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



– –



When Harry arrived in the Manor he was already out of breath from having just raced through the castle, across the grounds, and towards Hogsmeade until he'd finally reached the edge of the wards.



He appeared with a now practiced ease and instantly resumed his fevered race up the stairs and towards Voldemort's study. He burst through the door with clenched teeth, and barely restrained fury. Voldemort instantly sensed the boy's anger and stood to his feet just as the other entered the room.



"THAT LYING, MANIPULATIVE, DECIETFUL BASTARD!" Harry bellowed as he slammed the door behind him and began to pace back and forth across the front half of the room.



Voldemort relaxed against the front of his desk and folded his arms across his chest as he observed the clearly furious boy standing before him.



"HE, HE... ARGGGH! I CAN'T FUCKING BELIEVE IT!" He continued as his arms flailed in the air in angry violent motions. "Everything! Every fucking thing was – was... FUCK! He did it all! It was all fucking Dumbledore!"



"Am I to understand that you discovered the prophecy?" Voldemort said as Harry's ramblings ebbs slightly.



"Oh I fucking found it alright!" Harry snarled. "Both of them!"



Voldemort pushed himself off the desk and rose a single questioning eyebrow. "Explain."



Harry snorted, but not in humor – in disgust. "The one that your spy saw? Fake. Big, fucking FAKE. Dumbledore put Trelawney under the bloody Imperius curse. The real job interview happened up in his office a day earlier, and while there, Trelawney made a REAL prophecy. But the realprophecy didn't exactly sound all that promising to the old goat, so Dumbledore implanted the suggestion that the interview hadn't happened and that she was to come back for the interview the next day and then he used the fucking Imperius curse to make her go into a 'trance' and reenact the the 'prophecy' but replace it with one of his own wording. The one your spy witnessed was fabricated by Dumbledore in one of his elaborate fucking manipulations!"



The Dark Lord's eyes began to glow with a ruby red fury and his rigid posture barely concealed his inner anger. "I want to see everything you've seen. Come with me," Voldemort said as he quickly walked towards Harry and then past him, out the door. Harry followed behind, still fuming in his own right. They went to the room on the third floor filled with the strange assortment of magical items, where Harry had picked out his Cypress wand.



Voldemort went over to one of the cabinets and pulled out a large ornate basin and set it on the table in the center of the room.



"Are you familiar with pensieves?"



"Only vaguely," Harry admitted in a more subdued voice. The powerful raging fury had been stoked and by his swirling angry magic, but now that he was in the Dark Lord's presence, he felt his magic swirling much more tightly around him. He was still angry beyond words, but he felt more in control of it, which was a bit of a relief. He focused on the dark lord as he quickly explained the technique necessary for pulling out a specific memory from his mind and within a minute Harry had his cypress wand to his temple and was extracting his memory of his visit to Sybil Trelawney.



The two dipped their heads down to the pensieve at the same time and were instantly surrounded by the feeling of falling, instantly replaced by suddenly standing in headmaster Albus Dumbledore's office.



The office was very much the same as Harry knew it to be; only a few things were different. A number of the strange silver devices that puffed little wiffs of smoke, and made erratic clicking sounds were absent in this earlier version of the headmaster's office. Harry was pretty sure that at least one of the things he took note of being missing were actually used for monitoring the wards on Privet Drive, so it made sense for them not to exist yet in this memory.



Harry turned to his right and saw the Dark Lord in all his glory standing beside him, looking around the room with mild interest. Sybil Trelawney was sitting in the chair opposite the desk, while Dumbledore sat in his overstuffed chair. Trelawney was already in the middle of going on about her experience and her hereditary qualifications. Dumbledore looked visibly bored, but was putting forth a legitimate effort to feign interest.



"I managed to track this memory down after almost a solid twenty minutes of digging through her mind," Harry said quietly to the Dark Lord standing beside him. "It seems that Dumbledore was hesitant to do any really powerful obliviations against her. I think he was afraid if he messed with her head too much he might screw up her gift or something," Harry said, rolling his eyes at the word 'gift'.



"That's a reasonable concern. If she had made one legitimate prophecy, she could be capable of making more. If he cast too many powerful mind altering spells on her, it could easily prevent any future prophetic visions from manifesting properly," Voldemort mused.



They waited for about twenty seconds more when Harry spoke again, "This is it. This is where the memory switches over to the prophetic vision that was stored in her subconscious with her other prophecies."



Trelawney went rigid and her eyes fogged over, completely white. Her voice went down several octaves as she began to speak in an eerie voice.



"The only one with the power to match the Dark Lord approaches...



Born to those who have thrice defied him, born as the seventh month dies...



The Dark Lord will come for him and mark him as his equal.



He will have two paths from which to chose. From one path, the End will fall upon us all. From the other, we shall be saved.



The Dark Lord and his Equal will either rule together, or destroy each other.



For either to die, it must be at the hand of the other for neither can die while the other survives..."



Dumbledore stood there, staring at Trelawney with a stunned, dumbfounded look, rarely seen gracing his features. Trelawney came out of her trance, coughed a few time and looked rather confused.



The memory began to dissolve away then and was slowly replaced by a new one. Trelawney was entering the Hog's Head and speaking loudly to the bar tender that she had a very important appointment with the Headmaster. She introduced herself, loudly, as Sybil Trelawney, great-great granddaughter of the great seer, Casandra Trelawney. She was being about as unsubtle as a person could be.



A rather noteworthy thing about the memory was the strange purple haze that everything had.



"The Imperius," Voldemort observed.



"That's what I thought too," Harry said, nodding his head. "The whole memory reeked of the Imperius curse. It just has that vibe to it."



The two followed as Trelawney was lead up the stairs into one of the private rooms, where she waited for a minute before Dumbledore himself showed up. Again, they went through the motions of the boring-ass interview and Harry glanced over at Voldemort. "Is there a way for me to fast-forward the memory? Or do we have to stand here through the whole thing?"



Voldemort snorted. "This is not a muggle video recording, Potter. Just have some patience."



Harry sighed and leaned against the wall, waiting for the moment when Trelawney shifted into her trance and began to recite the false prophecy.



"The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches...



Born to those who have thrice defied him, born as the seventh month dies...



At this point, Harry heard a scuffle from just beyond the door, in the hallway, and if he glanced over at Dumbledore at that moment, he could see a noticeable disapproving frown.



...and the Dark Lord will mark him as his equal, but he will have power the Dark Lord knows not...and either must die at the hand of the other for neither can live while the other survives..."



As soon as the prophecy was done and Trelawney was coughing herself into clarity again, there was a knocking on the door and the bar keep of the Hog's Head appeared there, with a firm grip on the forearm of a much younger looking Severus Snape who was scowling at the man, angrily.



The bar keep informed Dumbledore that he caught Snape eavesdropping in the hallway, and it was just about that time that the memory began to fade away.



"So Snape was your spy?" Harry asked with absent disinterest as the pair stood there for a moment.



"Yes."



The two suddenly felt themselves 'falling' up and then found themselves back in the room on the 3rd floor, standing before the table with the pensieve on it.



"He orchestrated the false prophecy in a public place with the intent that it be overheard," Voldemort said suddenly.



"He didn't look pleased when that scuffle started in the hallway during Trelawney's performance," Harry observed.



"Clearly not. But I still got enough of the prophecy to take the action he desired of me..."



"He wanted you to come after me. To kill me," Harry said darkly as he scowled angrily at his clenched fists.



"Clearly. The Dark Lord and his Equal will either rule together, or destroy each other. Obviously he would rather we destroy each other than rule."



Harry snorted humorlessly.



"For either to die, it must be at the hand of the other for neither can die while the other survives... interesting..." Voldemort mused.



"He obviously hoped that if you killed me, it would somehow destroy you, or make it so that you could be killed. The part about you not being able to die while I lived is what probably led him to that conclusion. Although it also sounds like the only way for you to die is if I do it... or for me to kill you at the same time that you kill me? Sounds ridiculous, honestly... I'm also curious – I mean, saying that you can't die while I live makes sense because... well, it's true. But the prophecy makes it sound like can't die while you live either."



"I've actually been thinking about that a while now. I suspect that there may have been some unintended effects from my using your blood in my resurrection ritual."



Harry looked up with a blank expression. "Unintended effects?" he echoed in confusion.



"I cannot say for sure the full extent of the effects at this time... while I do not think that the protection that your blood existing in me gives you, is quite as potent as the protection I have by a piece of my soul being inside you, however I suspect that it is possible that they may be similar."



"Are you saying I may be immortal?" Harry asked with a stunned expression.



"Slightly resistance to death, is more likely."



Harry snorted. "Interesting way of putting it."



"Well, it is obvious that he orchestrated the false prophecy in the hopes that my attacking you as an infant would bring about my death..."



"And when didn't end up dead, he must have figured that you couldn't really be dead either," Harry added.



"Since you were now 'marked' it only led additional credence to the prophecy."



"And the whole part about me having two paths –" Harry said.



"Yes. He probably saw that you had the potential to being a huge threat to his agenda. However according to the prophecy the only way for me to truly die was by your hand."



"So he tried to orchestrate my entire childhood. Control everything from behind the scenes. He wanted to try and make sure I went down the path that he wanted. That I would fight against you and kill you, instead of joining you."



"In his deluded old mind, he's probably convinced himself that the line about 'the End falling upon us' as being the outcome if you join me," Voldemort said then with a scoff. "Blind old fool."



"Yeah, I was wondering about that line," Harry said, turning his full attention on the Dark Lord. "He will have two paths from which to chose. From one path, the End will fall upon us all. From the other, we shall be saved. I remember you thinking about the End-of-Days a few times during my visions earlier in the school year. That you had some sort of task...?" Harry let the sentence draw out in an unspoken question. The Dark Lord turned and glared at him through narrow eyes.



"Have you had any more of these visions of yours?"



"No. I'd tell you immediately if I had one," Harry said with a slightly annoyed tone at having his question diverted.



"My... task is complicated. Perhaps we will speak of it later, but at the moment we have other more pressing matters to discuss. Namely, this prophecy."



Harry gave a resigned sigh and slouched against the table he was standing beside.



"Alright so... well, it seems to me like most of the important stuff has already come to pass. I was born. You marked me as your equal. I've chosen my path already. I'm with you. Whether that leads to the end of the bloody world or our salvation, I guess only time will tell, although I suspect that you may have some insight on that."



Voldemort rose a single challenging eyebrow, but did contribute anything.



"So the rest of it... it says that you and I will either rule together, or destroy each other. I... well, I never exactly expected to be ruling by your side. You're the Dark Lord, not me. I still don't really buy into this 'equal' business."



"Yes..." Voldemort said in a slow, drawn out drawl as he looked off into the room with a thoughtful expression on his face.



"And finally the last line that goes 'For either to die, it must be at the hand of the other for neither can die while the other survives...' but we already discussed that," Harry finished with a huff before looking thoughtful himself and beginning to scowl angrily again. "Bloody manipulative, lying old bastard.." he muttered under his breath.



Voldemort snorted. "Yes, quite. He even got me."



"Hmph... Although I wonder if any of this would have ever even started if he hadn't? I mean, if he hadn't made up the fake prophecy and made sure it got to you, somehow, then you wouldn't have come after me like you did. If you hadn't come after me, your soul would have never got lodged in me, and I never would have got my scar. You wouldn't have become immortal and I wouldn't have been 'marked' by you."



"Most prophecies are often, in some way, self-fulfilling. They require someone to know about them, and believe in them, for them to have any real power..." Voldemort said in a contemplative voice.



"Then why the hell did you come after me in the first place? If acting on it posed the risk of giving it real power?"



"It was a risk I was willing to take. It seemed idiotic and reckless to allow someone who was prophesied to be able to vanquish me, to go on, when I had the opportunity to destroy him when he was still weak and defenseless."



Harry sighed and shrugged. "Can't fault your logic." Another silent minute passed and with each passing second, Harry found his mind swirling around more and more angrily at the idea of what Dumbledore had done to him.



"ARGH! I just want to fucking curse someone!" Harry exploded.



"Don't be so juvenile."



"Oh please! You can't tell me that you never called in some Death Eaters and started throwing around curses just because something had pissed you off and you needed to blow off some steam?" Harry shot back.



Voldemort actually grinned and chuckled quietly. "I may have done that a time or two."



"I can't believe you're not more angry!"



"Oh, I'm certainly angry," Voldemort said, airily. "I am exceptionally angry that he attempted to manipulate me into destroying myself. The damned old fool doesn't even have the honor to try and take me head-on. And instead of being honest with you, and simply informing you of your supposed destiny and trusting you to make what he deems to be the 'right choice', he chose, instead, to manipulate you into choosing his path. Despite how infuriating all of this is, from my perspective, it is far from surprising. This is how Dumbledore has always operated. The fact that it is so very in character for him, is what has dulled my outward response."



Harry turned his head away and glared angrily at the floor for another long minute. Voldemort watched as Harry's jaw clenched and flexed and his hands made tight, white-knuckled fists.



"I HATE him." Harry hissed out in a deadly, angry voice.



"So do I."



Harry's head turned up and his eyes locked with the ruby eyes of the Dark Lord. "If I go back now, I'm liable to throw a killing curse at him the second I see him."



"That would probably not be very wise."



"How far back can that time-turner go?"



"Twenty-four hours."



Harry's breathing was heavy and he was pulling in long sharp breaths through his nose as he held is jaw tightly shut.



"Can I stay here? I mean... all day? Not go back? I seriously suspect that I would end up hurting someone if I went back to the school right now. I just... I can't... I can't go back there right now. I can't... deal with them – Any of them. I'll just blow up and curse the daylights out of someone. I can't... I can't... I need to –"



"I don't doubt it," Voldemort said as he sensed the violent waves of angry dark magic pouring and sizzling off of Harry. He could feel Harry reaching a breaking point, very soon.



"Is that a yes?" Harry asked, shortly, as he looked back up and once again stared the Dark Lord in the eyes.



For the briefest moment, Harry's face softened and took on an almost pleading look, and Voldemort felt a strange tightening in his chest The Dark Lord nodded slowly. His response came out in a much softer and understanding tone than he ever used with anyone, but that somehow managed to slip out in that moment. "Yes, Harry. You can stay."



The shift in Harry's face and demeanor at the acceptance of his request and topped off by the use of his first name, and the soft tone it was spoken in, was instantaneous. He couldn't possibly put any sense to the flood of emotions that coursed through him in that moment. The wall that he had built up came crumbling down and everything just poured out. The grief, the horror, the anger, and absolute fury. The tremendous sense of betrayal and deceit. It had been crushing him. Suddenly the wall of emotions was replaced with relief, gratitude, and acceptance. The knowledge that he wouldn't be forced to go back to that damned castle where he had to pretend to be someone he wasn't, and play nice with all the people who did nothing but piss him off. Or at least, that he wouldn't have to go back right away... He knew he just couldn't deal with it. He just didn't have the strength in him.



Not after what he had learned. What was once a a semi-crazed theory in the back of his mind had become undeniable fact, and his mind and body didn't seem to know if it wanted to scream and rage, of collapse to the floor and cry.



He felt like his whole life had been a lie. The whole thing was constructed by Dumbledore with the intent that Harry would end up throwing his own life away in the role of a martyr for a world he had barely experienced and who were constantly turning on him. That he had been grooming Harry with the intention of him just dying in the end. And then there was the fact that Dumbledore's actions had honestly and truly been what brought about the death of Harry's parents. It wasn't just a matter of 'oh, they died and then Dumbledore stuck Harry with the Dursleys' – No, Dumbledore had brought about their demise on his own. They had been sacrifices that he had decided were worth it for his greater good. He had sacrificed Harry and his parents, and when Harry ended up surviving it, he had thrown him to the muggles to break him.



It had always remained true that Voldemort had cast the actual killing curse upon Harry and his parents, but it had been Dumbledore – literally – that had painted the targets on their backs and whispered into Voldemort ear that he needed to go after them.



Some distant part of his brain felt his knees giving out as the mental and emotional exhaustion began to take over. He had been operating on adrenaline and some sort of shock. Absolute fury had driven him forward like a mad man and suddenly all of that fury drained out of him, leaving him feel weak, tired, and utterly spent.



His knees hit the floor and his body slumped forward slightly, but he did not fall any further. His shoulders shook with silent, restrained sobs that he wouldn't allow to come. Part of him loathed the idea of appearing weak in front of the Dark Lord, but another part of him felt that this was the only man in the world who he could be himself around. The only man who understood him; the only man that he could honestly trust.



His world was spinning and his head felt heavy and pressured, like it was in a vice. At some point the tears he had been fighting so desperately to restrain had broken free of the dam and were now spilling out over his cheeks.



It was all just too much sometimes. Too much for one young man to handle. Too much to deal with. Just too much...



Suddenly, and without any warning, the pressure, and the spinning, and the huge heavy weight that had been pressing down upon him vanished with powerful rush of warmth and rightness as two arms wrapped around his shoulders and pulled him against the other person's chest. Harry felt himself burying his head into the neck of the other man as his body continued to shake and shudder from the sobs that had at some point, completely overtaken him. The sensation of being held by the other man was so incredibly reminiscent of being held by his companion inside his mindscape, but this was just so much more. So much better. This was real. This was warm and soft and comforting. And he smelled so wonderful. His voice was smooth and calming and reassuring.



The other man's hand began to run through his hair in a soft, caressing gestures that overwhelmed him with it's gentleness.



At some point, his own arms had wrapped around the other man's waist and he was clinging to him desperately. Utterly unwilling to release the man who was providing him with such comfort.



To let Voldemort go.



His sobs finally began to still and he felt his body calming down as his breathing became slower and steady again.



He sniffed as he pressed his closed eyes against Voldemort's shoulder, and pulled in another deep breath of the intoxicating scent.



Holy shit... what am I doing? And more importantly... why is he letting me?



Harry stilled and slowly, very slowly, released the Dark Lord and pulled away. He rose his head up and hesitantly brought his eyes up to meet the other man's gaze. He had no idea what he had expected to find there, but what he saw startled him. The eyes were surprisingly soft. There was honest concern in the other man's face, although it was quickly subdued as Voldemort sighed and ran a hand through his shiny black hair.



"Better?" Voldemort asked.



Harry slowly nodded his head.



"Can you stand?"



Harry swallowed the thick lump in his throat and nodded his head again. "Er, yeah, I think so," he rasped as he began to shift and stand.



Voldemort offered a hand and Harry reached out and took it, allowing the Dark Lord to pull him to his feet.



"Thank you," Harry said, ducking his head in embarrassment over having so utterly lost control of himself. "That was stupid of me. I should have better control of my emotions than that..."



"You are still young, Harry. I realize that this must be quite a lot for you to be faced with."



"It shouldn't be. It's not like I didn't already suspect things were about this bad," Harry said, shaking his head and scowling lightly at himself.



"Having suspicions and being faced with proof are two different things. Besides, it would seem that reality has proven to be even worse than your previous suspicions."



Harry closed his eyes and focused on pushing all of the thoughts and emotions out of his head and trying to just concentrate on clearing his mind.



"Come on, Harry," Voldemort's voice broke through his focus and startled him again by the casual use of his first name. He opened his eyes and blinked at the Dark Lord. He nodded his head with detached blankness, but felt his whole body relax wonderfully as he felt Voldemort's hand rest on the small of his back and begin to lead him out of the room.



Why was the Dark Lord acting this way? Why was he treating him with such gentle kindness? It was almost confusing enough to distract his mind from the overwhelming insanity of what he had discovered that morning. But not quite.



Harry finally realized that he wasn't being lead towards the stairs, but rather away from them. Another moment later he was standing in front of an unfamiliar door. Voldemort reached out and pressed the palm of his hand on the center of the door. There was a quiet click and then Voldemort reached down and pushed open the door.



He took a few steps into the room, still relishing the feeling of the man's hand rested against his back when he finally took in the room and came to an abrupt halt.



"Your bedroom?" Harry whispered.



"You need to rest. You've emotionally exhausted yourself," Voldemort said easily. "I can perform my meditation exercise here while you rest."



Harry turned and blinked at the Dark Lord. That strange concerned worry was still in his eyes, but it was accompanied by a look that told Harry that there was no arguing with this. After a stunned moment passed, Harry nodded his head and allowed himself to be lead forward towards the enormous bed in the center of the room.



"Rest," Voldemort said in a commanding and yet still surprisingly soft tone. Harry nodded his head numbly and found himself mindlessly slipping off his trainers and climbing into the bed.



He lay on top of the covers, but found the bed as a whole to be exceedingly comfortable. His head sunk into the pillow and he was instantly met with the scent of Voldemort, surrounding him. His whole body melted in utter relaxation and calm. He could see the Dark Lord sitting down on the floor in the same position he always performed his meditations in and could hear as the steady, even breaths became the only sound audible through the open, airy room.



Within moments he was asleep.



– –



What the hell was that?



Voldemort huffed quietly and relaxed his position. He wasn't getting anywhere with his meditation. His mind was too busy churning over the prophecy, and his body and emotions were to busy being confused by his powerful reaction to Potter. To Harry...



Damn it.



He could hear Harry's even breathing from the bed. He had fallen asleep rather quickly, but that didn't surprise Voldemort any considering how utterly spent the boy seemed. He wondered how long it had actually been since the last time Harry had allowed himself a good cry.



He'd sensed it coming before even Harry had. He could tell that the young man was on the brink of totally breaking down by his body language and the erratic nature of his magic as it swam around him. He was honestly surprised that Harry had remained coherent and rational for so long before that. He had been able to analyze and discuss the possible meanings behind the prophecy quite easily; but Voldemort suspected that he had just been running on adrenaline at that point. Once the rush died out, Harry had crashed, and he had crashed hard.



It had been shocking to Voldemort how affected he had been to witness the young man's melt down. He could not recall even a single time in the past where he had felt the honest need or desire to comfort someone. But he had felt it with Harry. He had needed to do it. Needed to hold him. To try and help calm him down and ease his pain.



Voldemort did not ease people's pain. He caused it.



Once again he was faced with thinking about the nature of the connection he had inadvertently created between the two of them. Soul magic, and blood magic were two of the oldest and least understood branches of the dark arts. They were rarely predictable, and use of them was fraught with unintended side-effects.



He realized now that he most definitely felt something for the boy. Something he had never felt for anyone else in his entire life. Terribly protective of him. Proud of his progress and achievements. And definitely possessive. He cared about Harry's well-being, and not just because he held a piece of Voldemort's soul. It was more than Harry being a horcrux and wanting to keep that horcrux protected. He wanted Harry protected.



Seeing Harry so utterly miserable had filled him with the strongest, most inexplicable need to make it better. It was so utterly unlike him that it was almost frightening. He was growing incredibly attached to the young man, and for entirely irrational reasons. Logically, he knew he needed to put a stop to this. He trusted Harry too much, and trust was dangerous.



But perhaps he shouldn't fight it. The prophecy made it sound like having Harry standing by his side would aid him in his task. They would prevent the End of days. Could this young man really make the difference? Could he be what was missing before? Why he could never seem to accomplish his ultimate goals? The Dark Lord and his Equal will either rule together... Was Harry his equal? No, not yet. But he could be. The young wizard had the potential to be everything the Dark Lord was; Voldemort had sensed it within him. And with the piece of his soul, lodged within him, there was even the potential that he could...



Could it have become Harry's destiny to share his task? Was that even possible? Never before had there been two at the same time...



He shook his head. He needed to focus on his meditation. He was so close to breaking that final barrier and being able to perform the transformation. Once he could take on his alter-ego appearance he would be calling his Death Eaters back to him, and he could truly begin to set things in motion.



He would deal with his confusion around Harry Potter later.



– –



Harry woke to sunlight pouring across his face. He blinked a few times in confusion, taking in the scene around him. Instead of his four-poster with red and gold hangings, he was in a huge, king-sized bed with ornate mahogany-carved headboard, and an emerald bedspread. The blanket and pillow he found himself laying upon was probably the finest silk he'd ever touched, and it made him just want to bury his face in it and go back to sleep.



He turned his face into the wonderfully soft fabric and took in a deep breath. Despite he having laid on it for however long he'd been there, he could still instantly detect the Dark Lord's distinctive scent in it.



Harry instantly sat bolt upright as it all came back to him in a sudden rush.



He had gone to Trelawney and forced her to sit there in a sort of a trance while he sifted through her mind. He had found the prophecy and then followed a mental strand along to the faked one that Dumbledore had concocted to fool Voldemort's spy.



Voldemort's spy... Snape! He had meant to bring that up earlier, but with everything else, it had just slipped his mind.



Not like it really mattered... Was that why Snape hated Harry so much? He knew that Harry was supposedly prophesied to be the vanquisher of the Dark Lord? But that still left the question about Snape's true loyalties. Hermione sort of had a point with her insistence that Dumbledore wouldn't keep Snape around unless he either trusted him, or rather, unless he had a use for him. So what did Dumbledore want with Snape? Was Snape loyal to Dumbledore like Hermione thought, or was he loyal to the Dark Lord? And if he was still loyal to Voldemort, did Dumbledore realize that? Did he still hope to use Snape to feed the Dark Lord with disinformation? Was that why he kept him around?



Harry pushed those thoughts aside. There were far more important matters to worry about.



Harry looked around the large, posh room and found that he was alone. He reached out with his senses and he could sense that Voldemort was almost directly below him. Harry assumed that he was probably in the study.



Harry quickly climbed out of the bed, turned and tried to tidy it up some before striding quickly out of the room. Once he had reached the second floor, he'd determined that the Dark Lord was not in the study, but actually in the library so he made his way there. He felt some hesitation building in his chest as he drew closer. He recalled his melt-down earlier, and how wonderful it had felt to be held by the other man, but now he felt exceedingly embarrassed by the whole thing. Not to mention confused by the fact that Voldemort had actually made the effort to comfort him.



Harry swallowed his nerves and pushed open the doors to the library. It took him a moment to locate the Dark Lord in large room. Towards the back, by a large window were a few overstuffed chairs and a chaise lounge. Sprawled out on the lounge was Lord Voldemort, himself. Harry couldn't help but think that he looked regal sitting there. He was lounging, casually, leaning against the reclined end of the chaise with a book in his hands, one leg bent up while the other was stretched out along the length of the chaise. He looked so relaxed and comfortable sitting there. Harry had long since become accustomed to seeing the Dark Lord as a man, and not the iconic demi-god of legend; yet still, moments like this always seemed to drive the fact home for him.



He felt a warm feeling in his chest, seeing the man sitting there in such easy comfort. He felt such a strong, and strange affection for the Dark Lord. But he was so much more than just 'the Dark Lord' to him. He wasn't just his lord and master, he was... other things as well. He had become something of a mentor, but also a... friend? That was an odd thought. And it didn't feel quite right. It wasn't sufficient enough a word. It didn't adequately live up to the feelings that filled him when he thought of the man. Harry found himself unable to properly put words to what he felt for the Dark Lord. Everything was happening so fast and it was confusing.



"Don't just stand there and gawk. Get over here," Voldemort's voice called, breaking through Harry's thoughts and causing him to realize that he'd been standing in the doorway of the library staring.



Harry ducked his head and grinned as he began to hurry across the room. As he reached the collection of seating he paused and looked at his options. There were a couple free armchairs free and yet he found the place he wanted to sit was actually the floor, beside the chaise. He would be closest to Voldemort there and the Dark Lord would have easy access to Harry from there.



Couldn't he always explain the action away as an act of respect? Submission to his Lord? Sitting beneath him? That was a reasonable excuse, wasn't it? It sounded more sane than of acknowledging that he was doing it because he wanted to feel the man's fingers running through his hair.



Pushing his way past his thoughts, Harry quickly slid down to the floor and propped his back up against the chair.



"Feeling better?" Voldemort asked after a silent moment. His voice had the same, sharp, short tone that it always featured, but there seemed to be an underlying softness to it. As if he honestly cared if Harry was feeling better. And Harry honestly felt that the Dark Lord did care. It was strange, but it filled his chest with that warmth again and he found himself smiling softly.



"Yes... much. I'm sorry I had a melt-down. Sobbing on you like some blubbering girl. It's honestly quite embarrassing."



"I'm sure it was," Voldemort said after making a lightly amused noise in his throat. His tone shifted to a far more serious one a moment later, though. "Feeling sorry for ones self is inevitable on occasion. What is important is that you get over it now. Self-pity is pointless and it is a waste of time. Do you understand?"



"I do," Harry said with a determined voice. "And you're right. I know. Sitting around and moping about how utterly Dumbledore has fucked me over won't do any good. I can't fix all the things he's screwed up because they've already happened."



"Exactly. Moving forward is all we can do. We take what we've experienced and what hardships we've had to endure, and we learn from it. We grow stronger from it. Self-pity is worthless. Take your fury and anger and focus it into motivation. Use that to drive you in your studies and in your goals."



Harry sighed and nodded his head. A moment later he felt the long slender fingers of the Dark Lord as they began to run through his hair and he smiled. He felt his body melting into the side of the chair as the fingers rubbed calming waves of the Dark Lord's ever-present magical aura.



"I really needed this," Harry admitted with a relieved breath. Voldemort remained silent, but kept his fingers gently combing over Harry's scalp. "Thank you so much for everything. You do so much more me... I don't deserve even a fraction of the things you do for me," Harry whispered after another long, quiet, moment.



"Oh, do shut up, Harry. You do more for me than you realize."



Harry was startled by the response. He wasn't sure what was more surprising – what the Dark Lord had said, or the fact that he was still using Harry's first name instead of having reverted back to calling him 'Potter'.



"Do you have any of your homework here with you, or do you need me to fetch you something to read?"



Harry blinked and his mouth floundered for a moment. He looked around and realized suddenly that he didn't actually know where his bag was.



"I'm not actually sure if I brought anything with me," Harry admitted slowly. "I was in a bit of a hurry to get here. For that matter, I'm not even sure what I did with my bag..."



"I believe you left it in the study after you exploded in there ranting about Dumbledore being a manipulative bastard."



Harry nodded his head slowly, feeling Voldemort's fingers follow the movement and then smiling when he felt the fingers grip his hair lightly and pull him back against the side of the chaise to pull Harry's head back into a reasonable range of his relaxed hand.



"I could summon my bag to me, but I don't think it's really got anything in it I could work on."



Voldemort sighed and removed his hand from Harry's hair long enough to pull out his wand, give it a quick flick, and summon a book from one of the many bookshelves in the room. It came flying across the room and landed directly in Harry's lap. A moment later, Voldemort's fingers had re-threaded themselves in Harry's hair and Harry was cracking open the book. It was an introductory Arithmancy book and it made Harry smile to think about the Dark Lord's promise to tutor him on the subject that summer to help prepare him for transferring into the class.



It wasn't exactly the most interesting subject, but Harry knew that it could be dead useful in the creation and modification of spells and rituals. A strong understanding of Arithmancy was necessary for setting wards, and was even useful in curse-breaking. Harry had never been a big fan of numbers, but he definitely acknowledged that if he wanted to be a truly powerful wizard, he would need Arithmancy. He cracked the book open and began reading. And with the Dark Lord's help, he would hopefully succeed without too much frustration.



– –



Harry had missed lunch during his nap, and was famished by the time dinner rolled around. Mixey prepared a wonderful meal for them, and Harry and Voldemort spent the time discussing what Harry had read. Harry asked a number of questions, trying to clarify some of the points that had confused him, and Voldemort had no qualms with answering them, no matter how simple they were.



Even after food, Harry still did not feel up to returning to Hogwarts. Whenever he thought about going back he felt a disgusted grimace spreading across his face, and Voldemort clearly saw it; so he didn't even bother suggesting that Harry go back. In the moments when he was honest with himself, he would admit that he didn't want Harry to leave. Instead Harry sat on the floor beside Voldemort's chair in the study while the Dark Lord read through his papers to keep up on current events and then when he continued work on some spell he was constructing.



Nagini joined them and alternated between lounging around a heated rock that Voldemort conjured; lounging on Voldemort's shoulders; and lounging in Harry's lap. At one point, Harry and Nagini engaged in a lengthy conversation about nothing of any real importance, but still, Voldemort found it utterly fascinating to watch Harry conversing so easily with his familiar. He had gotten very few occasions to witness any other humans speaking parseltongue. It was an incredibly rare talent, and the last wizard he had met who had the ability was his uncle, who he had framed for the murder of his muggle father and grandparents and gotten sent off to Azkaban. That was a very, very long time ago. And he hadn't exactly spent a great deal of time in the man's presence.



As it drew closer and closer to time for bed, Voldemort could see the hesitant concern growing in the young man's eyes. To quell the concern, Voldemort called upon Mixey, rather suddenly and surprising Harry, and instructed her to prepare one of the empty bedrooms with fresh linens. The relief was visible in both Harry's face and his demeanor. He sighed, smiled, and relaxed against the chair. Voldemort resumed his on-and-off habit of playing with Harry's hair, and Harry resumed his rather new habit of stroking his fingers along Nagini's head. Voldemort was sure that it would look almost humorous – or perhaps just disturbing – to anyone who would witness the scene. This thought only made him smirk.



– –



Harry left the manor shortly after breakfast. He used the time-turner to go back a full 24-hours, which actually put him back in the castle while his earlier self was still busy performing legilimency on Trelawney. This seemed like a rather excellent idea since it gave him the opportunity to provide himself an alibi. He was confident that his memory charms would hold against the divination teacher, but the extra safety net was still nice to have.



Harry's fury had been at least slightly quelled to a more stable simmering loathing. He still found it difficult to keep the scowl off his face during lunch when he looked up at the head table and saw Dumbledore sitting there, engaging in some sort of cheery discussion with McGonagall.



Harry quickly diverted his gaze. He knew that if the man looked his way, Harry wouldn't be capable of hiding the anger from his eyes, and if the old goat saw it, he would begin to suspect that something was wrong with Harry.



Before, Harry had just hoped that his previous years of deeds and accomplishments would prevent Dumbledore from honestly suspecting him of going dark. But now that he knew that the real prophecy literally said that Harry basically had a 50/50 chance of going dark, he knew the headmaster wouldn't be quite as quick to dismiss the idea as he had hoped.



He was going to have to be a lot more cautious around the man, and really put some effort into his acting. He could only use the 'angsty teen' card so many times before Dumbledore and the other professors began to suspect it was something deeper and more insidious than an angry and frustrated, yet still perfectly normal, teenager.



Harry huffed out and refocused on his meal. He'd just steer clear of the man for a while longer. He needed more time to cool down and plan before he could risk being in his presence. Fortunately, he rarely ever had any reason to speak with him, and there was still quite a while before the next task.



– –



Harry continued his daily visits to the manor after lunch, reading and talking with Voldemort; working on his class homework in the evenings, and then working with Hermione, and occasionally Ginny on translating the book. Ginny, it would seem, had finally learned how to act like herself around him, instead of constantly stuttering, blushing, and going silent. Harry was a bit confused by her sudden change in behavior around him, but was thankful that things were no longer so awkward when around Ron's younger sister. He was finding that she was a lot more bearable to be around than Ron was. She was like a more intelligent, less lazy version of Ron, and as such, he found her a much more bearable 'friend' to spend his evenings with. The added bonus, he was still good friends with a Weasley, and Weasley's were renowned Light wizards. No Weasley would be good friends with a Dark wizard.



For reasons that were not exactly hard to figure out, Ron was less than thrilled with Ginny suddenly spending so much time with Hermione and Harry. Ron even got so frustrated that he tried to work his way into their translation sessions, but he was utterly lost, and completely bored. He had no interest in the weird, old, dead language, and didn't give a damn about what the stupid old book might have to say. As a result, he was getting to be even more whiny, and even more annoying than ever. Harry even got snappy with him a few times when his patience for the ginger's moaning had hit its limit. Ron just scowled and stormed off to find Seamus or Neville to play some cards.



That week also featured the start of Harry's new dueling lessons with Voldemort. His daily visits now consisted of an hour and a half of reading while Voldemort meditated, then an additional half hour of light reading and conversation while Voldemort got caught up on the news. Harry began to ask Voldemort what sorts of news events he was looking for and keeping track of, and Voldemort began to keep up on Harry's daily strife within the halls of 'hormonal, temperamental, idiotic children', as he tended to call Hogwarts. When they finally finished their talking and reading, they would move to the ballroom and start two solid hours of dueling practice.



Harry had never experienced anything as exhilarating and exciting as learning dark arts spells and defense from the Dark Lord. Harry doubted there was a man alive who knew the subject matter as in depth and with such enthusiasm as Voldemort did.



In the beginning Harry found it very difficult to 'duel' Voldemort, simply because he was pointing his wand and firing off spells at Voldemort. Not because he was intimidated or scared – although he was definitely intimidated – but simply because he had absolutely no desire to attack the man. It wasn't like he honestly believed that anything he could do would hurt the man, but the knot of unease just wouldn't leave the pit of his stomach, no matter how much his rational mind knew he was being stupid.



He also often found himself becoming easily distracted by just watching Voldemort. His movements were so fluid and graceful. And then he had whip like movements that put Harry in a state of awe. Voldemort was like a panther. He stalked his prey and just emanated a sense of power. He was Dark, powerful, dangerousand amazing.



– –




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