Voldemort sat in a high-back black leather chair with Nagini wrapped around his pale shoulders. In front of him was a low yew table, on it sat a small cup, a silver headpiece, a golden locket, and a ring with a large black jewel.
Red eyes fixed upon these four items were fevered intensity. The Dark Lord remained still and silent except the occasional shushing hiss when Nagini reared her head towards him inquisitively or squirmed in uncharacteristic discomfort.
'I do not think I have ever had all of them together like this, my friend.’ Lord Voldemort uttered quietly.
‘A difficult decision lays before you, Red-Eyes.’ Nagini lamented. Her discomfort caused her tail to twitch sporadically. 'A decision which may not have to come to pass, there are other options.’ She tried to convince in a conversational manner which belied both of their present states.
‘I think not, Orange-one’ Voldemort admitted with difficulty. His familiar shuddered with what her Lord was implying.
‘It is unfair. You should simply take what it is you seek, not yield to those who think themselves better than you, your Greatness.’ Nagini was really laying it on thick with the honorifics tonight, it revealed her nervousness to her companion.
‘The old fool has the boy in a tight grip. In order to have him completely, I must bend slightly to the wind.’ He hissed using the old snake proverb with discomfort. Yielding to his enemies’ whims left an acrid taste in his mouth, something he’d had to contend with since that fateful night fought upon the bones of his father.
'Alive?’ Nagini was somewhat incensed. ‘Do you have to keep him alive, Red-Eyes? Surely it would be easier to take it from him instead bending the knee to you enemies’ whims.’ He forgave Nagini this one slight, the past few months had taken their toll on them both.
'Ah, little one. You see, that is where you’re wrong – they are bending to mine. He will be mine, I will have him. He is mine.’ He motioned to the items in front of him. ‘Just like these are too.’
‘Am I included on that list?’ Nagini slithered around so that she was facing him head on.
‘Always, my sweet. Always.'
Harry woke with his heart in his chest and his skin slick with sweat. He shot up with the overwhelming urge to empty his stomach on the floor. The nausea rolled through him and he felt flattened by it.
Gripping his sheets, he willed himself to breathe; to quell the thudding in his body and mind.
Calm. Calm down. It was just a dream. Count it out. Count.
He started at one and was past two hundred by the time his heart stopped roaring in his ears. It was somewhere past four hundred when it resumed its normal pace.
As he counted the dream replayed in his mind despite his attempts to let it fade from his him.
Have him? Who was Voldemort talking about?
Harry held his head in his hands whilst sifting through the vision. Recently, everyone in the order had stopped calling them dreams. Dreams implied that his nightly meetings with Voldemort were simply a product of Harry’s subconscious. These were nothing of the sort.
A noise to his left had Harry on edge instantly. Ron had moved in his sleep, obviously battling his own demons. The Gryffindor felt a ridiculous pang of jealously.
What were those items all about? They didn’t look malevolent or arcane and yet Voldemort had stared at them so intensely.
He couldn’t shake the feeling that something was watching him. He had found that he hadn’t been able to take his eyes off of the objects. Harry wanted to say he was trying to burn them into his memory for Dumbledore, but instead all he had felt was a magnetic pull to each of them. A need to do…something.
The room was dark and unusually cool which didn’t help his tremors. In an attempt to shake it off he stood up and stretched.
He turned and pulled his wand in one swift movement. He squinted at the source and his heart dropped when he could make out a human-like shape.
‘Show yourself.’ He growled.
‘Harry? Oh, Harry – so sorry! I thought you might be asleep. Didn’t want to wake the rest.’ It took a few seconds to identify the voice. Harry’s eyebrows scrunched in confusion.
‘Mrs Weasley?’ Harry asked in disbelief. She moved forward, the moonlight revealed her wool-clad figure.
‘Yes, Harry. Again, sorry.’ She smiled sheepishly up at him. With a start Harry realised he was now taller than the Weasley matriarch.
‘Oh, no. It’s okay.’ He whispered as he holstered his wand. ‘But, can I ask why you here-.’ He looked at Ron. ‘Do you want me to wake him up?’ He thumbed back at Ron’s snoring, a probably drooling, shape.
‘No, Harry. I’m here to fetch you. Glad you’re already up.’ She smiled. ‘Come one now, get dressed before any of the others might wake up.’
‘Okay.’ He said slowly. ‘Erm, I’ll get my things then.’ He replied in a daze, his mind already reeling.
‘Wrap up warm, my love. It’s a bit nippy outside.’ Harry nodded dumbly at Mrs Weasley’s soft stage-whisper. She turned to give Harry a semblance of privacy.
‘Might I ask where we are going?’ He pulled on his jeans over his pyjama bottoms and stripped his shirt for the jumper Mrs Weasley had knitted for his Christmas a week ago.
He was pulling on his boots before she answered. ‘We’re off to see Dumbledore. It’s serious business – he asked for you to be brought as quickly as possible.’ She said with a forlorn expression.
Not good then. He surmised. A little agitated that she’d dodged a direct answer he nodded curtly under cover of darkness.
‘Can’t tell me about it then?’ He said with a forced smile. Mrs Weasley returned with a a shake of her head. ‘Dumbledore will explain everything when you get there. It might be a wee bit of a shock. I’ll be right there with you though Harry.’ With a nod he stood up from the bed.
She took his jacket and scarf from his wardrobe and pulled them onto him. Turning she blew a kiss towards Ron’s bed and Harry followed her down the stairs to the common room. She paused for a second at the entrance to the common room and flattened his scarf for him.
‘Harry, I want you to be brave. But not for anyone but yourself. Do you understand?’ She totalled a stern gaze upon him. Beyond confused he simply nodded at her request. ‘I want you to be selfish for once and consider yourself before anyone else. And don’t forget Harry that you don’t have to go along with anything – we will all support whatever you decide to do.’
Bewildered Harry could only nod. Mrs Weasley hugged him and then led him out of the school.
The walk to the Hogwarts parameter seemed to last an absolute age. Everything glistened with frost and moonlight.
Harry was rubbing his hands together to warm them when Mrs Weasley halted them just past the school wards.
‘Right Harry, a little Apparition to get us on our way.’ Mrs Weasley held out her hand and after a slight awkward pause Harry took it. ‘Have you ever side-along Apparated?’ She asked cheerfully.
‘No, sorry.’ He said quietly.
‘No worries dear. You’ll feel a bit squished, but it will over before you know it. Best take a deep breath before we go. Ready?’ Harry breathed in and nodded, taking her arm his heart raced.
It felt like Mrs Weasley was slipping away from him with a horrible jerk. He grabbed her arm in a vice-like grip in the sudden blackness. He felt like his skin and organs were being stretched and crushed at the same time. He gasped on a silent scream as his arms and legs felt like they were being folded multiple times like freshly ironed clothes. His face felt like a deflated football being kicked with tremendous force. He almost lost his grip on her with the shock of it.
But when he blinked it was over and he was solid again.
Mrs Weasley quickly righted him when he nearly fell to the floor, brushing off imaginary dust off of his shoulders. She asked him if he was alright and winded, he gave her a shaky thumbs up.
‘First times always the worst.’ She replied.
They then walked up a small grassy incline. It was somewhat slippery, and Mrs Weasley held a supportive hand to Harry’s back.
When the broke the peak, Harry could see a white tent in the middle of a clearing. Black spindly trees surround it on all sides. Light flooded from the tent and it yellowed the grass surrounding it.
He was led to the tent with a brisk pace, as he got nearer, he spotted Snape at the entrance with folded arms and a grim expression.
‘Okay, Harry – you should hand over your wand.’ Snape held out his hand upon Mrs Weasley’s instruction.
‘My wand?’ He asked dumbly. She just nodded enthusiastically.
‘Perhaps today, Potter.’ Snape sneered. Harry took his wand from the holster and gave it to Snape’s waiting digits with unnecessary force.
Fowl git. He reprimanded internally.
Snape then extended an arm into the tent indicating they should enter.
What Harry saw inside gave him a start, sitting at a dark triangular table was both Dumbledore and Lord Voldemort. At the same time the both looked up at him. Dumbledore looked at him was abnormal stoicism, Voldemort with glee.
‘I, Molly Weasley née Prewett, announce to- be Lord Harry James Potter of the most ancient and noble House of Potter.’ Lucius snorted with derision until the Dark Lord stared him down for his interruption. ‘-as his interim guardian to grace this preceding peacefully and with clear conscious, so mote it be.’
‘So mote it be.’ Everyone replied, Lucius merely mumbled. Harry felt a sucking sensation in his chest as he passed through the entrance of the tent. He was suddenly very tired and anxious. Mrs Weasley quickly explained that the wards would temporarily dampen his magical core to stop his magic. Everyone else in the tent, her gaze lingered on Voldemort and Lucius as she explained further, would also be unable to perform magic whilst inside it. Harry’s eyes flicked to the back opening where Lupin stood holding two wands, his lips set in a bleak frown, his eyes staring unflinchingly at the Dark Lord.
‘Here you are Harry, there’s your seat.’ Mrs Weasley ushered him to the third side of the table into an ornate wooden chair decorated with purple jewelled leaves and golden ivy carved from black marble. Molly then sat behind him between Arthur Weasley and Lucius Malfoy.
The hairs on Harry’s neck rose when he fully took in the figure to his right. Lord Voldemort’s head had followed Harry’s entrance with a predatory precision; his red eyes unblinking followed every movement and every breath. His face was contorted into an awful grin.
Harry shivered without volition.
‘Harry, my boy. How good of you to join us with such short notice. I assume the journey was not too arduous?’ Harry’s head rounded on Dumbledore then, his eyebrow rose to his hairline. There was something about Dumbledore’s airy manner that put Harry’s teeth on edge.
Harry didn’t say anything in return, merely inclined his head slightly. The-Boy-Who-Lived was wholly focused on the thing to his right. He felt like he was on a knife edge, waiting for something terrible to happen. It was now the correct instinctual response when Voldemort or his followers were in close proximity.
Dumbledore obviously did not even have the gall to feel uncomfortable.
‘Well, you must be wondering why we are all gathered here today?’ The Headmaster’s voice lilted in an almost reverent quality. Harry surmised this was typical of those who had a flair for dramatics, the two beings he shared the table with were equally guilty of this practice. He could already feel a headache looming.
Dumbledore took Harry’s look of confusion and bewilderment that bordered on incredulity as a response. The Headmaster gestured around them. ‘What you see here is an Armistice Residing – a neutral ground on which two warring parties peacefully discuss terms and conditions which can potentially led to a permanent ceasefire. But first, as is customary, we shall share a meal together. Hungry Harry?’ Suddenly, plates of rich and colourful food appeared on the table. Cakes, tarts, roasts, vegetables, fruits and food items Harry had never seen before filled the tent with a litany of scents.
‘Eat. We have a long night ahead of us.’ Harry had never been less inclined to eat in his life. He saw Lucius, Arthur and Molly approach the table. Arthur and Lucius bowed to the table and then started serving food to Dumbledore and Voldemort respectively. Harry felt Mrs Weasley set a placating hand on Harry’s neck and quietly asked him what he would like, but a cold fear had settled in his stomach and he could only shake his head. Molly filled is plate regardless and whispered that it was okay and reiterated that he should eat.
Harry’s dream returned to the fore front of his mind again unbidden and it only helped increase his nerves.
The young Gryffindor managed a few mouthfuls of potato and carrot before the food was Vanished. In its place several items appeared on the table; a cup, a tiara, a locket, a ring, Tom Riddle’s diary, and finally Nagini.
The items in the vision.
Harry pushed back from the table in shock as the snaked head reared on him with a burning hiss. His hand pawed at his wand holster and his stomach dropped when he remembered it was in Snape’s possession. Harry hiss back a curse, instinctively facing the monstrous snake back.
‘Nagini, behave.’ Voldemort chastised like you would a naughty child.
At least the Weasley’s and Lupin had the good sense to look concerned.
Dumbledore totalled a withering glare on both the snake and her master before clearing his throat and resuming his jovial appearance.
‘What is this?’ Harry growled. The low danger in his voice surprised but strengthened him.
‘Would you care to explain, Tom?’ Voldemort recoiled angrily from Dumbledore with bared teeth before he seemed to control himself and inclined his head at the invitation. The twinkle in Dumbledore’s eyes revealed the enjoyment he drew from causing Voldemort great discomfort.
Voldemort then rounded on Harry with a feral glint in his eyes and a toothy grin. ‘What you see before you Potter is the sum of my life’s ambition. These items are, despite their appearance, vessels which contain shades of myself - my soul – within them.’ Voldemort looked at the objects with the same fevered admiration Harry had witnessed in his dream. ‘These were formed using the very heights of my extensive magical capabilities and are thus, highly complex and powerful artefacts.’
Egotistical psycho. Harry jibed internally.
‘They guarantee my immortality.’ Voldemort stated as if he were discussing the weather.
Harry slowly dissected that bombshell. So, Voldemort was immortal. Merlin’s pants, Lord Voldemort was immortal.
But suddenly his experiences within the Chamber of Secrets made a lot more sense. It was a shade of Voldemort’s soul Harry had encountered. His eyes feel sharply on the destroyed book, the item nearest to him.
‘They are called Horcruxes Harry.’ Dumbledore clarified. ‘Horcruxes are the product of extremely dark and volatile magic. Only a few have attempted their creation, the ritual is awful and necessitates murder – the most evil act- and typically, they fail. If they do succeed, they only do so once. Voldemort has succeeded not only once but six times since and once unintentionally. They are all connected to him, as he is connected to them – through soul-binds.’ Dumbledore looked strained when he looked at Harry then, like news of a familial death had just been announced.
It didn’t take an idiot to count the items.
‘But there are only six items here.’ Harry announced.
‘No, there are seven.’ Voldemort looked like he wanted to bounce in his seat when he said it.
‘And where is the seventh.’ Harry gritted out.
Dumbledore just looked at him, as did Voldemort.
‘No- no.’ Harry paled.
The visions, the anger, his scar burning, the hate, the hate.
‘Oh, but yes.’ Voldemort hissed, his eyes burning holes in Harry face.
Harry could only shake his head dumbly.
‘On the night you parents were murdered and the Killing Curse rebounded – a piece of Voldemort’s soul fractured and attached itself to the most alive thing in the room. You. You are the horcrux Voldemort never intended to make Harry.’
‘And what gifts it has given you, my kin.’ Harry flinched at the gleeful hiss from his right. The young Gryffindor stared at his hands helplessly and swallowed painfully. A piece of Voldemort’s soul was inside him. A roll of nausea slicked up his throat. That vile creature was inside him. Harry felt violated and unclean. He wanted to turn himself inside out and rip it out of him.
A boiling rage rose up with the nausea.
Everyone in the room, bar those sitting at the table shuddered at the sudden tense crackle permeating the air. The room felt like led around them all. Harry’s rage blew through them all, everyone paled – Lupin even whined – the creature inside him seemed closer to the surface suddenly. The threat of some awful magic hung around them, much to the surprise of all attended. They all stared at the boy, some in concerned confusion – other’s with undisguised hunger. The wards visibly shuddered with the strain of containing the onslaught.
‘Dumbledore, the boy’s power exceeds what you have reported.’ Voldemort had the gall to sound happy about this. A few particularly eyebrow-raising curses escaped him then. Harry could only feel disgust, hate, and betrayal. Dumbledore had spoken to Voldemort about Harry? Harry could only growl at the thought.
Harry felt sick.
‘When we met each other last, when we danced upon my father’s rotting husk, when I finally touched you – I felt it then. I thought it was impossible, the sensation simply being a product of your blood flowing in my veins. You are too terribly mortal to be an adequate vessel – but then again, little one – you have always exceeded expectations. I suspect the vast reserve of power you rest upon is to blame – not that I am angry in the slightest.’ Voldemort was looking at Harry like he had the other objects on the table, greedily. The candlelight flickered and the tent swayed dangerously.
‘Enough power to knock you on your arse, you vile git.’ Harry hissed venomously in some twisted hybrid of Parseltongue and English. Lucius stood as if to strike Harry, but Voldemort simply snapped a hand at him, and he slumped back down angrily.
Voldemort never stopped grinning.
‘Harry, we will need you to calm down before we continue.’ Dumbledore actually sounded disappointed which made the acidic murderousness in Harry’s stomach rise higher.
His mind reeled. He could hurt them; he could lash out at the two men in front of him and be done with it. The thought brought a vicious smile to Harry’s face. This was their war, not his.
A crushed throat, a flash of vile green, a sharp blade and a soft belly.
He snapped out of it as quickly as it came.
Then Arthur approached the table and laid a scroll on the table. With a touch to its seal it unravelled revealing three pieces of parchment joined in the centre.
A titled cursive script dominated the page. The letters so small and compact it was difficult to read with any amount of success.
‘These are the proposed treaty terms.’ Dumbledore announced. ‘Both parties – myself and Voldemort, as representatives of our respective causes – have drafted these and are willing to amend based on any requirements you may put forth Harry.’ The Headmaster’s voice was flat and emotionless. ‘We will carefully discuss any changes you might require; I implore you to read these with careful consideration Harry. If you agree to these terms, they are binding and cannot be annulled. If you agree to these terms, they bind you – and us three – for life.’
Harry wanted to spit in their faces and tell them where exactly they could shove their drafted terms.
The young Gryffindor read studiously in a manner Hermione would applaud.
But, little did he know that this was the beginning of his little death.
Offt, what a sexy champ Harry!
Thank you for reading so far!
All ze comments and kudo's for your hardworking house-elf here ;)