainly didn't mind being asked to come every day after lunch, but he was still incredibly confused as to why Voldemort would actually want him there.



"Um... sir?" Harry began, hesitantly.



"What did I say about being awkward and stupid?" Voldemort said without looking up from his book.



Harry halted a bit, not having expected that. He quickly mustered up his courage and tried to press on. "I'd like to ask a question," Harry said with a bit more confidence than he actually felt.



"Ask away," Voldemort said, still not bothering to look up from what he was reading.



"Why do you want me here while you meditate?"



"Do you mind being here?"



"No! Not at all!" Harry replied, quickly. "I really like it, to be perfectly honest."



"Then, what does it matter?"



Harry went to open his mouth, but shut it again, rethinking what he wanted to ask next.



"I'd like to ask another question," Harry said after a brief pause.



"Proceed."



"What are you working on... with the meditation, I mean?"



"What do you think it is?" Voldemort said, closing the book and setting it down on the desk in front of him.



"I... well, I can tell it's some sort of parselmagic. The meditation that you're doing reminds me a bit of the work I did when I was learning to transform into the sea snake while preparing for the second task, but it's not quite the same as that..."



"Hm," Voldemort made a small, amused-sounding noise. "You're actually quite close. Tell me something, Potter – are you at all familiar with what I looked like, during the last war? The face that people associated with the name Lord Voldemort?"



Harry sat forward a bit and turned his head so he could look up at the Dark Lord who was still sitting in his chair and now looking down at Harry. The man he saw there was attractive. Healthy skin tone, although perhaps a tad on the pale side. Shiny, slightly wavy black hair, slicked back, straight, defined nose, and a sharp, angular jaw. He was really a very attractive man, and Harry was not ashamed at all to admit that thought in his mind. Tom Riddle had been a very striking teenager, and he had only grown into an exceedingly fine looking man. It was obvious to Harry that this man was the adult version of the boy he had seen in the diary in his second year, so the question left him rather confused. Was he suggesting that he didn't look like this when his last body was destroyed?



"I guess I don't know, actually," Harry said, looking up at the man with a blank expression.



"I did not look like this. Not exactly. There is another transformation that we, as wielders of parselmagic, are able to learn. The transformation allows us to take on certain serpentine qualities while maintaining a humanoid body. I mastered this transformation, and always used that form while dealing with my Death Eaters. I am simply going through the motions of teaching my new body to perform it as well."



Harry puzzled over this information for a moment before he felt like he knew what he wanted to ask next. "Does the transformation give you advanced skills and abilities?"



"There are some mild enhancements, but they are not the real reason that I did it."



"What is the real reason?" Harry asked easily.



"Fear and control. The simple fact of the matter is that many of my followers are far too proud to ever be subservient to a 'mere man'. In order to obtain and secure their loyalties, they had to see me as something more than that. More than just a powerful wizard."



"But you are more. You're the Dark Lord!" Harry insisted as if it were the most obvious thing.



Voldemort looked down at Harry with a curious expression for a moment before smirking slightly.



"Yes, but most wizards alive today are unaware of what that really means. Most assume it is merely a title I have appointed myself out of arrogance. In order to easily secure the belief of my lesser followers that I am far more than just a man, I performed the transformation."



"I assume you must look pretty damned intimidating in it then?" Harry said with a grin.



Voldemort raised his chin a big and returned a sly smirk. "Quite."



Harry chuckled.



Voldemort seemed to ponder something for a moment after that, and Harry began to think that the discussion on it was over unless he came up with another question.



"My original plan, for restoring my body would have returned me directly to that form," Voldemort said suddenly, catching Harry by surprise.



"It would have? Then why didn't you do it?"



"Because I would have been trapped in that form. With the original resurrection ritual that I had planned, my body would not have been capable of performing the serpentine transformations. I had to chose between returning to my true body," a this, he waved his hand, indicating himself, "or returning in the body in the already transformed state. I was not fond of this restriction, but at the time it seemed I had little other choice and had been willing to sacrifice my true form in order to maintain control over my followers."



Voldemort paused again, and Harry used that moment to truly process what had just been said.



"When you agreed to participate voluntarily, you provided me with the ability to restore my true body, and the ability to perform the transformation. I still have to retrain myself, but it is proceeding faster than I had anticipated it would. Once I have successfully trained my body to do the transformation again, I will be calling the Death Eaters to me again."



"That's why you haven't called any of them back to you yet," Harry said, suddenly understanding it. "Even though you're powerful enough that they don't pose a threat to you now, you're waiting until you can look like the 'old you'. Right?"



"Correct. With several of the more prominent wizards who were my followers, if they were to see me like this," again, he waved his hand, indicating his current body, "they would think me nothing more than a weak, mortal, wizard. Defeated by an infant, and left weakened over a decade of years. They could easily refuse to follow me, or even be idiotic enough to challenge my claim as their Lord. I am unwilling to risk showing any sign of weakness."



Harry nodded his head as he finally felt like he understood why the others hadn't been called back yet.



"So how goes the progress on the transformation, then?" Harry asked, suddenly feeling rather eager.



"Surprisingly well," Voldemort mused with a strange grin on his face.



"Does my being here help, somehow?" Harry asked suddenly.



Voldemort looked down at him, with a mildly surprised expression for a moment before he sighed. "As a matter of fact, it does."



"That's why you keep asking me to be here while you meditate?" Harry asked, rhetorically.



"Correct, Potter."



"I wonder why my being here helps..." Harry mused quietly as he looked out across the room, unseeingly.



Voldemort didn't reply right away, and the room lulled back into silence.



"Why, indeed," Voldemort said in a quiet whisper some long minutes later. Harry didn't know what to make of it, and remained silent.



Voldemort didn't speak on the subject again that visit.



– –



Voldemort sat in his office chair, late that night, looking over map of the Riddle Manor estate and his plans for the next layer of wards. He had already laid out the first two layers, but they required some time to settle before applying the next, or else the two would unstable.



Potter had left an hour earlier and he was finding it difficult to concentrate clearly, now that he was sitting in the room alone. It was an entirely irrational and idiotic fact. But fact it remained.



Harry Potter's presence made him feel... better. Or something. More calm? Content? He rarely felt calm or content. They were not natural states for him. They never had been. Well, certainly not content. He could do calm, when needed.



Whenever Potter entered the manor he could instantly feel the boy's presence. He always knew the moment Potter had portkeyed in, even without the wards notifying him. Potter's magic was wild and utterly untamed. It was like a constantly blazing fire that roared and crackled around him. He really needed to teach the boy to harness and control his magic better. It was no wonder he was effected so strongly by using his magic. So much of the boy's magic had been set aside and reserved to the task of fighting against Voldemort's horcrux that Potter had never become accustomed to controlling and managing his enormous stores of magic. Having it all suddenly available to him, all at once, had probably left him overwhelmed by it.



That much magic, without the gradual build-up that would have normally come with growth and aging, suddenly thrust upon a person, would be intense. He needed to train Potter to control his magic, or else it would simply control him instead.



Voldemort also acknowledged that some part in the back of his mind liked this idea even more because it gave him another excuse to keep the boy coming back regularly, and Voldemort scolded himself for the fact. He was being utterly absurd.



But there was undeniably something more to what he was experiencing that he could quite put his finger on. Best he could figure was that it was related to the boy being a horcrux. He felt the most inexplicable draw to Potter. He was drawn to the boy's magic, but also to his presence. As soon as he could feel the boy within the manor, it was as if his very body yearned for Potter to be closer, and when Potter was gone, he missed having his company around. Voldemort had never desired company. It just wasn't how he operated. He liked being alone! But during the ritual that stripped away the Ministry's magical trace, it had been literally physically uncomfortable to stay so far away from Potter, while he was so close by.



It was utterly ridiculous, and he was practically furious with himself for feeling such irrational things so strongly. It wasn't like him at all.



He had felt it, mildly, before the resurrection ritual, but it had become even stronger after. He wasn't sure if this was because he was now in a fully functional human body and was better in sync with his magic now, or if it was because they now shared a blood bond and it had managed to magnify whatever connection they had had before the ritual.



There was no question that the two of them were strongly tied together. Voldemort possessed Potter's blood, while Potter possessed a piece of Voldemort's soul. They were, quite literally, bound together. It was because of this fact alone that Voldemort had allowed himself to keep exploring this strange magnetic pull he felt towards Harry Potter.



He had been pointedly ignoring it until Potter had gone and shown up early that one day while he was performing his transformation meditations.



He had felt Potter enter the manor, as he always did. Had it been anyone else who had come and knocked on his study door while he performed the meditation, he would have ignored them, or sent them away instantly. He never would have allowed them to enter the room. To interrupt his work. To distract him. And he absolutely never would have allowed anyone else to stay in the room while he sat there on the floor, so utterly vulnerable.



And yet the moment Potter had knocked on the door, Voldemort hadn't even hesitated to call him into the room.



In his meditated state of mind, his more baser instincts took control and he could already sense how much calmer he felt as the boy drew closer, and how much easier he was finding it to slip to his center and call forth the needed type of parselmagic.



He had expected as many as two months of daily meditation before he would achieve the full transformation, but with Potter's company, he was progressing much faster. He suspected he would have it completed in another two weeks at most, at the rate he was going.



This was another reason he had allowed himself to continue pursuing and investigating the strange magic that existed between he and the boy. But he knew it was just an excuse. Teaching him. Talking with him, casually. Sitting in the study and reading... There was no value in the two of them sitting there reading. But he was... what? Enjoying the company? How ludicrous. Part of him knew that as soon as he was done with his meditation exercises that he should have just kicked the boy out and be done with it. And yet he didn't want to.



Potter himself was a bit of an enigma. There were times when he had the most surprising confidence about him when in Voldemort's presence. Like he felt safe and comfortable enough to play at being cocky. Even the proudest members of his Death Eaters had still always remained cowed in his presence. Of course, he never allowed them so much leeway, or to see him in his true human form like he was with the boy. Perhaps Potter just wasn't properly intimidated?



But no... that couldn't be it, because Potter had come to him with that cocky attitude. With that irrational confident air about him. While Voldemort was still in his homunculus. Admittedly, not the most intimidating form he had ever assumed, but still not one to instill a sense of calm, either.



Despite Potter's occasional displays of confidence, Voldemort could tell it was somewhat put on. Potter was still hesitant and unsure of himself much of the time. Stupid awkward teenagers. But he was allowing Voldemort to act as a guiding figure, and he was soaking up every bit of information the Dark Lord offered him. Despite his guises, the boy was an open book, and it was blatantly clear to Voldemort that Potter was enjoying their time spent together in an equally bewildering way.



Did Potter have any idea why they were getting pulled together? He highly doubted it. Potter seemed to just roll with whatever life threw at him, and he did it quite smoothly. Very adaptable, that one... But he supposed that given the life the boy had been forced to live, it was understandable.



However awkward, or cocky, or like a teenager, the boy acted at times, Voldemort couldn't find it in himself to dislike Harry Potter. He was respectful enough, he was extremely eager to learn, had so far proven himself to be very useful, and...



Voldemort sighed... he was spending too much time thinking about bloody Harry Potter, lately. But he was still in a holding pattern until he had his transformation complete.



The most disturbing thing, he had to admit, related back to Potter being present during his meditations, was that while It was true that the boy's presence was speeding up his progress, and this was almost valuable enough to nullify any risk in allowing him to remain in the room while Voldemort sat there in such an utterly vulnerable state. But what was truly odd was that Voldemort didn't feel at all vulnerable during those times. He didn't feel like there was any risk. There was no fear or paranoia that Harry Potter would take advantage of his weaker state, or lowered guard. He trusted the boy to behave.



He never trusted anyone. He never had.



Never.



The only thing he had ever trusted at all, was probably Nagini. And he trusted her because he knew she couldn't betray him. She was literally incapable of it. She was only a snake, after all. She was a lesser creature, and she would never have any hope of fighting against the much stronger and far more powerful will of his horcrux within her. She could never go against his will. It simply wasn't possible. And so she was utterly loyal to him, and always would be.



But the same couldn't be true for Potter, could it?



He knew it wasn't the same. Potter was a wizard. And not just some common weakling either. He was a powerful, intelligent, and cunning wizard. Barty had told him about the incident at the start of the year where Potter had thrown off the Imperius curse, and that had been before the boy had stopped wasting all of his magic, fighting against Voldemort's horcrux.



So no... the probability was that if Potter wanted to, Voldemort had no doubt that the boy could go against him. He was not so deeply under Voldemort's control that he would be unable to betray him.



So why did he feel as if he could trust the boy?



It was dangerous. Trust was probably the most dangerous mistake he could ever make. He knew that. He had always known that. Never fully trust anyone. Always keep your eyes open, and your back guarded.



And yet he had so easily let his guard down around the boy, again and again. What the hell was wrong with him? He had to be out of his mind to be allowing himself to slip so badly. To so easily commit such enormous potential mistakes. It would surely come back to bite him in the ass at some point.



Allowing himself to enjoy the boy's company. To actually look forward to him showing up each day. What the bloody hell was wrong with him? Had he managed to form some deeper magical bond between the two of them with his blood ritual, without even meaning to?



He had to admit, in retrospect, that he hadn't entirely taken that into account.



He pushed himself away from his desk and groaned slightly in frustration.



Bloody hell, he was wishing that Potter was still there...



He growled at himself in annoyance. He was acting idiotic. He got to his feet and walked across the room to a cabinet and opened it up to reveal some bottles of cognac. He pulled out his wand and conjured a snifter glass and quickly poured some of the liquor into the glass. He swirled it around and slowly drank from the large glass as he strolled about the room, lost in his thoughts.



What was he going to do about Potter? He found himself actually hoping that the boy would choose to stay with him during the summer, and he wasn't sure how exactly he felt about that. Would the boy be a distraction, or could he be made useful? And what of the Death Eaters? The more people who knew of Potter's allegiances, the riskier things became. They absolutely could not risk Dumbledore discovering what was happening.



He was sure he could convince Potter to assume a disguise of some sort while he was in the manor, once the other Death Eaters began to frequent the place. But his Death Eaters would expect him to do something about Harry Potter. There were some in the lower ranks who might even be stupid enough to try and go after Potter in hopes that their actions would garner them praise, respect, or rewards from their Lord. That could pose to be a real nuisance.



And if Voldemort appeared to be ignoring Potter all together, or ordered them to all leave him be without providing sufficient rational why, Voldemort could be seen as weak, or even fearful of the Boy-Who-Lived, and he absolutely couldn't have that.



He suspected that he was going to have to tell his inner circle, at least, about Potter's allegiances, but he would have to be careful how he revealed it. He would need to spend some time with his old followers to gauge their reliability first. He had been gone an awfully long time, and many of them had moved on to positions of wealth and power. Those with wealth and power were useful to him, however, they had much to lose too. They would be less willing to risk their lives and their livelihoods for him.



He heaved a heavy sigh and set his now-empty glass down on his desk. He would think on it later. For now, he decided to go relax in the bath and clear his mind. He was getting nothing done anyway.



– –



Harry slipped away from Ron right after lunch before Divination, by running off to 'use the loo' real fast. He ducked into an alcove, pulled on his invisibility cloak and activated the map. Just as he was slipping out the front door of the castle, he saw a second dot with the name 'Harry Potter' moving back into the bathroom he had just vacated a few moments ago, and then walking back out to join the dot labeled 'Ron Weasley'. Harry grinned to himself, satisfied that he wasn't going to have any trouble, all thanks to the time-turner, and he quickly made his way across the grounds and towards the path to Hogsmeade.



He spent a total of three hours at Voldemort's manor house that day. For a little over an hour and forty-five minutes, Voldemort sat in the center of the room, working on his meditation while Harry worked on the essay that Professor Sprout had assigned that morning in Herbology. Once he was done with his meditations, Voldemort sat down in his desk chair and pulled forward the newspapers that Harry assumed Wormtail had collected for him.



A half an hour later, Harry was suddenly startled by the feeling on long slender fingers threading into his hair. A wide smile spread across his face instantly at the familiar, gentle touch, and he sighed easily as he leaned back against the chair and turned his head to the side a bit, allowing the Dark Lord a better angle with which to play with Harry's hair.



Voldemort's ministrations continued for quite a while, and Harry just sat there, enjoying it far more than he thought he should. Voldemort was allowing his fingers to deeply comb through Harry's messy raven hair, and he gently dragged his fingertips against Harry's scalp, massaging it and bringing forth little keening noises from the back of his throat.



Harry was startled out of his drunken haze by the sound of Voldemort's deep, smooth, chuckles.



"Enjoying this, are you?" He asked with amusement in his voice.



Harry instantly felt a blush cover his face and neck, and for a moment he simply had no idea how to respond. Finally he decided that there really was no reason at all to lie or try to save face. He had just sat there for who-knows-how-long getting pet.



"As a matter of fact, I am," Harry said in as confident a tone as he could manage, considering what he was admitting to, and who he was admitting it to.



"Cocky brat," Voldemort said with a low quiet chuckle and went right back to rubbing circles into Harry's scalp with his fingers.



Another few minutes passed in silence. At first Harry felt himself remain fairly tense, since he was wondering if Voldemort would make anymore comments on how fundamentally weird what they were doing was, but he didn't. Finally Harry began to melt back into a state of hazy relaxation. He found he never could stay tense or uncomfortable for very long when he was this close to Voldemort. He couldn't possibly explain why, it just was.



As best as Harry could figure, it had to have something to do with the fact that the man felt so similar to what Harry felt from the piece of his soul that resided within him. He was so accustomed to turning to his companion to relax and escape from everything, that it just felt natural to do that around Voldemort.



This explained why Harry felt so comfortable around Voldemort, but it didn't explain to him why Voldemort would be putting up with it, let alone reciprocating in the way he was by playing with Harry's hair. But Harry didn't want to question it. He realized that he had been almost terrified to eventhink about the event a few nights prior when Voldemort had first done it. Afraid that if it was spoken of, it would break the spell and it would never happen again.



And yet, Voldemort had done just that and yet the spell hadn't been broken. He was still playing with Harry's hair as if nothing were odd. Then tiny fear and tension that had remained in Harry dissolved away now that the strange thing they were doing had been vaguely acknowledged, and yet not stopped. He still didn't understand it, but at least they had both admitted it was happening and that neither was going to make the move to stop it.



Harry grinned wider as he let out a slow, satisfied sigh, followed instantly by an appreciative hum as Voldemort's long fingers trailed down to the nape of his neck and back up again.



All too soon, it had to come to an end. Harry heaved a sigh and stood to his feet, stretching out his back before bending back over and picking up his bag.



He bid the Dark Lord goodbye, and his farewell was returned, making him grin to himself.



Harry used the time-turner, returned to the school and slipped back into the bathroom under his invisibility cloak, exiting only a minute after he had originally entered the bathroom, several hours earlier. He and Ron then quickly trudged their way up to the tower for their Divination class.



– –



"That woman is infuriating!" Harry growled as he strode into Voldemort's study and instantly plopped himself down onto the floor beside Voldemort's chair. The Dark Lord leaned back and twisted in his chair to look down at Harry with mild amusement.



"Is that so?" Voldemort asked dryly.



"YES!" Harry all but yelled. "She is SUCH A HACK! And it just pisses me off that it's because of her that so much insane shit has happened to me! I sit there choking in that damned incense-filled tower and all I can think about is how badly I wish I could just curse her into oblivion! She just won't leave me be! Like it's not bad enough that she managed to make some crazed prophecy before I was even born, and get you and Dumbledore on my back, but every bloody week in class she has to pick me out and prophecize some new horrible way in which I will meet my gruesome and grizzly end. She just... URGH!"



"Are you done yet?" Voldemort asked flatly after a few minutes passed while Harry sat there stewing in his own frustration.



Harry mumbled something under his breath before heaving a sign and leaning back against the chair. "Yeah," he grumbled.



"Good. Did you get another opportunity to try and read her mind?"



"Yes, a couple times actually. And I got nothing. I keep trying to sift through the memories using different keywords or images, but I couldn't find a thing."



"What sorts of things were you looking for?" Voldemort said, leaning back in his chair and letting his left hand drape down over the armrest and instantly intertwining his fingers into Harry's hair.



Harry felt the effects instantly and visibly relaxed. "Uh... the bits of the prophecy that we do know... dark lord, vanquish... I tried searching for any memories about job interviews, and I did manage to come up with a flash of something, but it didn't seem quite right and then it was gone."



"In what way did it not 'seem quite right?" Voldemort asked.



"Well, you mentioned before that the thing was overheard while she was doing a job interview with Dumbledore, and that it took place at the Hog's Head, right?"



"Correct."



"Well, I got a glimpse of a job interview with Dumbledore, but they weren't at the pub, they were up in his office. It was like the job interview had just started and suddenly it got all hazy and cloudy, and suddenly it went white."



Voldemort's fingers paused in Harry's hair. "It went white?"



"Yeah... does that mean something?" Harry asked, turning his head to look up over his shoulder.



"I often see altered, suppressed, or obliviated memories get hazy just before turning white..." Voldemort said in a low, contemplative voice.



"Obliviated memories?" Harry echoed with interest.



"Yes... curious. And it was at the start of the interview, you say? But not in the pub, in Dumbledore's office?"



"Yeah. She had just entered his office and he greeted her and thanked her for coming. She blathered on about the honor and how her great grandmum was some great seer or something. She sat down in the chair opposite his desk and they were just about to get down to things when it got all cloudy."



"Very curious..."



Harry sat there waiting patiently through a long silence. Voldemort's fingers resumed their ministrations in his hair and he began to melt into a thick relaxed state.



"I want you to try something next time you get to look into her mind," Voldemort suddenly said, causing Harry to jerk out of his stupor.



"Sure, what should I do?" Harry asked eagerly.



"You said you witnessed one of her other real prophecies. It is likely that all of the legitimate prophecies she makes are stored in the same place in her subconscious. Try searching for the memory that you personally witnessed and then look for others around it that are related to it. That might give you better results.



Harry nodded thoughtful as he considered this. "Alright. Sounds worth a try. What do you think is up with Trelawney's memories being tampered with?"



"I cannot say at this point. We need more information."



"Alright. I'll keep digging."



"Good."



Harry nodded his head and eased back against the chair and Voldemort easily resumed petting Harry's hair.



"I didn't expect you to come back again tonight, and certainly not so soon. You realize that you really only just left about twenty minutes before you returned because of the time difference?" Voldemort said after a few silent minutes passed.



"Is that alright? I don't want to be a bother." Harry asked hesitantly. When he had left Divination he had been in such a state that all he could think of was how badly he wanted to be back at the manor that he'd slipped away at the first opportunity he'd had and gone straight there.



"You're not a bother, Potter." Voldemort said dismissively. "Have you eaten yet?"



"Er, no, I haven't. Came here right after class," Harry replied, slightly confused.



"Mixey!" Voldemort called out, causing Harry to sit up straighter in even greater confusion. A second later there was a pop! and a small wrinkled house elf appeared in the room. Harry blinked at her with owlish eyes.



"Mixey, Harry will be joining me for dinner. Set a place for him at the table," Voldemort said easily.



"Yes, Master," the house elf said in a timid voice before bowing down so low that her huge floppy ears brushed the floor and then disappearing with another pop.



"You got a house elf," Harry observed with surprise, while also reeling from the fact that he had just been referred to by his first name again.



"Yes," Voldemort drawled easily. "I completed the magical contract and acquired her two days ago. She seems to be working out so far. Undeniably a better cook than Wormtail ever was. Plus I can send her to Diagon Alley to fetch things for me. I could never risk that with Wormtail, lest he be recognized."



"Well that makes sense... you know, I don't even know how one goes about getting a house elf."



"You can often buy their magical contracts through Gringotts. The bank attains control when an estate goes without an heir, or the heir does not desire to claim the house-elf's contract. Wizarding families also often sell them off when their services are no longer needed, or desired. In those cases, it's just a matter of knowing who to contact to find whats available. Mixey, I believe, came from some old witch who died a number of months ago and had no children or heirs. She's been without a master ever since. I acquired her through the goblins."



"You, as in you personally? Like... you went to Gringotts, or did you just arrange it by owl?" Harry asked, his own curiosity preventing him from holding back the questions.



"I did the initial arrangements by owl, but I did have to go in person to finalize the contract. But I needed to visit the bank anyway to sort some things out with my old vault."



Harry twisted around and looked up at Voldemort with a dropped jaw. "You went to Diagon Alley, in person?"



Voldemort smirked. "I did. I used a few minor glamors, but not much."



"The Dark Lord Voldemort went strolling through Diagon Alley and visited Gringotts bank and no one was any the wiser..." Harry said slowly before beginning to chuckle. "Why do I find that so funny?"



"Because the fools would be in an utter panic if they knew?"



Harry laughed and nodded his head. "Yes, that's why. You're right." He chuckled and then went quiet. "Do the goblins know who you are? You said you had to sort things out with your old vault? It's all still there?"



"The goblins have special spells that detect when one of their customers is dead. The spells never said I was dead, so my accounts were never closed. My account manager informed me that both Dumbledore and the Ministry made numerous attempts to seize control of my vault and it's contents, but the Goblins are a neutral party and have no loyalty to either the Ministry or Dumbledore. Their loyalty is solely to their customers' gold. I have to admit, I'm impressed by their actions. They easily could have saved themselves a lot of grief by simply handing my things over.



"I'm also sure that Dumbledore found it exceedingly interesting that the goblin's spells stated I was not dead," Voldemort continued with a wide grin. Harry chuckled.



"I'm sure he did..."



"In any case, the account is under my... real name, but the goblins are aware enough to know who I am."



"Aren't you afraid that they may inform the Ministry or Dumbledore that you were there?"



"I'm confident that they will not. Client confidentiality is one of their most prized values. And even if they do go and tell, while it may put Dumbledore on his guard, I highly doubt the Ministry would take the warnings seriously. From what I can tell, Cornelius Fudge lives in a state of constant denial."



Harry laughed, hard, which was apparently contagious because even Voldemort chuckled lightly.



Their laugh was interrupted by another soft pop, and the sudden reappearance of Mixey.



"Dinner is being readys, Master," the little elf squeaked as she bowed low."



"Good, Mixey. We'll be down in a moment."



"Yes, Master," she squeaked again before popping away.



Voldemort sighed and pushed himself out of his chair while Harry quickly got to his feet. Voldemort led Harry down to the first floor, through a few corridors and into a fairly roomy dining hall. It had a long table, but only two places were set, the seat at the head of the table, and the one right next to it on it's right. The two took their seats and a moment later the food appeared on the table before them.



Part of Harry acknowledged that the situation he found himself in was rather surreal, but a much bigger part of himself felt too comfortable to care, so he just went with it.



"Tell me, Potter," Voldemort began after several quiet minutes of eating, "why the hell are you even taking Divination?"



Harry groaned. "Because I was an idiot at the end of my second year? Which we've already recognized as fact. Basically, my 'best mate' talked me into it. The idea was that the class would be an 'easy O'. A 'light class' that would be easy to take and easy to pass and not have much work. Of course now I realize that's an utterly idiotic reason to be taking it, but at the end of my second year, it seemed valid enough. I'm actually looking into switching my electives over to Runes and Arithmancy for next year. I'm planning to talk to McGonagall about it after my next Transfiguration class on Thursday. If I start taking those subjects next year, and get into the same class as the 3rd years, I'll be able to take my OWLs during my seventh year."



"I could tutor you in them over the summer. They could test you and you could end up in class with the 4th years instead of the 3rd years. That way you're only one year behind instead of two. With additional tutoring each summer, you could easily sit your NEWTs on time," Voldemort offered easily and Harry blinked at him with honest surprise.



"Seriously?"



Voldemort rolled his eyes and waved his hand dismissively before taking another bite of his steak.



"I mean... won't you be really busy?"



"I will have enough free time for that. Besides, I imagine things will continue to progress slowly for quite some time to come. My current plans necessitate 'laying low' for a while. I won't be starting active raids for at least a year. There is too much behind-the-scenes ground work that needs to be done before the public becomes aware of my return."



"If you're really sure..."



"Do not make me repeat myself again, Potter."



Harry ducked his head and grinned. "Alright. Thank you. Really. That would be really brilliant." Harry said with an air of awe, feeling legitimately overwhelmed.



"This, of course, is dependent on you staying in the manor over the summer. If you choose to go on holiday out of the country, instead, it won't be possible."



"Oh... well, I really hadn't given the whole 'going out of country' thing a lot of thought. Is... is it really alright with you if I stay here?" Harry asked, still feeling rather disbelieving of all this.



Voldemort sighed in annoyance. "Yes Potter, you're making me repeat myself Potter."



"Right. Sorry," Harry said quickly and then ducked his head again to hide the huge grin spreading across his lips. He didn't know why exactly, but he felt exceedingly happy right then.



Light, but easy, conversation flowed throughout the rest of dinner. Voldemort asked Harry a few more things about his studies and his interests, but discussion was kept generally minimal during the meal. They returned to the study afterwards and assumed their usual positions, with Voldemort in his chair, and Harry on the floor beside it. Voldemort waved his wand and summoned a stack of Daily Prophets that Harry assumed he must of either sent Mixey out for, or acquired himself during his trip to Diagon Alley. And Harry pulled out his Defense textbook and a half-written essay that he had due for 'Moody's' class later that week.



It was nearly 9pm before Harry finally packed up his things and left after bidding Voldemort goodbye. He used the time-turner to return to shortly before the end of his Divination class, so that he could get back to the Great Hall at the same time that his earlier self had left it.



He wasn't really feeling hungry, but enough time had passed since he had eaten dinner with Voldemort that he was able to eat a bit. He was already feeling pretty tired, but with all the time-turner use lately, his body was beginning to adjust to his strange and erratic schedule.



He slipped away from Hermione and Ron around 8pm and went down to the chamber for an hour to continue copying some more pages out of the book, but found himself too tired to put up with the utter silence of the room. His companion slipped into the back of his conscious mind, but it just wasn't the same as actually being in a room with Voldemort. He was becoming so accustomed to the man's company that he actually felt a bit lonely without him there.



Ron and Hermione's company felt hollow, but it was better than nothing, so he returned to the common room and ended up having a lengthy discussion with Hermione about the Defense essay that was due at the end of the week. Hermione was quite stunned to learn that Harry had gotten it finished already and insisted on reading it over to double-check his work. He found the insinuation that he had 'rushed through it' and as such, probably done a sloppy job, rather irritating, but he humored her and allowed her to read it through. When she was done, and couldn't find a thing wrong with it, he smiled at her with a smug satisfaction.



– –




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