Lord Voldemort was not one to worry, especially not about a snake as capable as Nagini, but he was currently feeling somewhat… concerned. Or rather… suspicious, he decided.
He had long come to terms with the fact that she was independent and enjoyed spending time hunting outdoors, especially during the summer. Recently, however, he had noticed that she had begun to spend more and more time away from the fire in his study. Where she used to laze in his bed long after he had risen, now she was often gone before he awoke.
He wondered, then, if perhaps she had found a mate? She had never mentioned a desire to procreate, but in the end, she was a snake and she had her instincts, as all animals did.
He would not be jealous if she did want to do so, of course. He was above such petty emotions. But he did need to make sure that her chosen mate was… worthy.
He could not tell exactly where she was, but he could sense her presence close by. He strode down the stone path that bisected the many pastures behind the manor. Most of them were already full of the various beasts kept both for his leisure and for his elite soldiers. The thestrals were idling under a thick copse of trees, while the hippogriffs were roosting in rocky nests. The largest pasture was still empty, however, as the abraxans were not fond of early mornings, spoiled beasts that they were.
Unlike the thestrals and some of the hippogriffs, the abraxans were not trained for battle or service in his army. They were purely for transportation or leisure. It was a luxury that not all could afford, for they were picky creatures that required the utmost care, but of course, as Lord and Ruler of Great Britain, Lord Voldemort had no need to worry about money. Not anymore. Not like when he was but a child, orphaned and poor, relying on the good will of others. Now it was others who relied on him, and never again would he be so weak.
It was as he neared the stables that he heard the distant sound of hissing. Having heard Nagini speak many times, he recognized her immediately. It was the other he could not place.
He slowed down, pausing just beyond the door where he could hear the strangest of conversations taking place.
“Could you repeat that word?” Whoever was speaking sounded… odd. Accented. Lord Voldemort sincerely hoped that Nagini had not picked a questionable partner. He was loathe to forbid her anything she truly desired.
“Oblivious,” the stranger repeated, pronunciation only a hint off.
“Very good. I am pleased. You have learned many new words.”
A very human laugh rang out. “I couldn’t have done it without your help, my beautiful lady.”
Nagini hissed, pleased.
Lord Voldemort’s eyes narrowed and he stepped forward silently, until he could see into the stable. He followed Nagini’s long body until his eyes fell upon a young man crouched down, his head rested on one of his knees as he stroked the snake’s head. Lord Voldemort studied him for a moment, trying to place him. Short, messy hair, green eyes, and a light smile. But not someone he recognized.
Still, the young man was wearing the staff uniform and, based on the bars upon his collar, was no lowly labourer.
He stepped forward again, this time with sound.
The man’s head rose in surprise even as Nagini hissed happily upon seeing her master. Then the young man stood and dipped into a deep bow.
“My Lord,” He said cheerfully - cheerfully - as if greeting a friend instead of the feared Lord Voldemort. “I hope you fare well this morning.”
“Master,” Nagini hissed as she coiled around his ankle. “You are early. This human is Hairy. I have been helping him with his pronunciation.”
‘Hairy’ flushed slightly. He bowed again. “Harry Potter, My Lord.”
A Potter, though. Interesting. He hadn’t heard the name in many years - not since the war against Grindelwald.
Lord Voldemort raised a brow. “Nagini has been… teaching you?”
Potter blinked, then beamed. “Oh, yes, she’s been most kind. I’ve always had a little bit of trouble with parseltongue. I find that I can’t get some of the sounds quite right.”
“You are much better now,” Nagini assured him.
Potter grinned, unafraid, as if she were a common garter snake. It should have been disrespectful, but the young man’s touches had been almost reverent as he handled the deadly snake.
“You are a Parselmouth?” Lord Voldemort narrowed his eyes. He had not heard that there were any others in Britain.
Potter shook his head. “Oh, no. I mean, I wish I were,” he said a little dreamily. “But I’ve had to learn it, noun by verb by adjective. It was part of my mastery.”
Lord Voldemort’s eyes lingered on the bands on Potter’s collar. Two of them were larger and more ornate, designating his Masteries. Magizoology, and Beast Speak. A smaller band indicated his status as a journeyman in Beast Healing.
He did not keep track of all of his staff - there were far too many to remember, and he had little time to spare on mere servants. He had known that Master Arbor, his old caretaker, had mentioned retiring a few years ago, but had never bothered meeting his replacement. He supposed it would be good to ensure that Potter was skilled enough to handle his beasts. They were an essential part of his army, and he would not tolerate any neglect. Though, of course, the fact that he had never noticed that Mastor Arbor was no longer working for him spoke of the young man’s skill.
“Master, why are you here?” Nagini unravelled herself, and returned to Potter’s side, winding up his leg and pushing her head into his hand until he stroked her head.
Lord Voldemort was not jealous of the fact that she liked Potter so much. Nor was he here to spy on her. He would, however, keep an eye on her to make sure Potter hadn’t tricked her somehow. She didn’t normally like any of his followers.
“Saddle Andarta. I wish to ride.” He waved his hand dismissively, even as he watched with sharp eyes. He knew just how temperamental his abraxan was. She liked Lord Voldemort, and none else. Any who tried to get near her were subject to her vicious bite.
Normally he cared for her himself, except to let her in and out of the pasture. Sometimes, however, he would command others to ready her, if only to watch them squirm and quiver before her.
But Potter only bowed, gave Nagini one last pat, and strode to the large stall, taking on the fearsome task of waking her up with nary a complaint.
Brave, but foolish. The Potter Family, if he recalled correctly, was predominantly Gryffindor. Perhaps that was why there was only one left.
Lord Voldemort watched as Potter unlatched the stall, clicking his tongue and making soft whuffing noises that roused Andarta from her slumber. He saw her head rise, her wings fluttering, stretching out above her. She looked at Potter, and let out a great heaving sigh. Potter reached out a hand, and Lord Voldemort waited for the moment she chose to strike.
But it never came.
Instead, she leaned forward, and placed her soft nose in the mercy of his touch. He stroked her gently, making small, gentle noises. Slowly she stood, and allowed him to give her a quick check and brush before saddling her up.
She looked towards her waiting Lord, let out another sigh, and turned back, nosing Potter’s pockets for treats.
Lord Voldemort held back a scowl.
Potter, of course, caved instantly and brought out two sugar cubes which disappeared with a snort. The young man laughed then, stroking her head fondly before bringing her out.
Lord Voldemort kept his face impassive as he took the reins with a nod and led her out. The young man was good with animals, he admitted grudgingly. Master Arbor would not have approved of him otherwise. The man was as grouchy as they came, but took his job more seriously than any others Lord Voldemort had met.
He glanced over at his newest caretaker, who waved at him with a smile, Nagini wrapped around his neck.
Lord Voldemort mounted quickly and set off, sweeping into the skies, away from the irritatingly cheerful Harry Potter.