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Embracing His True Self

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Embracing His True Self

Chapter 1

The Dark Lord

"My Lord…" Pettigrew choked, "my Lord…you promised…you did promise."

"Hold out your arm," Voldemort said lazily, his red eyes piercing as he looked around, although he was still keeping an eye on the boy; he did have a knack for escaping. If he wasn't his enemy, he would have had a grudging respect for his abilities, but since the boy's escapes put his plans to ruins more often than not, he wasn't happy in the slightest.

"Oh, Master…thank you, master…" choked Pettigrew, getting dizzy from the loss of blood. He extended his handless arm towards Voldemort, who just laughed coldly at his minion, concealing his surprise that Potter was suppressing his own sadistic amusement at Pettigrew's current predicament. "The other arm, Wormtail."

"Master, please… please…" Pettigrew piteously whimpered, missing the green eyes of his bound prisoner watching him with a great delight that he couldn't quite mask.

Voldemort snatched Wormtail's left arm, Harry noticed, and forced his sleeve up, ignoring the man's snivelling. He noticed immediately a red tattoo, the same design he'd seen projected into the sky at the Quidditch World cup. It was pretty hard to forget, since he'd been accused of firing it into the sky himself. It seemed no matter where he went, whatever he did, he always had people blaming him for something.

"It is back," said Voldemort softly, and Harry couldn't help but remember the Chamber…his voice back then. What had caused him to become so hideously disfigured? Shaking off his entirely inappropriate thoughts, he tried to think of a way to get out of this. He was drawing a blank… he was tied to a bloody tombstone, for Merlin's sake. Damn Dumbledore for not stepping in and preventing him from participating in the tournament. But Voldemort's voice drew his attention back to what was happening around him as he hissed softly, "They will all have noticed it…and now, we shall see…now we shall know…" Then Voldemort touched the tattoo with his finger; just then Harry's scar seared with pain. What had Voldemort just done? Why could he feel what he'd done? This was different than anything else he'd ever felt in relation to his scar before. The tattoo had gone black now, and he watched Pettigrew scream in agony; the sight of his suffering caused his lips to twitch. Hopefully Voldemort would leave it too long and actually kill the snivelling thing.

"How many will be brave enough to return when they feel it?" the Dark Lord whispered once more, his red eyes gleaming. "And how many will be foolish enough to stay away?"

Return? Oh great, he'd somehow summoned his followers; how many did he have? How did he get out of this? His wand was out of reach; Cedric Diggory was dead and no help at all. He had no idea where he was, or how to get back to Hogwarts. In other words, he was done for. Maybe it was for the best…when he died he wouldn't need to return to the Dursleys. No more abuse, no more pressure, no more looking at the disappointment on everyone's faces when he didn't do what they expected. No more pretence…no more putting up with people who pretended to give a shit.

"You stand, Harry Potter, upon the remains of my late father," Voldemort hissed softly, "A Muggle and a fool…very like your dear mother. But they both had their uses, did they not? Your mother died to defend you as a child…and I killed my father; see how useful he has proven himself, in death…"

"Too bad they didn't cremate him then," Harry said bluntly, watching the red eyes flash with surprise at his effrontery.

Then Voldemort continued on as if Harry hadn't spoken at all. "You see that house upon the hillside, Potter? My father lived there. My mother, a witch who lived here in this village, fell in love with him. But he abandoned her when she told him what she was…he didn't like magic, my father…he left her and returned to his Muggle parents before I was even born, Potter, and she died giving birth to me, leaving me to be raised in a Muggle orphanage…but I vowed to find him…I revenged myself upon him, that fool who gave me his name…Tom Riddle…"

"Oh please, you weren't the only one who's had a shit childhood," Harry snapped, his green eyes flashing in barely suppressed fury. How many times had he wished to kill his own so-called family? Each year his imagined retribution got more and more inventive…unfortunately he couldn't. Dumbledore would know within seconds what he'd done.

"Listen to me, reliving family history…" Voldemort said quietly. Did he do anything other than bloody whisper?! Harry snarked silently to himself. "Why, I am growing quite sentimental…But look, Harry! My true family returns…"

"I already know your family history, I got the same talk just before you tried to kill me in the Chamber of Secrets…so please, spare me," Harry said, rolling his eyes and shifting his head from side to side; he ached something fierce. True family? His heart sank at the sight of all the wizards Apparating into the Graveyard. Yes; this day was truly his last. Snakeface thought of them as family? That much he hadn't expected. There was so much he was ignorant of; he wished he had answers.

"Welcome, Death Eaters," Voldemort said. "Thirteen years…thirteen years since last we met. Yet you answer my call as though it was yesterday…we are still united under the Dark Mark, then! Or are we?"

Harry was beginning to think that Voldemort didn't know how to raise his voice other than to laugh manically. Harry's eyes assessed his surroundings―there were too many Death Eaters, he'd not a hope in hell of getting out of this…hopefully they would end him quickly. He didn't want to count his chickens, after all, the last times had been far from pleasant, even with no attempt at a flash of green light.

"I smell guilt," Voldemort whispered, "There is a stench of guilt upon the air."

That surprised Harry. Really, he could smell like a snake? Then he was bound to smell his fear, and that didn't sit well with him at all.

But Voldemort was still talking. "I see you all, whole and healthy, with your powers intact ― such prompt appearances! And I ask myself…why did this band of wizards never come to the aid of their Master, to whom they'd swore eternal loyalty?"

Eternal loyalty? Really? How had he gained so many followers; was the blood supremacy notion really that…twisted in all purebloods?

"And I answer myself," whispered Voldemort, "They must have believed me broken; they thought I was gone. They slipped back among my enemies, and they pleaded innocence, and ignorance, and bewitchment."

How did Voldemort know all this? Yeah, Pettigrew had spent…thirteen years as a rat, listening to the Weasleys. There was also Jorkins, who had died by Voldemort's hand; he would have gotten all information he possibly could have from her first. If he'd found out about the tournament from her, then it was probable he had gotten more, he mused.

"And then I ask myself, but how could they have believed I would not rise again? They, who knew the steps I took, long ago, to guard myself against mortal death? They, who had seen proofs of the immensity of my power, in the times when I was mightier than any wizard living?"

He had every Death Eater present frozen stiller than statues; he had them hanging on every word, and if Harry was honest…he would have been as well, if he wasn't about to die. Voldemort had a way with words, even the memory of him at the age of seventeen had, down in the Chamber of Secrets. Licking his dry lips, Harry cursed himself once again for letting his mind wander…he had to figure out a way out of here before he was met with a sticky end like Malfoy had promised, when he was twelve. He would hate to prove the git right ― especially considering he was there…he could see his blond hair shining like a beacon in the stillness.

"And I answer myself, perhaps they believed a still-greater power could exist, one that could vanquish even Lord Voldemort…perhaps they now pay allegiance of another…perhaps even to that champion of Mudbloods and Muggles, Albus Dumbledore!"

Harry snorted, unable to help himself; that was a new one, he'd never heard Dumbledore called that. Fortunately he didn't think anyone had heard him, since the Death Eaters had all flinched at those words, and began shaking their heads, muttering and denying the accusation levelled their way.

"It's a disappointment to me… I confess myself disappointed."

Then what happened next had even Harry fearful and very nearly showing it: the Death Eaters were kneeling before Voldemort, begging for forgiveness, only to be hit with a spell that must have caused unendurable agony if their screams were anything to go by. Swallowing thickly, Harry realised that this must be the Cruciatus Curse…Moody was right then, it had been a favourite of Voldemort's during the war. His stomach tightened into a knot.

"Get up, Avery," Voldemort softly said, "Stand up. You ask for forgiveness? I do not forgive. I do not forget. Thirteen long years…I want thirteen years of repayment before I forgive you. Wormtail has paid some of his debt already, have you not, Wormtail?"

Harry wondered very briefly why Avery was Avery, yet Voldemort called Pettigrew by his nickname…a nickname that his father James had given him, only to be betrayed by him. Was Pettigrew closer to Voldy? Other than the fact he'd brought him back? He shook off those thoughts, feeling sick.

"You returned to me, not out of loyalty, but out of fear of your old friends. You deserve this pain, Wormtail. You know that, don't you?" Voldemort asked, as if curious what denial he might get.

Of course; now, that made more sense than Pettigrew actually giving a shit. Sirius and Remus would have been amused to learn that Pettigrew was terrified of them.

"Yes, Master," moaned Wormtail, "Please, master…please…"

"Yet you helped return me to my body," said Voldemort coolly, watching Wormtail sobbing on the ground. "Worthless and traitorous as you are, you helped me…and Lord Voldemort rewards his helpers…"

Harry grimaced in disgust at the sight before him. Pettigrew was more rat than human…then again, Voldemort was more snake than human, but he hadn't always been that way…Pettigrew on the other hand had always been like that, at least according to Sirius. It could have been bitterness speaking, but either way he was dead…there was no way he could survive this, surely? It would take a miracle, and he had a feeling he was all out of them. Ignoring the conversation going on around him, Harry still absorbed the names of those he could for his own sake, should he actually get out of this in one piece. Then hearing Voldemort speaking again caused him to pay attention… missing Death Eaters?

"And here we have six missing Death Eaters…three dead in my service. One, too cowardly to return…he will pay. Two who remain my most faithful servants, one of whom has already re-entered my service," Voldemort whispered, sounding thoughtful.

"He is at Hogwarts, my faithful servant…and it was through his efforts that our young friend arrived tonight…" Voldemort continued. "Yes, Harry Potter has kindly joined us for my rebirthing party. One might go so far as to call him my guest of honour."

"I'm sorry to say I left my gift behind," Harry said sardonically, his eyes never wavering from Voldemort's.

"Master, we crave to know…we beg you to tell us…how you have achieved this…this miracle…how you managed to return to us…" Lucius simpered ingratiatingly.

Voldemort finally broke eye contact with Harry and turned to Lucius, "Ah, what a story it is, Lucius, and it begins and ends with my young friend here." Harry narrowed his eyes as Voldemort stalked forward towards him, inhaling sharply at the pain in his scar, as Voldemort's long white fingers hovered just inches from his skin. "You know, of course, that they have called this boy my downfall?"

"You all know that the night I lost my powers and my body, I had tried to kill him. His mother died in the attempt to save him ― and unwittingly provided him with a protection I admit I had not foreseen…I could not touch the boy," Voldemort admitted, his red eyes gleaming wickedly as he leaned further into Harry's face; if he'd had a nose, it would have been pressed against Harry's. "His mother left upon him the traces of her sacrifice…this is old magic. I should have remembered it; I was foolish to overlook it…but no matter, I can touch him now."

Harry bit his tongue, keeping his face impassive despite the agony coursing through him. He'd never allowed his uncle to get any satisfaction from hurting him…so he wasn't going to let Voldemort or the Death Eaters either. Voldemort had come and actually intended to kill HIM; the target wasn't his family…why? It wasn't like he'd gone around killing children, otherwise Hogwarts would have been empty…surely? Why him? What the hell made him so special, that Voldemort would come and personally try to kill him? He'd asked Dumbledore once, but the old wizard had never revealed why. Voldemort laughed in his ear, before turning away from him again to address the Death Eaters.

"I miscalculated, my friends, I admit it. My curse was deflected by the woman's foolish sacrifice, and it rebounded upon me. Aaahh…pain beyond pain, my friends; nothing could have prepared me for it. I was ripped from my body; I was less than a spirit, less than the meanest ghost…but still, I was alive. What I was, even I do not know…I, who have gone further than anybody along the path that leads to immortality. You know my goal: to conquer death. And now, I was tested, and it appeared that one or more of my experiments had worked…for I had not been killed, though the curse should have done me in. Nevertheless, I was as powerless as the weakest creature alive, and without the means to help myself…for I had no body and every spell which might have helped me required the use of a wand. I remember only forcing myself, sleeplessly, endlessly, second by second, to exist…I settled in a faraway place, in a forest, and I waited…surely one of my faithful Death Eaters would try and find me…one of them would come and perform the magic I could not, to restore me to a body…but I waited in vain…"

"Only one power remained to me. I could possess the bodies of others. But I dared not go where other humans were plentiful, for I knew that the Aurors were still abroad and searching for me. I sometimes inhabited animals ―snakes, of course, being my preference― but I was little better off inside them than as pure spirit, for their bodies were ill-adapted to perform magic…and my possession of them shorted their lives; none of them lasted long…"

Aurors? The Aurors had searched for Voldemort? So they'd known all along that he wasn't really dead? Dumbledore was one thing, but the Aurors, the Ministry…he could barely believe it; those sodding shits, were they manipulating him as well as Dumbledore?

"Then…four years ago…the means for my return seemed assured. A wizard ―young, foolish and gullible― wandered across my path in the forest I'd made my home. Oh, he seemed the very chance I had dreamed of…for he was a teacher at Dumbledore's school…He was easy to bend to my will…he brought me back into this country, and after a while, I took possession of his body, to supervise him closely as he carried out my orders. But my plans failed; I did not manage to steal the Philosopher's stone. I was not to be assured immortal life. I was thwarted…thwarted, once again, by Harry Potter…"

"If it's any consolation, you wouldn't have been able to get the stone," Harry muttered mulishly.

"The servant died when I left his body, and I was left as weak as ever I had been," whispered Voldemort, having his friends' and family's complete attention, their eyes gleaming as he told his tale to them. "I returned to my hiding place far away, and I will not pretend to you that I didn't fear that I might never regain my powers…yes, that was perhaps my darkest hour…I could not hope that I would be sent another wizard to possess…and I had given up hope, now, that any of my Death Eaters cared what had become of me…"

Harry twitched; Voldemort's voice might sound like it didn't matter but the words that came out of his mouth made it seem like he was truly hurt by their actions, or rather in this case inactions. "Try dying before you escaped," Harry muttered, curious that he couldn't even bring himself to say Quirrell's name; he couldn't be feeling guilty, could he? Harry wanted to laugh at the absurdity of his thoughts. He rolled his eyes, as he was ignored once again as if he hadn't spoken. What a way to treat your guest of honour, Harry wryly thought.

"And then, not even a year ago, when I had almost abandoned hope, it happened at last…a servant returned to me: Wormtail here, who had faked his own death to escape justice. He was driven out of hiding by those he had once counted friends, and decided to return to his master."

"Yes, I'm sure it's less embarrassing for him to blame those the same age as him, than a thirteen-year-old," Harry said, glaring at Pettigrew and causing him to squeak for a second before realizing something, then grinning and giving that same little wave he had last year. Just before he'd turned into a rat and run away like a coward to escape.

"He sought me in the country where it had been long rumoured I was hiding…helped, of course, by the rats he encountered along the way. Wormtail has a curious affinity with rats, do you not, Wormtail? His filthy little friends told him there was a place, deep in an Albanian forest, that they avoided, where small animals like themselves had met their deaths by a dark shadow that possessed them."

"Course he does, he is one," sneered Harry, still staring at Pettigrew; his gaze promised death. This caused the Death Eaters to twitch; their eyes going from Harry to their Lord, surprise flickering in them. Now, if they had dared to interrupt their Lord once, never mind multiple times, they would be writhing in agony by this point. Yet still Voldemort ignored the boy.

"But his journey back to me was not smooth, was it, Wormtail? For, hungry one night, on the edge of the very forest where he had hoped to find me, he foolishly stopped at an inn for some food…and whom should he meet there, but one Bertha Jorkins, a witch from the Ministry of Magic? Now see, this is the way that fate favours Lord Voldemort. This might have been the end of Wormtail, and of my last hope for regeneration. But Wormtail ―displaying a presence of mind I would never have expected of him― convinced Bertha Jorkins to accompany him on a night-time stroll."

Harry snorted blatantly at that, Pettigrew convince anyone to do anything? He grumbled inwardly, the magical bindings didn't leave any room for leeway, none at all. Every time he tried to get out they just tightened uncomfortably around his wrist. Sighing in defeat, he slumped against the statue, taking some pressure off his aching body, sore from having been in the same position so long.

"He overpowered her…brought her to me. And Bertha Jorkins, who might have ruined all, proved instead to be a gift beyond my wildest dreams…for ―with a little persuasion― she became a veritable mine of information. She told me that the Tri-Wizard Tournament would be played at Hogwarts this year. She told me that she knew of a faithful Death Eater who would be only too willing to help me, if I could only contact him. She told me many things…but the means I used to break the Memory Charm upon her were powerful and when I had extracted all useful information from her, her mind and body were both damaged beyond repair. She had now served her purpose; I could not possess her, so I disposed of her."

"Wormtail's body, of course, was ill-adapted for possession; as all assumed him dead, he would attract far too much attention if seen. However, he was the able-bodied servant I needed, and, poor wizard though he is, Wormtail was able to follow the instructions I gave him, which would return me to a rudimentary, weak body of my own, a body I would be able to inhabit while awaiting the essential ingredients for true rebirth: a spell or two of my own invention…a little help from my dear Nagini…a potion concocted from unicorn blood, and the snake venom Nagini provided…I was soon returned to an almost human form, and strong enough to travel." Voldemort murmured, yet his voice was heard clearly.

He invented his own spells, convinced all these people to follow him, yet he looked like a disgusting half-man, clinging desperately to immortality? Why hadn't he just used a vampire? It would have made things a lot less complicated. Then again, not even vampires were truly immortal... Wait... unicorn blood? Why hadn't anyone said anything about unicorns being killed again, like in first year? A cursed life; it was half the unicorn blood and the snake that had caused this appearance. If he was going to die, Harry wished Voldemort would get on with it already, he was getting hungry.

"There was no hope of stealing the Philosopher's Stone any more, for I knew that Dumbledore would have seen to it that it was destroyed. But I was willing to embrace mortal life again, before chasing immortal. I set my sights lower…I would settle for my old body back again, and my old strengths…"

He looked like that before he died? Really? Well, that was unexpected, really. How had he gone from the boy from the diary to this…this…disfigured insane guy? No, not insane…not completely anyway, but not far from it either. Harry twitched out of his thoughts when he heard his name, protection? He called it fucking protection? Biting his tongue, he winced when he tasted the metallic flavour of blood dribbling in his mouth. He'd actually bitten hard enough to draw blood; ouch, that fucking hurt. Of course that was nothing on the feeling of the Cruciatus Curse now being cast upon him. The scream that left his throat was against his will, as agony…unlike anything he'd ever felt... danced over him. Like he'd suffered ten beatings from his uncle simultaneously… Merlin, he'd rather die than continue feeling this but the Slytherin part of him refused…the survivor in him refused to bow down.

Then it was over; the bindings loosened as he slumped against the stone of Tom Riddle. He could barely think, couldn't see…but slowly, eventually his vision returned, although his muscles continued to spasm painfully and were definitely out of his control. He had changed his mind, Voldemort was bloody crazy; meeting blood-red eyes, he stared impassively, not allowing the wizard to intimidate him, refusing to show his fear more determinedly than before. If he were to die today, he would make it so he was at least worthy of remembrance.

"You see, I think, how foolish it was to suppose that this boy could ever have been stronger than me," Voldemort said. "But I want there to be no mistake in anybody's mind. Harry Potter escaped me by a lucky chance. And I am now going to prove my power by killing him, here and now, in front of you all, when there is no Dumbledore to help him, and no mother to die for him. I will give him his chance. He will be allowed to fight, and you will be left in no doubt which of us is the stronger."

"Just a little longer, Nagini," added Voldemort to his snake.

Standing up straighter he turned to Wormtail. "Now untie him, Wormtail and give him back his wand."

Harry couldn't keep from inwardly cursing when the Death Eaters moved in, completing the circle around the two of them and obscuring the entire graveyard from view. He hissed at Wormtail, causing him to stumble back after returning his wand. He should have let them kill him, but the Gryffindor they all expected Harry to be wouldn't kill him, no matter what he did. Maybe the hat had been right, if he had been sorted into his true house... he probably wouldn't be having this problem. Standing up, he was wary of his injured leg; he had been in the hospital wing often enough, how was it that he didn't know how to heal himself? Wait…there was a spell; what was it called again? ...Ferula, that was it, "Ferula," Harry whispered, tapping his wand against his leg, trying it out; he found it wasn't enough to stop his limping anyway.

"You have been taught how to duel, Harry Potter?" Voldemort softly asked, his red eyes glinting through the darkness.

"Putting on a show isn't going to make it any more impressive when you try and kill someone with only four years of magical education, which by the way sucked," Harry said bitterly, moving again ― damn that spider to hell, it had screwed up his leg big time. "Considering you tried to kill me when I was a baby, you don't really have morals by any stretch of imagination."

Those red eyes flashed again, angrily, before they shifted; his lipless mouth stretched into a smile. "We bow to one another, Harry," he said, "Come now, the niceties must be observed… Dumbledore would like you to show manners; bow to death…Harry." Voldemort bowed slightly but his gaze never wavered from Harry's.

Harry's green eyes bored into his own before the boy mockingly bowed theatrically, his arm waving out, but his eyes also never left Voldemort's. His lips twitching at the aggravated look on the Dark Lord's face; it might be the last time he did.

"And now we duel," said Voldemort, "Crucio!"

Harry hadn't even seen it coming, but considering he was riling Voldemort up he should have expected it. After what felt like nearly an hour, although he knew it was probably less than a minute, the pain stopped. He was on the ground again; he couldn't even remember falling as pain had just ate at him. He had, though, kept a tight grip of his wand, which was a good thing. He contemplated just lying there and allowing Voldemort to end this whenever he felt like it. No, he scowled to himself, if this was his last day on this earth he would make sure he was a worthy opponent to remember.

"That hurt didn't it, Harry? You don't want me to do that again, do you?" whispered Voldemort.

"Sure, I'm a masochist," Harry muttered, rolling over and getting himself to his feet, then standing still as he tried to get over the curse which was playing havoc with his insides. "Who doesn't love being Crucio'ed every day? It's the highlight of my night."

"Crucio!" Voldemort snapped, nearly losing his temper.

Harry however, was ready and leapt aside, almost barrelling into the on-looking Death Eaters but barely preventing himself from doing so. There was a scream that lasted for a few seconds before it quit; the curse had obviously hit one of the Death Eaters. Harry chuckled in amusement; they'd gotten a laugh out of him, so why shouldn't he?

"Expelliarmus!" Harry shouted; it was the only real spell he knew. As the spell formed he knew he was dead…he was surrounded by Death Eaters and facing Voldemort. He had only one wand. He was dead meat; it would take a miracle to get out of this, and he was out of miracles and miraculous escapes.

Voldemort however was ready for him and shouted his own lethal spell, "Avada Kedavra!"

The green spell formed and left the Dark Lord's wand. Harry expected it to hit him, but it didn't. Both spells collided in mid air, and a large golden dome began to surround them. A 'whoa' left his lips as both of them were lifted into the air. Both of them were also tightly gripping onto their wands, not wanting to lose them. The simmering gold that connected both their wands splintered, but the connection remained. He was relieved to see that at least Voldemort had no clue to what was happening; that made two of them. Still, Harry didn't want that connection broken, it had saved his life….oh he had no idea just how much it would save his life.

Grunting, Harry used both hands to secure the wand that was vibrating painfully, making it near impossible to keep a hold on it. Then a bead materialised in between them, and began making its way towards his own wand. He didn't want it to reach him, he thought desperately... then suddenly it was moving towards Voldemort's wand.

Green eyes met red as both combatants began to put as much magic into their efforts as possible, but since Voldemort had just been brought back to his body, he was weakening already. Harry, however, was in marginally good health, and his magic was as powerful as ever. The bead finally reached Voldemort's wand... then Harry's jaw dropped when he saw the ghostly figure of Cedric Diggory emerge from the tip of Voldemort's wand.

Breaking eye contact with Voldemort, he looked down at the edges of the dome. The Death Eaters were prowling the circumference; they were worried…about him? If it wasn't for the fact they liked to kill people he would have been touched, really. Turning his attention back to his opponent, Harry saw another figure had emerged from the wand, walking stick and all!

"He was a real wizard, then?" the old man asked, causing Harry's jaw to drop. It was the Muggle from his dream…it had been real... then how? How could he see through Voldemort's eyes? No, it hadn't been through Voldemort's eyes….he'd seen the Muggle first…then… Harry swallowed thickly― the snake?! There was something wrong with that. How could he have seen though the eyes of the snake? "Killed me, that one did…you fight him, boy…" the shade of the old man demanded.

Then another figure emerged, one he realized had to be Bertha Jorkins.

"Don't let go now!" she cried "Don't let him get you Harry ― and don't let go!"

Harry rolled his eyes, if he heard that one more time he was going to explode, he got the picture. That was until the next person who came out…was someone he couldn't ever get mad at, despite the fact he never really knew her. His mother, Lily Evans-Potter.

"Your father's coming…he wants to see you…it will be alright…hold on…" Lily said to her son.

"Alright? I'm surrounded by Death Eaters and don't have a way out!" Harry cried, his exasperation obvious. Dumbledore hadn't made sure he knew how to defend himself; he was alone as always, trying to get himself out of messes Dumbledore had started.

"When the connection is broken, we will linger for only moments… but we will give you time… you must get to the Portkey, it will return you to Hogwarts…do you understand, Harry?" James said, his voice distant as though driving through a tunnel. It was obvious Voldemort couldn't hear what was being said, although he was otherwise occupied by the ghosts of his victims…Voldemort's face was blanched white with fear, a sight Harry never thought he would see. So that's how he would get back; if only he'd known he would have been able to get away earlier, before Pettigrew reached him after killing Cedric Diggory.

"Yes," said Harry, his sweat making it damn near impossible to keep a tight grip on his wand.

"Harry…take my body back, will you? Take my body back to my parents?" Cedric Diggory asked.

Harry blinked at the figure of Cedric Diggory, had he just asked him that? Here he was, fighting for his very life; after putting up with all the shit of them believing he'd put his name in the goblet for the sake of mere fame… he dared ask this of him? "I will," Harry said automatically, it was, after all, what everyone would want of him.

"Do it now," James said, "Be ready to run. Do it now…"

"Now," growled Harry, yanking fiercely; as the connection broke all the ghostly figures zoned in on Voldemort, giving him the chance to escape, helping him. Putting aside all thoughts of how much agony coursed through him, he ran like he'd never run before, his adrenaline helping keep him going, temporarily suspending all the pain he felt for a brief moment. Never running in a straight line, throwing in dodges so he didn't get hit in the back by any spells, finally he fell over the body of Cedric Diggory. Turning back he saw Voldemort's attention was now on him. "Accio!" he cried, summoning the cup.

"Looks like you'll need to feed Pettigrew to Nagini now, since I'm out of the picture…" Harry hissed, slipping into Parseltongue just as he saw the look of surprise once again on that face. He snatched the cup in mid-air, and Voldemort's surprise turning to rage was the last thing he saw before he was thumping down on the grass once again at Hogwarts.

------0

"Harry! Harry!" called a voice as arms roughly grabbed him and turned him over. He wasn't surprised to find it was Albus Dumbledore's worried face hovering over his own. The old man should be worried; Voldemort was back, and he'd almost died because of Dumbledore's damn incompetence. Voldemort's words rang in his ears 'protected greater than the boy even realized' and that hadn't meant the blood wards, since he'd mentioned them along with whatever other protection he meant. It made him sick and furious…if he found out someone had been watching him being abused and had done nothing, that was it, he was done.

"He's back," Harry rasped, "Voldemort's back."

"What's going on? What's happened?" asked Fudge, his face staring down at the two, pasty white and terrified. "My god ― Diggory! Dumbledore, he's dead!"

Things faded out of focus; he could feel someone standing him up, but his leg just about gave out. Someone was helping him stay upright as everyone around them panicked. Harry's vision swam out of focus once again; he was finding it nearly impossible to remain conscious. He could hear voices but he was unable to focus on what they were saying. Until he was grabbed once again, and a firmer voice was talking to him.

"It's alright, son, I've got you…come on…hospital wing…" Moody demanded.

"I should stay," Harry said, trying to get Moody off him; there was a bloody spy at Hogwarts, he wasn't taking any chances. He doubted it was Moody, they wouldn't use someone so close to Dumbledore, and Dumbledore would have known it wasn't his friend.

"You need to lie down…now," Moody insisted as they left the tournament grounds, until all that could be heard was the clunking of Moody's foot.

"What happened, Harry?" asked Moody.

"Cup was a Portkey," Harry said tersely, "Took me and Cedric to a graveyard…and Voldemort was there…Lord Voldemort…"

"The Dark Lord was there? What happened then?" asked Moody, surprised when the boy stopped.

"The what?" Harry asked, gripping his wand and raising it against the Auror…the only people he'd heard calling Voldemort that so far were his followers. 'My faithful is already at Hogwarts'; a shiver ran down his spine. He was alone with a Death Eater; he couldn't take any more tonight.

"What are you doing, Potter? Put the wand away," Moody demanded, trying to stare him down.

"How the hell did you fool Dumbledore?" asked Harry. The Poly-juice potion... the ingredients Snape had accused him of stealing. So who was it? He had no idea, and Voldemort hadn't been very forthcoming about it either. He was impressed despite himself, unless...unless Dumbledore had known but allowed it to continue under his nose?

"Did he forgive them, the other Death Eaters?" Moody wildly asked, his wand aimed now at Harry.

"Stupefy! Stupefy, stupefy!" Harry fired, just as voices could be heard at the entrance hall. Moody just grinned sadistically, moving out of the way of Harry's spells, due to his exhaustion he wasn't able to move all that fast.

"Protego! Harry! What are you doing?" Dumbledore demanded after shielding himself from the stunning charm, his shocked blue eyes gazing at Harry in surprised disappointment.

"Don't let him get away!" Harry hissed as Moody ran; the others just let him through. When Harry tried to run after him Dumbledore stopped him. "He's getting away!"

Then in the distance they all saw the wooden leg fly off, and in its place was suddenly a real leg. Then the hair changed, becoming longer and greasier. The figure continued to run, leaving behind nothing but a circular object they all knew to be an eye, Moody's famous spelled eye, and the wooden leg in its wake. Belatedly spells began to fly after him, but it was too late; whoever it was…was gone.

"Damn it!" snarled Harry, forcing himself out of Dumbledore's hold. Why did nobody ever bloody listen? He had to lean against the corridor wall, unable to stay standing on his own power as his legs continued to shake. If he hadn't been used to pain...he doubted very much he would have been able to move from where the portkey had landed him.

"Was that who I think it was?" Dumbledore asked, his eyes wide with apparently shock staring at the school gates where the figure had last been seen. Then he realized something else. "Where is Alastor?" his eyes zoning around as if he suspected the Auror to appear out of nowhere.

"It must have been Poly-Juice potion; he must be alive and close by," Severus stated sharply, his face impassive before turning to lead the search. Not out of worry for the Auror becuase quite frankly he hated the old wizard, but becuase he wanted to see him at his weakest. That and to work off some steam, the Dark Lord was back...and Severus honestly didn't know how to feel about it.

Chapter Text

Embracing His True Self

Chapter 2

Tom Riddle

Harry watched the scenery passing, the lush green fields and trees, and birds flying overhead, but he wasn't really seeing it. His mind was miles away, thinking about everything that had happened since That Day, as he liked to call it. Of course he had played his part ― the part Dumbledore expected from his little hero. It was difficult, more so now than it had ever been, although he wasn't quite sure why. A few months ago, everyone had been hovering around him, in awe of him after seeing his moves on his Firebolt, fighting the Dragon. Yet once again they had turned on him, and he was quite frankly tired of it. He almost wanted to give them a real reason to hate him. The fact that Dumbledore kept going on about Voldemort wasn't helping either, it was as if the Headmaster wanted as much negative attention on him as possible.

Bartemius 'Barty' Crouch Junior was now a wanted man, an escapee from Azkaban prison. Which of course Fudge was blaming Sirius Black for, insisting that they both got away at the same time, without anyone realizing Crouch was missing until now. Despite that announcement, Harry was still being accused of murdering Cedric Diggory; apparently not even his wand or memories were good enough evidence to prove Voldemort was back.

After Crouch got away, Dumbledore had forced him up to his office to recount everything that had happened. The old fart was seemingly unbothered by the fact his leg was bleeding enormously, especially as the blood was seeping through the bandages he'd attempted to make before his duel with Voldemort. To him that wasn't the worst of it; his entire body had ached, and the adrenaline had long ago stopped pumping through his veins. His body had been shaking intermittently, the after-effects of the Cruciatus Curse that had been cast on him. By the time Dumbledore had got him down to the Hospital wing he had been dead on his feet, dizzy with blood loss. He certainly didn't need the Dreamless sleeping potion foisted upon him, but he'd taken it regardless. Say what he liked, but it was the best sleep he'd ever had in his life, before he had to face the reality.

For once in his life he was glad Voldemort seemed to wait until the end of the year to finalize his schemes. So he didn't have to put up with everyone glaring at him in disgust. Or see the pity in his friends' gazes as they tried to draw him out of his 'depression'. The Dursleys looking at him in disgust he could handle, after all he was used to that. He should be used to the idiots at the school turning him into a convenient scapegoat, but he wasn't. Leaning his head against the cool glass, once again he wanted nothing more than to give them a reason to hate him. He was tired of it, the constant stares and whispers; he just wanted to blend in with the night and disappear.

Hogwarts seemed to become less and less like home to him; he had nowhere he could just sit and relax. At Privet Drive he was treated worse than Dobby the House-Elf had been; he was degraded, beaten, and made to slave over every part of the house. Now Hogwarts? Well, there he had to watch his back from everyone and everything; he had to put on a show of being the 'Boy-Who-Lived'.

Home... he'd give his wand arm to have somewhere he could call just that.

"Harry? Are you okay?" Hermione asked looking at him in concern, her brown eyes filled with apprehension as if she feared he might snap at any given moment.

"He's fine, Mione, leave him alone," Ron said shaking his head; girls, honestly.

"Anything off the trolley?" asked the Witch as the compartment doors parted, showing the large sweet-filled cart she was pulling.

Ron perked up, salivating at all the sweets available for purchase. He looked over at Harry, before frowning; the dark-haired boy wasn't even looking at the door. "Harry?" Ron called, becoming concerned himself now. Harry always bought lots of sweets from the cart, both coming to and going from Hogwarts.

"No thanks," Harry muttered, his breath steaming up the window in the compartment.

Ron looked devastated, watching the Witch close the doors and continue on, calling on all other compartments to see if they wanted anything. He could scarcely believe Harry wasn't getting anything; he always, always bought stuff for them to eat. The added benefit was that Hermione barely touched any either, so it was more for him. Hermione's parents were something called dentists, that look after teeth... which was odd, but since Muggles didn't have any magic, he supposed it made sense.

"You should be eating something healthy anyway," said Hermione in what was probably meant as a soothing, consoling manner, but it came out as smug. It helped that she wouldn't need to sit and watch them gorge themselves on a mountain of sugar and become hyper.

"Shut up, 'Mione," Ron muttered, his bitterness bleeding through.

Hermione huffed before diving for her bag, bringing out a book and quickly immersing herself in it. The brooding trio remained silent for the rest of the ride home. Harry was very grateful for that, he just wasn't in the mood to put up with them right now. It didn't help that they'd gone to the Headmaster's office before leaving for the train, and then lied about where they'd been.

Harry didn't even look up when the conductor announced they would be in Kings Cross in less than five minutes. There was no point to him rushing to get off the train, since Vernon was always late; it was just another way to show just how insignificant he was to the man.

"Harry, come on, we have to go," Hermione said, sounding as though she was trying to coax a dog from under the bed or out of the house. Without waiting to see if he moved, Ron helped her down with her trunk; unfortunately on this end they couldn't use magic like they had to get them onboard. At least not until they turned seventeen, then she'd be able to freely use it. That time couldn't come soon enough―she couldn't wait.

"Thanks," Hermione said, in her own way making up with Ron, not wanting to leave things sour, especially now that she knew the Weasleys and herself would be going to Grimmauld Place for the holidays. They were in danger because they were friends with Harry, and they needed to be protected. She took whatever Professor Dumbledore said seriously, especially now, and she would do it. She would go to Grimmauld Place, she wouldn't write to Harry and would keep him safe; the Headmaster knew best, after all.

Together they also got Harry's trunk down, seeing as he hadn't moved. Hermione was becoming increasingly agitated by Harry's ignorance. The way the ride was going, she wouldn't have a problem not writing all summer! This was ridiculous; sure, it had been something difficult Harry had been through, but did he need to go into a strop? Looking out the window she realized they were in the tunnel and had nearly come to the platform.

As soon as the train came to a jerky stop, they left the compartment, and made their way off the train. Weaving in and out of the other students and their parents, they slipped through the magical barrier protecting the train and magical entrance. Nobody even paid the slightest bit of attention to them as they appeared.

"Look, your parents," Hermione said pointing a finger and giving Ron a general direction to them.

"Is that Mad-Eye Moody? What's he doing here? Is it really him?" Ron asked, surprised to see the old Auror up and about so quickly. Everyone knew the teacher they'd had all year hadn't been the paranoid Auror, but a Death Eater in disguise using Poly-Juice Potion. Nobody could deny they'd actually learnt a ton of stuff that year though, even if it had been scum teaching them.

"Harry, your Uncle is there," Hermione commented watching the man, he looked very uncomfortable around the wizards.

Harry wanted to close his eyes and curse; his Uncle was out there beside the Weasleys? Quickly marching himself towards his Uncle he prayed the man hadn't been there too long. Although it was obviously long enough; he looked furious. As he got closer, Harry realized why: Moody was threatening him. What the fuck? Why would the idiot do something like that? As soon as he got home he knew he would be in for it. Moody gave him a sick parody of what was meant to be a reassuring smile, but Harry paid him no mind. What caught his attention was why he would be threatening Vernon anyway? He never told anyone about the abuse, except Dumbledore. They were deliberately riling him up, Harry had to stop himself from cursing violently.

"We'll see you later, alright mate?" Ron said, not promising to write like he normally would.

Harry nodded, catching on to the fact that Ron wasn't his normal consoling self; if anything, he looked like he wanted to say something else. Instead he just clicked his jaw shut, looking awkwardly at his parents before walking towards them.

"Be careful, Harry," Hermione quietly said, before she too wandered away towards Ron and the Weasleys.

Harry quickly made his hasty exit, with his Uncle practically running from the station; for a big man he sure could move when he wanted to. He had noticed the lack of Hermione's parents, was she staying with the Weasleys? Had that been why she had gone with Ron to the Headmaster's office? If that was the case, why lie about it? It was such a stupid thing to be deceitful about. But of course he knew it was something more.
------------0
Meanwhile in a very secure unknown location...

Tom Riddle was better known by everyone as Lord Voldemort, by those courageous enough to say that, and You-Know-Who, by the media and those terrified of the mere mention of him. He'd made a promise to himself that he would be the most powerful wizard alive, and that everyone would be petrified to mention him by name. He had been thirteen years of age then…the world had been his oyster, ripe for the taking. Or so he'd thought; regretfully, the world wasn't as simple as he'd assumed it to be. It wasn't as easy to get his point across to everyone, like it had been to convince the other Slytherins…the first of his followers.

He'd lived up to that promise, for everyone other than two or three people in particular who dared to mention his pseudonym, and those worse ones, who dared mention his Muggle name. Or rather more accurately, the one wizard who dared mention his Muggle name: Dumbledore.

Once he'd sent everyone away, he Apparated himself and Nagini from the graveyard to his home. Barty had done him extremely proud. He had, after all, managed to successfully fool Albus Dumbledore for an entire school year, not only into believing he wasn't a Death Eater, but into believing he was Alastor 'Mad Eye' Moody. Young Crouch had saved him, now it was his responsibility to protect Barty, from the Aurors, from the Order, and most importantly from himself.

Tom had been sceptical about the entire thing being pulled off; Crouch just wasn't in his right mind. After being held under the Imperious Curse by Crouch Sr. for going on thirteen years, it would take him a long time to return to the Barty he'd known. Of course, Tom would have to ensure he was appropriately punished for what he did just after he was…temporarily defeated. There were many things he tolerated that others wouldn't, but torturing magical people into insanity wasn't one of them. The magical world wasn't big enough to willfully spill magical blood. That was madness; the only mitigating factor that was keeping Crouch Jr. alive was the fact that the Longbottoms had been actively pursuing him, and were both Order members.

They were idiots; they didn't even know what they were fighting for, just following Dumbledore's every move and all his orders, hoping for the best. He looked up at his manor, one he'd succeeded in keeping a secret from everyone. He'd had his family build it, those who had the ability to build anyway; they'd been paid generously for their time. The land had belonged to his true ancestor, Salazar Slytherin; it had been in his family since the same year as the inception of Hogwarts. Using those ninety acres of land for the proposed school had been the first suggestion from Slytherin that Gryffindor, Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw turned down, for one reason or another. It had turned out to be a good thing, since this property was extremely well hidden. In fact, nobody else now knew such a building existed and that's the way Voldemort wanted it. He'd never even seen it finished before he'd met his untimely defeat. Gazing at it now, his sharp red eyes were taking in his surroundings; as always he was cautious, never truly let his guard down anywhere. Although if there was a place where he could relax, it would be here.

'Rats, Master, so many rats,' hissed Nagini, her snake tongue flickering out as she tasted the air and the very heartbeat of the animal she hungered for.

"Go and get them, Nagini, and I promise, soon you'll eat the one you want," Voldemort hissed back, his long pale hand caressing down the scales of his beloved familiar. No, she was more than a familiar; they were both connected on a level that a normal wizard could only dream of. He had been lucky to find her, and he vowed to keep her close at all times. "Do not go far."

"Yes, Master," Nagini hissed in acknowledgment before she slithered off, her eyes bright with the enjoyment and thrill of chasing live prey.

Voldemort watched her go before he ventured inside the manor, which had been specifically built to suit his tastes. The interior and exterior had all been kept in perfect condition; good, it meant the House-Elves had stayed on and kept it clean. It was just a pity his Death Eaters hadn't had the same loyalty. Stepping inside, he could feel the wards expand from inside his chest. He could now feel everything, every animal within clear shot of the wards, especially Nagini.

Voldemort wandered around his new home for a while. Most of it was empty; it would need to be furnished, but he had House-Elves for that. It wasn't like he could go shopping for the things he needed, after all. At least not without the shop workers passing out on him, or being surrounded by Aurors before he could think about paying. Smirking at the thought, Voldemort entered the Master bedroom and sat down on what was probably the only bed in the building. Laying down, he relaxed and relished the feel of having a body once more. Part of him had feared this would never happen; ever since he'd heard part of that Prophecy his life had gone from great to down the toilet. Red eyes gleaming, he realized he had to hear it all. He needed that prophecy, but how to get it without alerting anyone that he was back? If he knew the Ministry like he thought he did, they would not believe he had returned, such was the fear he had over them.

Potter... the boy was the most infuriating person on the planet. How he kept evading him, Voldemort did not know, but he didn't like it. Sitting up, his brow furrowing, he remembered what Potter had said to him: That he would need to feed someone else to Nagini since he got away; he'd never said anything like that tonight. He had promised Nagini that she could eat Potter after he was dead… but that had been months ago. He had been speaking Parseltongue then, and so had Potter tonight. His flat nostrils flared; how had Potter managed to get such a gift? Parseltongue was for Slytherin's descendents only; something wasn't right. Not only had the boy known of his conversation with Nagini, but he'd understood it― how and why?

He had to get his faithful followers out of Azkaban; thirteen years stuck in that hell hole with Dementors for company, he'd be lucky to have them back sane. The Lestranges had been his most faithful followers, even if they were a bit extreme―especially Bellatrix, although she was only a Lestrange through marriage. Rabastan and Rodolphus were a little more laid back, probably thanks to their father's influence, one of his earliest friends. Rastaban had helped him gather the Slytherins together, forming a side apart from Dumbledore, who was unfortunately the only one anyone else would listen to. Even before Dumbledore defeated Grindelwald people had been vying for him to help. When he'd actually defeated him, it got worse. Voldemort's points and ideas had been ignored, and then he'd created more and more Horcruxes, and become extremely mentally unstable. Especially after gaining the knowledge that there was someone out there who could bring about his downfall. It didn't help that the boy had managed to successfully escape him three times ...

No, that was wrong; it wasn't just three times, was it? According to Potter, they'd had another encounter in the Chamber of Secrets. That did infuriate him; it had taken him years to find that chamber, and Potter was only now fourteen. And with the eye Crouch had kept on him, he doubted it was this year, so... three years it had taken him. He couldn't help but very grudgingly admitting the boy was resourceful when he needed to be. Four times he had survived clashes with him, more than any other on the planet.

Just wait until he found out it hadn't even taken Harry two years to find its location.

His fist clenched when he realized there was only one way the Chamber could have come into play. At the age of sixteen when he had created his first Horcrux, he'd been determined to finish Salazar's noble work. Such an arrogant teenager he had been, with goals as low as killing children. He'd wanted to purge Hogwarts of the filthy little Mudbloods; this was before he realized what he himself was. To close friends it hadn't mattered; the fact he had Slytherin blood running through his veins was enough.

He'd always assumed his mother had been the Muggle, and his father had been the magical wizard. Unfortunately, the inability to attain any information on the Riddle name had left him to come to terms with the realization that his father wasn't magical. It had all come to a head when his maternal uncle had said he looked like his filthy Muggle father. When he'd found this out, he had been furious, enough to kill them all with the killing curse and modify Morfin's memory, making him think he had in fact killed the Riddle family. It wasn't hard to belief; after all, he had been sentenced to Azkaban before for using magic on Muggles….the very same Muggles to be precise.

He'd planned on leaving behind a diary that would finish his and Salazar's noble work; he had kept that diary... until he gave it to Lucius Malfoy with instructions on keeping it safe. Just how had it ended up in Harry Potter's hands? Perhaps he had been too hasty in forgiving Lucius; once he had more energy and Pettigrew was here, he would call the wizard and get his explanation. He knew that, either way, he wasn't going to be happy.

"Wormtail," Voldemort hissed, his eyes flashing red in suppressed irritation, he loathed showing any sign of weakness, especially to Wormtail."Bring me my potions, immediately!"

Pettigrew squeaked in surprise, not having expected orders so soon. He had, after all, only literally just stepped into the main hall where the Dark Lord was sitting. His Animagus form was handy for more than just avoiding detection. His sense of smell was greater when he was a rat; it had led his nose straight to his Master. Knowing better than to delay, he turned right back out the door and scurried away to the Potions Laboratory. He knew what Potions his Master was demanding; opening the lab door he shivered in cold and fear. He had always been terrified of Severus Snape; even joining the Dark Lord as he had didn't quash that out of him.

"What are you doing here?" Snape sneered, glaring at the rat and wanting nothing more than to kill the thing. Yet he did not, he continued preparing to brew the potions his Lord had demanded despite the interruption. He knew one day Pettigrew would screw up, and he would wait until then; he would have a free rein after that. Oh, the torture he wanted to inflict on Pettigrew; it would be heaven. He had been at a meeting with the Dark Lord for two hours revealing everything from the past thirteen years since his downfall. Dumbledore knew he was there, he'd demanded he returned which is exactly what he had done as soon as the students left on the train and the term ended hours ago.

Pettigrew didn't reply, he just snivelled as he wandered over to the potion supplies. With shaking hands, almost dropping them in the process, he grasped two potions vials before bolting from the room. He found himself flushing red in humiliation at hearing the derisive snort that followed him out. Why was Snape here? He hadn't been faithful! Snape hadn't found their Lord, he had. He alone had set out to find him, rescued him, and restored him back to his old self. Instead of seeing the ones that terrified him writhing in agony, they'd gotten away with it. What happened at the graveyard didn't count! That was no punishment, that was just a slap on the wrist. He had so looked forward to their screams, but no, they were walking around pain-free.

Opening the door to the Hall once more, the overweight weak wizard scampered in, hastily handing both potions to his Master. "Can I get anything else for you, My Lord?" Pettigrew eagerly asked, ready to prove his worth. Almost as eagerly as he was to get away, but unfortunately he had nowhere to go. He couldn't even spend time in his Animagus form here, it was too risky; he didn't want to be eaten by Nagini ― as his Master had threatened often enough.

"No, be gone," Voldemort snapped, knowing the rat wouldn't go too far. He was nauseated by the sight of him, the smell of him, and the incessant snivelling. To begin with it had been amusing, but it had become old extremely fast. It didn't help that he was tiring so easily; his new body would take a while to recuperate to the point that he could do what he always did: cause chaos and despair. He had kept Pettigrew out of sight, never letting him attend meetings unless he was hidden in his Animagus form. For good reason, he'd been a useful spy, but with the Potters gone and his true loyalties known, as well as his ability, Pettigrew was quite frankly useless to him. Fortunately for him, Pettigrew had brought him back, even if it was out of sheer cowardice. Shaking off his thoughts, Voldemort uncorked the vials and swallowed both potions one at a time. One was a pepper-up potion and the other would help strengthen his magic. Barely grimacing, he banished the vials. He would be taking the potions for months, he suspected, which was why Severus was in the lab brewing enough to last him. Once the Potions Master was done, he would be returning to Hogwarts to report to the old fool.

Speaking of his spy, he had grilled him for two hours on everything that had happened since he was gone. Of course, until four years ago, there was nothing much worth reporting. Oh, then the information he'd received was extensive, to say the least. Most of it he already knew; Severus had not known he was on the back of Quirrell and had fought to keep the Philosopher's Stone from a mediocre wizard ― and in doing so had gained more trust from the blind old fool he was trying to get in good graces with. Understandable, since it was the first true chance he had to prove he had 'changed'; the expression on Severus' face had almost made him laugh. The spy had an answer for everything; if he was honest, Voldemort despaired at the thought Dumbledore had truly converted his good friend. He trusted Severus more than any other, perhaps because of their similarities. The fact he drank the potions Snape made, said more about how trusted he was than anything else ever could, really.

The stone had regrettably been destroyed in the aftermath, according to Severus, who had confessed to listening in on conversations when he could. Then it had been confirmed that Potter was indeed a Parselmouth, and he finally gained an answer to the mystery surrounding his diary. Not that Severus knew what it was; none of his followers knew exactly what he'd done to achieve immortality. Or as immortal as one could become in this life. Potter had found the damn entrance in less than a year; the boy was utterly infuriating, and there wasn't a word to truly describe him. How the boy was in Gryffindor he didn't know. Potter was resourceful, too resourceful if he was honest. Lucius had slipped his beloved diary into Ginny Weasley's possession, and she had used it. For a pureblood Witch it was a foolish and idiotic mistake to make. If anything, he would have given it to a Muggle-born who wouldn't have understood how dangerous such an item was. Severus commented on Dumbledore stating that Harry had defeated the 'Monster' in the chamber. Voldemort knew what it was, and it baffled him; just how in the blazes had Potter, a twelve-year-old, successfully defeat a sixty-foot basilisk? What the hell had Dumbledore been teaching him? He must have found some way to educate him, despite the fact he lived with Muggles. There was absolutely no other explanation possible. It truly was a shame to kill someone so capable; Potter was exactly what he looked for in his followers: Someone strong, powerful, magically competent, and extremely intelligent. He had to kill the boy before he got even more powerful and further trained by Dumbledore. He wasn't going to allow the light to win, he couldn't; he'd put his entire life into being heard... and he'd be damned if he quit now.

Potter's third year had been quiet, all things considered; he had learned about Pettigrew's betrayal and gave him the opening he'd needed. His survival revealed to Dumbledore, Wormtail had no choice but to come to him, to save himself from the werewolf and Black's heir, putting into motion the events of this year. Voldemort had to admire the way the boy had completed the tasks, even with Barty at the helm trying to help; he'd done better than any of them dreamed of. It left a bitter taste in his mouth to admire the boy, yet only a fool didn't give their opponent or enemy the respect they deserved... If it was deserved, and in this case it regretfully was.

The boy was calm in the face of adversity; this was the biggest worry for him. He hadn't seen any sign of real panic on the boy; he'd never been tongue-tied, and had openly insisted on defying him. The brat had guts in spades; nobody ever spoke to him in that manner, not even Dumbledore; Dumbledore liked to scold him as if he was an errant child. This set him on edge, admittedly…but the boy ― the boy regarded him impassively with a mouth on him that would get him in trouble.

This all troubled him, but not as much as the fact the boy had known something he couldn't... shouldn't possibly have known. He had promised Potter to Nagini, after he dealt the killing blow; he had been speaking in Parseltongue and in the old, now run-down Riddle Mansion. If the boy had seen that what else had he seen? How could he see it? That was the point, how and why? The blasted boy couldn't possibly be a seer, so what was it? He wouldn't rest easy until he had figured it out. Standing up, Voldemort moved from the main hall and back towards the bedroom; he could feel his body weakening, and he absolutely refused to let anyone see him in such a state. It had been mortifying having to have Wormtail feed him and see him so weak; now that he was back, he wouldn't allow it a single second more.

Sweating by the time he got to his bedroom, he closed the door and the wards immediately flared to life. It had taken a great deal of his magic and strength to set them, but he didn't care. He didn't want anyone disturbing him in here, and soon the manor would be filled with his followers. Those currently in Azkaban wouldn't have anywhere else to go once he got them out of that hell hole. He would need to employ the services of Grant once again, to heal the damage done by thirteen long years in Azkaban. Grant was a healer, one of the best; he'd been neutral until his daughter had been beaten savagely by a Muggle-born wizard, almost killing her. Since then he'd been firmly on Voldemort's side, helping when needed. He always paid Grant handsomely for his services; he had never marked him. He had a lot of followers out there in key places that he hadn't marked, when it became apparent that the Dark Mark wasn't so secret anymore.

Lying down on the bed, Voldemort groaned in relief as his aching body relaxed again; he hated this needing to lie down every few hours. He had things to do; he couldn't continue on as he was. He'd sent word to Lucius to get the layout of Azkaban; after he had those plans he would show Lucius the error of his ways. He would also need to send word to the Giants and other creatures, he had alliances to build; he couldn't win the war with his Death Eaters alone. No matter how powerful they were, or determined, he needed a heavy arsenal at his beck and call; who better than the werewolves, vampires, Trolls and Giants? It would take Fenrir time to round up his old pack, and garner new supporters along the way, perhaps too long; he would have to wait and see.

Patience had never been a virtue that he possessed…at least not in a good long while.

-------0

Later that night

"My Lord," Barty said bowing low reverently. His Lord was back after all this time, something he hadn't given up hope for... but fearing it would never come true. He had successfully Apparated away from Hogwarts, his Apparation had been slightly off, and he'd had to walk the rest of the way, stopping for a rest now and again.

"Stand up," the Dark Lord hissed; he watched Barty become confused and do as he bade him immediately. This definitely wasn't the Barty he knew; Barty had proved himself before his demise and thus hadn't had to bow since. He had the lower levels bow to remind them of the hold he had on them; whom they had sworn their allegiance to; who they would protect. He knew Barty wasn't himself, and how he had succeeded in fooling Dumbledore for so long was a true mystery. "When did Bartemius Crouch subjugate himself to me?" the wizard hissed, hurt flashing in his eyes before it was gone; nobody would believe it if they had seen it.

"My Lord?" questioned Barty weakly; he didn't understand the Dark Lord's question. The scene with Potter flashed through his eyes, he didn't resist allowing his Lord to see all. Voldemort dug further still, past his murky memories of being under the Imperious curse. Past the memories of his time in Azkaban, past his trial…where he'd begged his parents to help him (refusing him, much to his despair), and back to his capture of the Aurors. Barty, Rodolphus, and Rabastan had barely touched the two Aurors. A few Cruciatus curses had been cast by them, yes; mostly they'd just subdued the Longbottoms. The person causing the everlasting damage was Bellatrix. She hadn't listened to them when they'd tried to get her to ease off, yet they'd loyally stuck by her side as he'd made sure his Death Eaters did. They had been arrested with her, despite the fact they hadn't caused the Longbottoms' insanity. Barty's biggest fear was not being loyal enough to his Lord…whom he thought of as a father.

"You are loyal, Barty, I know that, never fear…" Voldemort said, his voice soft and soothing. He removed himself from the wizard's mind, easing softly out, not wanting to cause further damage to the wizard... whom he also owed his rebirth to. Barty was all but face down on the floor, exhausted and shivering, yet never resisting. "Amita!"

"Yes, Sir?" a House-Elf appeared, gazing eagerly at Voldemort ― ready to serve him.

"Take Barty to the Blue room; ensure he bathes, feed him, then help him into bed. Grant will be here to see him first thing in the morning," Voldemort ordered, just as he demanded everyone else to do things for him. Amita, however, didn't mind since this was what she was born to do: serve.

"Sir?" Barty asked, looked quite baffled; he hadn't seen such a caring side to the Dark Lord in a very long time.

"Go," repeated Voldemort, his tone deadlier. Barty hadn't been in his inner circle long enough to know he treated those followers differently. Not only were they allowed in his home, but they received certain benefits that most his supporters did not. Mostly, that they could speak to him about ideas, as long as they were respectful about it. Unfortunately that had stopped when he became obsessed over the prophecy. Regretfully his followers had paid the price, but with a little luck he could earn their complete respect back. He wasn't a stupid wizard; he knew, deep down they had all but given up on him during that last year before he'd met his untimely end. He surmised that was why none of his loyal followers had tried too hard to look for him. To them he had crossed a line, trying to hunt down and kill a one-year-old boy, especially those who had children in his own circle. His hastiness and obsession had been his downfall; if he had listened to the others perhaps things would have been different.

"Come, Mister Barty," Amita said; the female Elf touched him and they both disappeared.

He relaxed slightly then, knowing he had to pace himself; Lucius would be arriving soon and he wasn't going to be weak for this meeting. Oh no, once Lucius showed up he was going to make sure the wizard knew who served whom.

"Devika!" Voldemort called after a few minutes of silent contemplation.

"How may Devika help Master?" asked the House-Elf popping in; this elf was female also.

"Retrieve my potions," Voldemort demanded, She knew what to get, since she'd gotten them before; he refused to call upon Pettigrew unless he must.

"Yes, sir," she replied. They never called their Master anything other than Sir or Master. Master You-Know-Who would have been a mouthful, besides sounding ridiculous.

Chapter Text

Embracing His True Self
Chapter 3
Two Weeks Later

It took only two weeks for the Dark Lord Voldemort to find the answers he sought. This was amazing, all things considered, since he had so many plans being put into motion. He had gotten in touch with Fenrir, a good friend of his whom he had taught non-verbal magic to. If he knew how some of his Death Eaters treated the werewolf, they would have paid a very heavy price for it. Although that might have been something to do with his blind insanity getting to be too much for them. He had not been kind to anyone, and not even Fenrir was an exception to that. Voldemort had been unable to sleep, unable to eat, and the urge to kill the prophecy child had ruled out everything else. He knew his followers had lost a great deal of respect for him, due to his past actions. His fear of death had paralyzed him, causing a dark red cloud to form over him. At least that wouldn't be a problem this time around. After all, he planned on duelling the boy, and that was as fair as anyone could get. With all he knew about Potter, or assumed, he didn't know why the boy had used only simple spells.

He'd used the disarming spell, on him, Lord Voldemort, the most powerful wizard alive? There was no way the boy could have predicted the events that occurred next. Even he was in the dark about that, but it would be rectified; sooner or later, he would figure out why it had happened. If he had managed to kill a Basilisk, why hadn't he shown his true power? His life had been in danger; surely he wouldn't have been bothered about seeming like a mediocre wizard? The boy was an enigma, and a mass of contradictions, from what he knew of him. For the fiftieth time he couldn't help but regret the necessity for the death of such a capable wizard, it disgusted him to the core to see someone with so much potential wiped out. Magical blood shouldn't be spilled; there weren't enough of them because of the stupid Muggle wars and those who openly defied him.

Back to his current dilemma, it was, ironically enough, the connection between him and Nagini that gave him his answer. Purely accidentally of course, he had slipped into Nagini's mind and watched her hissing about the prey she wanted to eat... well, it wasn't hissing to him, but rather English, as Parseltongue between them always was. It had hit him then like a ton of bricks, left him shocked to the core for the rest of the night. He had somehow, someway, created a human Horcrux. Harry Potter was Lord Voldemort's Horcrux. He had meant to create one with the baby's death, but his magic, seeing his intentions, must have came apart as his body was destroyed... imbedding itself in the injured child. He was completely flummoxed, nowhere did it say humans could be turned into soul containers; his biggest worry was what did it mean? What did he do, more specifically? If he tried to kill Potter, he would destroy part of his soul as well. He had no idea of the effect it would cause; what if it left him completely insane? He had so many plans he wanted to implement; he wanted to change the magical world, to make it better, safer.

He would need to confirm this, before he went any further. Which would mean bringing Potter here. Considering the fact he could slither out of trouble at every turn, he would have to make sure he couldn't get away. He wasn't sure what he would do if the boy was one of his Horcruxes. He would need to do more research, find out if it could be removed safely from its 'host' or container. He knew there wasn't, he had read the book he had from back to front, and he wasn't stupid enough to try something before understanding it completely.

How did he get Potter from within the protective wards? That was the question now on his mind. He could not get near Privet Drive, nor could anyone that wished the boy harm. Not that he wanted to kill the boy…yet. Not until he had his answers, but the wards would still view him as a threat. Rubbing his long pale fingers across his chin, sitting comfortably on his throne, he began to think of ways to get his hands on Potter. He was finding it incredibly odd that his first thoughts weren't to kill him. His thoughts on killing Potter for everything he had done had been constant since learning of the prophecy; they'd gotten worse after he had been ripped from his body. Even at that young vulnerable age the boy had been a threat to his power. He had been incredibly foolish and rash; he'd told his Death Eaters that much.

His red eyes flared as an idea hit him; a vindictive smirk flared across his face, which would have made all his Death Eaters cringe. Well, maybe with the exception of Bellatrix, who would have just cackled along with her 'Master' as she liked to call him. The others all called him 'My Lord'; as long as they had shown respect, he didn't mind. Lucius had been all too eager to spill everything, especially with the threat of being killed hanging over him.

The disgraced blonde had told him of Arthur Weasley successfully gaining entrance to his home to search for 'dark artefacts'. How he had worried about the diary being found in his possession; deciding to get back at Weasleys by planting a dark object in his daughter's school things. Of course he hadn't understood what it would do, he explained while begging for forgiveness on his knees from his Lord. How his own House-Elf had betrayed him, warning Potter and inevitably being freed by the twelve-year-old. Oh, ho, Lucius hadn't wanted to reveal that, but Voldemort knew when information was being held back. A brief stint under the Cruciatus curse wiped any pride from the blond, and he revealed how Potter had done it, then what happened afterwards. A mere House-Elf had put Lucius Malfoy, a pureblood, on his arse ten feet down a corridor. He would love to have seen it, but he refrained from ransacking Lucius' mind. After all, he had more important things to do, such as beginning the process of working out how to get his faithful from Azkaban. He had the layout and a plan in place, all he had to do now was negotiate with the Dementors and find out what wards were around the inescapable prison. Thankfully he had that information already from years ago.

"Amita!" Voldemort called, setting his face into an impassive mask. He would have to impress on her the importance of her task, if she could get passed the wards. So far they were good at doing the tasks he appointed them; unfortunately they hadn't served him long. He had taken his house-elves on two years before he was defeated. He hadn't kept them around; instead they had remained here while the manor was built. They had continued on here after his defeat, doing what they had been asked ― which was to look after his property.

"Yes, sir?" responded the female House-Elf, who was dressed in a black, closed winter cloak. They had been dressed like that when he arrived, he assumed they had made their garments themselves, or conjured them.

"I have a very important task for you," Voldemort said, his red eyes gleaming, unable to help himself. Soon….very soon he would find out if he was right or not. He knew he was, he wasn't the smartest wizard to grace Hogwarts' walls for nothing, beating most of Albus Dumbledore's scores in the process. Considering he'd known nothing about Hogwarts until he was eleven, and Dumbledore had been in the wizarding world his entire life... it had left him feeling smug, even if he hated the blasted manipulative, nosy old fool.

"What can Amita do?" she asked eagerly, proud to serve her Master in any way he needed.

"Go to number four Privet Drive, remaining unseen by all others in the house, and bring our new… guest to the dungeons. He will be the only magical wizard on the premises; bring me Harry Potter," Voldemort commanded, his voice becoming taut and even more demanding, if that was possible.

"Yes, sir," Amita said, not showing any reluctance; she lived to serve her Master and would do anything he asked.

The House-Elf Apparated directly into the smallest bedroom, finding herself staring directly into the vibrant, pained green eyes. With quick movements, she hooked her fingers into his clothes and teleported him away.

--------0

Harry lay on the bed in the smallest room in the house at number four Privet Drive. Multiple bruises were showing on his aching body; even two weeks on they hadn't healed enough to stop causing him pain. His temple and the front of his head held the worst bruises; after he gotten him into the house, Vernon in his rage had pushed him. With the big man's brutal strength, he'd gone flying into the banister and then onto the stairs. No Quidditch reflexes could have prevented the attack, couldn't have stopped him being so viciously manhandled. It didn't help that Harry was still weakened from after the tournament; the Cruciatus Curse's after-effects didn't just fade away overnight. He had been so disorientated he hadn't felt the kicks he'd gotten to the stomach, he only deduced what happened later when he woke up and found himself in his room. Vernon and Dudley were as vicious as ever, after all, Harry only had to be able to write to them. The freaks never came near the door; the bitterness that crawled through Harry since he knew the fat bastard was right left him feeling sick. That hadn't had anything to do with the kicks to the stomach he'd received either.

Other than coming into the small room to force him to write to the Order that everything was alright, he was pretty much left on his own, still locked up. Which didn't bother Harry overly much, it was the fact he felt a sense of déjà vu. He hadn't received a single letter from his friends, and he seriously doubted it was anything Dobby was doing this time. They had been distant with him ever since the night before they left Hogwarts, starting directly after they had come from the Headmaster's office. The fact they hadn't said they would write didn't help. They were leaving him alone, unaware of what was happening in his world, totally cut off. The rage he felt when he thought about it left him panting in exhaustion. He wasn't sure who he was angrier at, Ron and Hermione for going through with it, or Dumbledore for telling them not to write to him.

It wouldn't have mattered who said it to him, he would never have left them without word. It might have something to do with them being the only friends he'd ever had, though. Ron and Hermione probably had friends growing up, and Hermione might even still have friends in the Muggle world he didn't know about. She didn't talk about her life outside of the magical world... well, other than to occasionally mention her parents or where she went on holiday. She always sounded so smug about that; Ron thankfully didn't explode, which he had assumed he would the first time Hermione mentioned going abroad. It certainly happened every time his fame came into the picture― as if he could bloody control that any more than where Hermione's parents took her on holiday.

Had the Ministry acknowledged Voldemort being back? He somehow doubted it, and that probably made Voldemort happy. How had Voldemort survived that night? Did the reflected Killing curse not have enough power to kill him? And more importantly, why the hell did Voldemort want to kill him? He was fourteen-years-old…had been only one when the older wizard first came to kill him. It couldn't be just because he survived, surely; he'd wanted his blood for a reason. It wasn't just because of his mother's blood protection; there were millions of ways to kill someone in the magical world. He could have used anyone's blood, come back and laid low, without anyone being the wiser, and killed him without him any trouble. After all, he wouldn't have known; how could he have defended himself from something he didn't know was there?

No, there had to be reason; Dumbledore and Voldemort both knew that reason, and it disconcerted him. After all, one was trying to run his life, while the other wanted to make sure he didn't live to see his next birthday. He was completely at their mercy, until he was old enough to live on his own. That day couldn't come soon enough; he didn't care what Dumbledore said, as soon as he hit seventeen, he was out of here. Although he could get a house of his own at sixteen in the Muggle world, it wouldn't be safe; he didn't know enough about warding to afford himself proper protection.

Harry continued to stare at the yellow ceiling. His room was all faded and peeled, and it had never been decorated. He didn't dare put anything to do with the magical world up. He was deep in thought, so much so he didn't even become distracted by this stomach growling loudly. It cramped occasionally, but Harry was used to this. His entire life he had gone without proper meals and nutrients here. The summers nowadays were the worst, since he was used to getting meals at Hogwarts. At least on his birthday he got some food from Mrs. Weasley; her care packages at birthdays and Christmases always had food in them. They saved him from imminent starvation. The cold tin of soup the Durseys pushed through the cat flap on his bedroom door every now and again didn't really help him much.

He may not have twitched when his stomach grumbled, but he did become startled when a House-Elf he had never seen before popped into his room. It would have been hard not to hear it arrive, since it sounded almost like Apparation, but without the more backfiring-car sound. There was a reason it was called 'popping' instead of Apparating, it sounded as if your ears had popped really loudly. Before he could open his mouth to ask who he or she was, she'd hooked her hand on his too large jumper and they disappeared.

Harry grunted when he landed on his backside, his green eyes wide as he looked around his new surroundings. Swallowing thickly, he realised that he was in a dungeon; whatever would happen soon, wouldn't be good― he knew that. The question was where exactly was he? Malfoy Manor? Draco Malfoy had gone on about it often enough, or rather bragged about his home. As if nobody else had Manors in the magical world; seriously, he was an idiot. He got up to explore the confines of his latest prison better. Three stone walls and one cage wall with a door, locked, he realized as he pushed against it for confirmation. Surprisingly there was a bed at the side, a small one to be sure and a toilet. Harry screwed up his nose, the thought of doing the toilet in that was humiliating. There was a window ―barred, of course― above the toilet; he could open it if he wanted to, he realized as he climbed up to investigate it. He did so. leaving it open partially, and walked back to the other side of the cell.

Craning his neck to see down the corridor, he found he couldn't do that and keep his glasses on. There certainly wasn't any point to doing it with them off, since he couldn't see squat without his glasses. They might not be the right prescription for him, but it was better than not being able to see at all, so he didn't complain. Nobody cared enough to do anything about, so why waste his breath? Listening intently at the bars, he heard nothing; where had that House-Elf dumped him? Sighing in agitation he stalked up and down the cell, worry churning in his gut. It didn't escape his notice that the damn cell was bigger than his bedroom at Privet Drive - irony abounds, he thought chuckling bitterly.

Dumbledore obviously hadn't thought about House-Elves kidnapping him from Privet Drive. Which should have dawned on him, really, since Dobby had been in his house, even performed magic there. A frown worked its way onto his face; had the House-Elf Apparating into Privet Drive tripped the underage wards? No, it couldn't have, otherwise the Ministry would have been alerted the second Dobby appeared, but nothing had happened until Dobby had actually levitated the cake onto the Masons.

Would the Order know of his disappearance? Or would they only realize once he failed to write them? Three days then, before they would know he was gone. That was if they even bothered to check up on him; they were probably too busy doing stuff to try and stop Voldemort... he assumed so anyway, he wasn't sure. He knew nothing of what was going on, since his friends hadn't written to him yet and probably had no intentions of doing so either. The Order watching over him outside the Dursleys' house wouldn't realize anything was wrong either, since he rarely made an appearance outside. He'd done all the gardening his first day back, before his uncle had laid into him, leaving him so badly bruised. He wouldn't have let the Order see him until the marks had all disappeared even if he hadn't been kidnapped.

Instead Death Eaters were going to see him like this; his only consolation was that they wouldn't automatically think it was caused by his family. They weren't watching him as closely as the Order was, which irked him something rotten. Voldemort had said he was watched closer than he thought; unfortunately, the bastard hadn't lied about anything yet, as far as he knew. He had no reason to lie, unfortunately; the bloody git hated him and wanted to see him dead as soon as possible for reasons he, Harry, didn't even know.

Exhaustion made Harry sit down on the bed. He was still injured after all; the pain from his ribs was almost making him double over. Hoisting himself further onto the bed, he leaned against the wall, ignoring the grumbling complaints that his stomach made for food. Well, at least he was looking at four different walls here; Hedwig had been out, so she wasn't stuck in her cage. He didn't want to imagine what his Uncle would have done to her if she'd hooted at all hours to be let out. He hoped she had the sense to stay away from here; he didn't want her getting killed. Hedwig was really smart, and had been able to find him anywhere; hopefully here wasn't one of those places.

Inhaling sharply, choking as he realized exactly what was happening, his scar began prickling ominously. Oddly, it wasn't the same burning agony he'd experienced weeks ago at Voldemort's rebirth. Rather, it was the same prickly feeling he'd had when he was eleven and had met Quirrell's eyes at Hogwarts after the Sorting ceremony. What Harry did not realized was the Horcrux was reacting to Voldemort's intentions, so during his first year it hadn't hurt because killing him hadn't been Voldemort's primary objective. No, getting the Philosopher's stone had been his primary goal, the fact Quirrell had tried to strangle him aside, and that was why the scar had begun to burn so badly lately. Harry's blood protection had killed Quirrell, if anyone had thought to wonder about it… why would his blood protection cause him so much pain when Quirrell touched him? Simply put, it shouldn't have ― and it didn't, it was reacting to Voldemort trying to kill himself, or at least a part of himself.

Voldemort was here, and without his wand ― Harry knew he was a sitting duck. It seemed at long last as if his stubborn luck had run out. Harry's heart pounded steadily harder with each step he heard Voldemort taking; surprisingly, the scar didn't flare up again, other than continuing with the earlier prickling. It was as if it was just letting him know Voldemort was close now. Not that it would matter, surely he couldn't survive another Killing Curse? He didn't relish finding out.

"It looks like I'm not the only one you piss off, Potter," Voldemort said, gazing at the teenager who was so beaten and bruised. He was slightly surprised; after all, the Order kept an eye on the boy, surely they wouldn't allow him to come to harm? Evidently that wasn't the case, and it was obviously Muggles that had done it― no wizard would bother using their hands in such an insipid display.

"Miss me?" Harry grinned cockily, quite successfully changing the subject and avoiding it. His grin was slightly lopsided from the swollen red sore on his mouth, courtesy of a punch by his uncle earlier that week.

"For a boy who could be killed any second, you are either stupid or think too highly of yourself," Voldemort hissed, glaring at the boy in warning through blood red eyes. Potter didn't need to know that, as of right now, he had no intentions of killing him.

"Might as well go out with a bang, don't you think?" sneered Harry, watching Voldemort like he was a poisonous snake ready to strike... a fair comparison right now, especially considering he looked like one.

Quicker than lightening, Voldemort had his wand pointed at the teenager and uttered "Stupefy!" and Harry, hindered by his injuries, couldn't move out of the spell's path in time. The red spell hit him full force, stunning him and leaving him at the mercy of Lord Voldemort ― knowing what was going on around him, but not able to move or defend himself.

Voldemort unlocked the cell door and approached the teenager, irritated that he had the boy at his mercy and couldn't kill him. He was so irritating, and damn it, he wasn't used to people talking to him that way. He was the most powerful wizard in the world and he deserved respect. Every other teenager would wet themselves if they found out they were standing before Lord Voldemort! With the exception of this one, it seemed; he was too damn mouthy for words. There was obviously more to him than met the eye; the way he acted directly contracted everything he'd learned about the boy so far.

Staring into the blazing green eyes, he began to realize this boy didn't fear death. Harry was the exact opposite of himself; he feared death more than anything else. Perhaps that was why the boy had been destined to defeat him, not something he could do if he was one of his Horcruxes. He would need to keep the boy safe, out of harm's way. One piece of his soul had already been destroyed; he couldn't risk any others. If he was one, which the older wizard was about to find out for sure.

"Praecantatio summa subrigo sanctificavi te exhibeas nobis!" chanted Voldemort, keeping his hissing to a minimum, not wanting to interfere with the spell he was casting on Potter. Almost immediately after he finished, he saw a halo representing Potter's magical core; even just at the age of fourteen the boy was powerful. He'd known that, but to see it for himself…to know Potter was equal to him in magical strength burned him strongly. Then another halo emerged, just as strong but definitely not showing Potter's magical signature… no, it was one very familiar to him, since it was his own.

Such results were never immediate, unless this spell had been cast on him once before. Which meant someone had cast this on Potter in the past, which could mean someone might know he was already a Horcrux, unless they assumed he'd just gotten some of his magic. He could only think of one person who would want to do it: Dumbledore. Which meant it was bad news for him; the diary and now this…His Horcruxes were in danger; he had to move some of them or risk losing them. That was not something he wanted to allow, he had no idea what would happen to him if his remaining Horcruxes began to be destroyed.

Staring at the boy, Voldemort found himself almost wishing he could just end the boy's life while he was defenceless. This chance wouldn't ever come again; no, the boy was as sneaky as they came. He would try and get away, and there was only so much he could do to prevent it. Perhaps it was time to find out everything about Potter that he could, even the rumours, and build upon it. Try and get the boy to join his side. It wouldn't be easy, after all he had killed the boy's parents. The chances were slim to none but he had to try, the boy was too slippery. He could get out of the most impossible situations completely intact. Cursing under his breath, Voldemort turned and stalked from the boy, slamming the cell door closed and locking it with three different charms. Purely as an afterthought he flicked his wand at the boy and left, non-verbally casting 'Finite Incantatem' at him.

Harry jumped from the bed so fast it almost left him light-headed. Confusion the most prominent feeling in him right now; why hadn't Voldemort killed him? He'd lain there, unable to move, completely defenceless, and he hadn't killed him? Harry shivered with foreboding, feeling as though something was crawling up his spine. What the hell did Voldemort want from him if he wasn't going to kill him? Was he just playing a game? But why? What would he get out of it? Or was he simply waiting for his Death Eaters to get here and 'duel' with him again. If that was the case, it would be a pretty quick duel since he didn't have a wand on him. He felt like he'd had his arm cut off, not because he was in pain but because he was without his wand. It was still beneath the loose floorboard under his bed, keeping it safe from the Dursleys and but still keeping it nearby if anyone attacked. A lot of good that had done him, he'd been bloody kidnapped by Voldemort's House-Elf.

What had the dark wizard done to him? He'd seen the halos surrounding him; he'd never heard of that spell before. In fact he couldn't even remember half of what Voldemort had said. Biting his lip, he winced as he caught the sore spot; pressing his fingers to it he realized he'd caused it to bleed again. Wiping the blood down his clothes, he saw he had on Mrs. Weasley's red jumper, which was the warmest thing he had. His trousers were far too big though, since they were his cousin's cast- offs. What if that spell had affected his magic? Cursing quietly, he wished he knew what Voldemort had done, although it was obvious he wouldn't find out any time soon. It was odd, there had been no taunting, not really anyway, no stories or trying to make him feel sorry for the git ― he'd come to use that spell and that was it, Harry acknowledged quietly to himself.

Sighing softly, he climbed back onto the bed, feeling very lost; it made him feel vulnerable, and he did not like that. Voldemort had always been predictable, and the fact he wasn't able to predict his actions now left him highly agitated. He should just be glad the wizard hadn't tortured him really… but he felt wrong-footed. Looking at the window he observed that it was still light outside, but he couldn't tell how early or late it was. Was this going to be his last day? Would he soon be killed by Voldemort? The unknown had him quite frankly worried.

Bunching up the pillow he lay himself down, staring at the ceiling like he would do at Privet Drive. He might as well rest his aching body as much as he could; no doubt someone would be down to torture him sooner or later. The fact that it hadn't happened yet was beside the point, this was Voldemort he was talking about. He pressed his hand carefully to his ribs, knowing that despite the fact nothing was broken it would take weeks to heal them properly. He hated it, it was hindering his movement, and Voldemort wouldn't have been able to hit him with that first stunner if he had been in perfect health.

------0

Jerking out of his stupor, Harry looked around, quickly noticing the House-Elf in his cell, a different one who definitely hadn't brought him here. He then saw the tray of food and he laughed, and laughed, and continued to laugh even after the House-Elf squeaked and disappeared. The amusement didn't fade as he lay wheezing on the bed, trying to regain control of his equilibrium. His face was red as he tried to breathe through the pain in his ribs, until he lay there panting in exhaustion. Gulping nosily, he finally began breathing evenly; at last he sat up and swung his legs over the side of the bed. Staring at the food, his stomach grumbled nosily as he shook his head.

His own relatives refused to feed him, yet here he was, a captive of Lord Voldemort's, and he was getting food? Poison wasn't Voldemort's style; if anything, the man wanted to be the one to kill him personally. Although there might be something more nefarious in the food; did he dare touch it? Taking a deep breath, Harry turned to the little window and noticed that darkness was beginning to creep up. It was nowhere near black outside yet, but he'd guess it was around six, maybe seven o'clock at night right now.

His gaze couldn't help but wander back to the tray of food, which was still piping hot, if the steam coming off it in waves was anything to go by. It had been over two weeks since he'd had anything substantial to eat, just the occasional cold tin of soup being pushed through the flap, a lot of which he gave to Hedwig to keep her fit and strong. He would have never forgiven himself if anything happened to his familiar, his most faithful companion. It was little wonder his stomach felt like it was trying to rip itself out of his body to get to the food on the floor.

Warily Harry slid off the bed, and eased over to the tray, touching it tentatively as if he suspected it would vanish as soon as he touched it. When nothing happened he slowly picked it up, grunting as he did; would his ribs just hurry up and heal already? Sitting down in the middle of the bed, he placed the tray at the bottom. Sweet and sour chicken with rice, a goblet of orange juice, and what he suspected to be Jam Roly-Poly in custard. Suspected only, since he'd never been allowed it, but he'd watched his cousin pig out on an entire trayfull in one sitting. Hogwarts had never served anything like that, he suspected it was a bit too Muggle for their tastes; the fact Voldemort had it made him wonder. WHY!? Why the hell would Voldemort want such a Muggle food item in his house? He hated Muggles, didn't he? Didn't he? He'd killed that old man…but that might have only been because he'd discovered them and could have told everyone. No, he could have simply Obliviated him; there had been no reason to kill him.

Harry prodded at the food with the plastic fork provided; what, did they think he was going to hurt himself? Or use it as a weapon? Well…the second one would have been a good idea. Harry picked up a bit of chicken and nibbled it slightly, before placing the rest back on the plate and tensing as if he suspected he would be in a world of pain. Yet nothing happened, if anything his stomach grumbled more fiercely at having the smell of food so close, yet nothing in it. Obviously it wasn't poisoned or drugged; he was still hesitant about eating it though, and why would Voldemort feed him? Unless he wanted him in perfect health when he killed him?

There was nothing for it really; did it matter if it was poisoned? He was going to die either way, right? He had no wand; he was stuck down in Voldemort's dungeons with no means of escape. Nobody would find out for days yet. Plus he was so hungry... no, that wasn't accurate, he was completely ravenous. Picking up the goblet he took a sip, wetting his parched mouth at the same time waiting to see if anything happened. It didn't taste like it had anything in it, and the only tasteless and odourless potion he knew of was Veritaserum. Poisons had a distinct smell to them, didn't they? He wished he'd paid more attention to Potions now, since it would have given him his answer.

Throwing caution to the wind, he decided to eat the food; he hadn't even eaten half of it when his stomach began to cramp violently. He was still starving, yet his stomach was protesting the influx of so much food. Harry didn't stop eating, he'd put up with a grumbling stomach and sore ribs for more than two weeks, so he could handle a cramping stomach. It was the same as every time he went back to Hogwarts after being deprived of proper food for near enough three months during the summer.

Looking down he could have sworn his stomach looked bloated from the amount of food he'd eaten. Guzzling down the last of the juice, he watched the goblet filling back up in amusement. He left the dessert, at least for the moment, giving his body time to adjust to the large amount of food it had just ingested. The urge to eat the dessert was strong…uncommonly strong. He knew his own limits, but for some reason that was being overridden with the need to eat the sweet treat.

Picking up the plastic spoon, he dug into the dessert; it was sort of like the strawberry tarts he liked so much. "Ah, shit!" cursed Harry, his voice slightly slurred as the spoon fell with a thud into the nearly empty bowl. He had been drugged after all, not poisoned; no, this was a sleeping potion if he had to guess…it certainly acted like the one he'd been given in the hospital wing. This was his last thought before he fell into the arms of Morpheus, not even able to get worked up or worried.

The dessert had been spelled to make him eat it.

----------0

A sadistic smirk stole across the Dark Lord's features; if anyone had seen it, they surely would have been running for the hills. The old book he had on his desk was laying there innocently enough, but the words on the page were way less than innocent. They were not meant for pure intentions, at least they hadn't been created for that. No, they had been created by a Roman leader, who happened to be a wizard of course, wanting to keep track of his people within his estate. Of course he wouldn't put half of what Claudius had put into them.

"Armillam!" Voldemort murmured under his breath, flicking his wand in the movements dictated by the book. He watched as pure magic created a strap of what appeared to be bendable plastic, but he knew it would attach itself like a second skin. Un-removable and impenetrable, nothing would remove it, not even all the Wandless magic in the world. He smirked at the colour it had chosen to come out: green and silver, Slytherin colours. He wondered what Potter would think of that.

"Confidunt in vicibus suis," Voldemort chanted, watching as it glowed gold before settling once more. "Limes motus!" Again it glowed gold. "Sensus," he added for the final time, gazing in satisfaction at his finished masterpiece. Once it attached itself there would be no removing it... well, not unless he did, which he wouldn't.

Looking at the time, he realized he had spent longer than he'd thought on it. He had other things to do tonight. Potter was not going to be happy, but it wasn't his job to make him as such. If his home life had been as bad as he suspected, well…this was probably paradise to the irritating slip of a boy. Not that he wanted it to be paradise for the boy; it was his and his alone. Damn it, why did Potter have to be his Horcrux? Why did fate like screwing with him? Anyone else would have been preferable; Potter should be happy at least ― it had saved him from death. Now all he had to do was attach it to Potter's leg and it would be done.

--------0

As soon as he'd finished his dinner and taken his potions, which invigorated him and enabled him to be able do what he needed to without getting exhausted. He felt infuriated with his constant need to rest; he just wanted to get back to normal as soon as possible. Unfortunately that was going to take a while, his new body was… fragile, but at least he had a body and hands, and the ability to move and eat by himself. It still horrified him that he'd had to rely on Wormtail for help, when he could sense in his mind that all the rat had wanted to do was run. Part of him would have liked nothing more than to kill the rat; he was useless, but regretfully he couldn't do such a thing without cause.

No, he had someone in mind just perfect for his little trip. A vicious grin spread across his face; there was nobody more deserving, he thought, striding though to the main room, which housed his throne and where his Death Eaters would stand when the time came to call them all once more.

"WORMTAIL!" Voldemort hissed, causing Peter to jump high in the air at the unexpected summoning.

"Yes, Master?" snivelled the wizard, cowering before Lord Voldemort, clearly terrified of him.

"Bring Crouch here immediately," Voldemort demanded, his red eyes flashing at the sight of the disgusting wizard. The rat would know which Crouch he was talking about, since Barty was already here. The House-Elves would ensure that Potter wasn't disturbed by either of his Death Eaters. He didn't trust Pettigrew not to harm his Horcrux, or Barty, come to that, but the time would come where he would need to tell them all that Potter was off-limits. They would listen to his House-Elves as if they were him; he knew that because Wormtail and Barty both knew the House-Elves couldn't lie about orders they had been given.

"Yes, Master," Pettigrew said Apparating away immediately.

Voldemort waited impatiently for Pettigrew to return with the older wizard. Barty had wanted to kill him, but he had demanded otherwise. There was no telling when he might be useful, and here he was, being just that. At least being transfigured into something else meant Crouch Senior couldn't get to anyone and blow his plans. Which he had nearly done, time and time again, as he adapted to the Imperius Curse, fighting it off. Just like his son had, admittedly a lot later than Crouch Senior had, but Senior had been in much better health than his son who had been debilitated by his stay in Azkaban.

A few moments later Pettigrew returned with the 'bone' which he placed on the floor and backed away from shakily. Lazily putting his wand hand out, Voldemort summoned the 'bone', having no intention of turning him back until he needed him. After all, only one person would be able to get across in the boat.

"Remain here," Voldemort hissed, glaring at the wizard and daring him to defy him, before Apparating away to the cliff beside Crystal Cave. This was a place he had come during his bleak childhood. A feral smirk appeared on his face when he remembered the looks on the idiot Muggles' faces when he Apparated them here. Amy Benson and Dennis Bishop, fifthly Muggles who had dared to call him a freak; after that trip…needless to say, they hadn't once spoken or looked at him cross-eyed again. Even now, fifty years later, it caused him immense satisfaction knowing he had put them in their true place.

Jumping from the cliff, he didn't do as everyone else would have and fall into the water; instead Lord Voldemort flew across the water and landed gracefully at the cave entrance. He didn't waste a second before going inside the outer, obvious cave and over to the 'hidden entrance', then piercing his thumb with a needle he had brought for just this occasion. One drop of his blood fell against the rocks, causing the entrance to give way.

Wandering over to the edge of an underground lake, his hand blindly sought something. Once he had a grip on it, he began to pull on the chain, which shortly afterwards became visible. Magic did the rest as it began to pull the boat towards him; once it had 'docked', so to speak, he stepped down into it, and began his journey to the tiny island that sat out in the middle of the hidden lake. Unlike any other who might have travelled along here, he did not fear the Inferi within the depths of the dark water, since he had created them. Once he was beside the podium which stood on the islet, and the font that contained his Horcrux, he returned Bartemius Crouch Senior to his normal self. Thankfully the man was still alive, but not for much longer; Barty would be disappointed not to see his father's death. Voldemort wasted no time before casting the Imperius Curse on the weakened wizard, to make sure he didn't receive any unsavoury surprises.

Flicking his wand, Voldemort conjured a goblet out of thin air, then he began to dunk it into the potion in the font and feed it to the willing wizard. Well, in this state he was willing; with the Imperious curse on him he was guzzling it down greedily, not feeling any of the potion's effects. He wouldn't remain that way for long. Goblet after goblet of the poisonous potion was poured down Bartemius' throat until at long last Voldemort was able to retrieve his Horcrux from within the font's bowl, placing it safely within his cloak pocket. Removing the Imperius curse from his victim, Voldemort watched with great amusement as the wizard began to show the effects the potion had on him. Moaning in agony, he began screaming and pleading that he shouldn't have done it, wheezing and grasping at his throat as he became increasingly thirsty. The driving need for water caused him to dive into the only available source, the lake; hands immediately began to drag the wizard under. Crouch's wild scrambling for the side of the islet was for naught as the Inferi had too good a grip on him, and he was soon submerged under the sea of water, never to return. Bartemius Crouch Senior was now one of the un-dead, an Inferi; unbeknown to Voldemort or even the currently dying Bartemius, Regulus Black had fallen prey to the lake's dwellers as well.

The goblet was dropped with a clang as Voldemort calmly began to make his way out of the cave. A short boat ride later had him at the entrance, and then he was flying over the intervening sea, since he had placed wards to prevent Apparation from the cave's immediate vicinity. Once he was at the cliff top he Apparated back to his Manor. He would need to retrieve all of his Horcruxes; he didn't want them out of his sight. He couldn't risk it, if there was even the possibility of Dumbledore knowing about their existence.

Sitting on his bed, he removed the locket from his cloak pocket... then a frown worked its way onto his face. There was something missing, he couldn't feel his Horcrux or even his magical signature on the locket. Baffled, he opened it before really thinking and his red eyes widened in shock at the parchment embedded within. Hissing in fury, he opened up the parchment, then he leapt up and a scream of rage tore out of him. He had been betrayed! Regulus Black had better be glad he was dead! His wand in hand, he began to blast everything around him to smithereens, unable to contain the lava-like fury bubbling inside of him. The urge to kill and curse everyone within striking distance of him was strong. Where was his Horcrux? Who had it? Who had Regulus Black told?

Terrified, he quickly Apparated from his Manor again, going to the former Gaunt residence to check up on another of his Horcruxes.

Chapter Text

Embracing His True Self

Chapter 4

Dwelling On The Past

 

Tom absently rubbed at his temples, where a gigantic headache was beginning to brew at the back of his eyes. He was sitting at the large ornate writing desk that sat at the left side of his room, near the roaring fire which the House-Elves had tended to not too long ago. He had intended to be writing missives to the vampire clan he was currently dealing with; since they only ventured out at night, he had hoped to get his letter out within the hour. Not that the Vampires were adversely affected by sunlight, but rather it irritated them, so they preferred roaming at night as was their nature. His dealings with the Dark forces weren't going as smoothly as he hoped. The quill dropped from his fingers as he sighed resignedly; every Horcrux he'd been able to retrieve tonight was safely ensconced in his drawer next to him.

They were secured with every single locking spell he knew, as well as one that required a spoken charm to open it, and he had naturally chosen to use Parseltongue for the key phrase. This was pretty much how Salazar Slytherin had protected his Chamber of Secrets, although Voldemort used more than just 'open', that was for certain. He didn't know what it was, but since his return to his body, specifically since touching Potter, he'd felt better than he had in a long time. Not physically, but mentally and emotionally ... but an emotional Dark Lord wasn't a good thing. Still, the idea of going insane didn't appeal to him.

1979, just a year, an inconspicuous one at that... but not completely, not to him. That was the year everything had gone downhill, when everything he had hoped to achieve had been threatened. It was the year that had pushed him over the edge, and with that everything had scattered into the winds. It was the year the Prophecy had been uttered, and apparently when one of his own Death Eaters, who had sworn eternal loyalty to him, had betrayed him. Regulus Black had so sworn, despite the fact he did not normally mark anyone under the age of seventeen. Once they were out of school, and were fully qualified, he had done so with the young Black. The younger wizard had revered him since childhood; his greatest desire had been to serve him, to be a Death Eater. Voldemort had sensed that, and he didn't need to wonder now what had gone wrong, he had realized already that planning to kill unborn children had… shaken his followers. Regulus Black had been one of them evidently; he had gotten to his Horcrux, and Vodemort realized there would be only one possibility for how that had happened.

Kreacher, the Black House-Elf he had used to enact the safety of the cave for his Horcrux; he must have somehow survived. He had underestimated not only the House-Elf, but the effectiveness of his own enchantments. Using House-Elf magic, Kreacher has clearly been able to get in and out of the cave despite the Anti-Apparation spells intended to prevent such a thing happening. The House-Elf must have revealed what they'd done, and Regulus Black must have had himself brought there. Somehow, someway, Regulus Black had died there; perhaps the Inferi had dragged him under? He didn't know, but he had realized Black was dead. Which meant the House-Elf must have his Horcrux; he hoped fervently that it was still whole, that the House-Elf hadn't managed to destroy his locket. The fact he did not know where it was worried him, especially with one part of his soul already destroyed thanks to Lucius' blunder. He couldn't afford any others to be destroyed; he refused to allow it.

Potter…the Gaunt ring…Slytherin's Locket….Hufflepuff's Cup…Nagini…His Diary…The Ravenclaw Diadem, which his House-Elves had retrieved from its hiding place; he had unknowingly actually had seven Horcruxes as he had wished all those years ago ― for eleven years. Until the Diary had been destroyed, unless the House-Elf had found a way to destroy his locket also. He refused to believe that was the case, but hadn't he already underestimated House-Elves? He refused to let it happen again. Where had the Blacks lived again? A baffled frown worked its way onto his face; for the life of him he could not remember. His red eyes flashed suddenly, the Fidelius charm― it was the only reason he would have forgotten; now why would such a charm be placed on the Black residence? Regretfully, that meant even his spy would be unable to tell him of its location. Although, his spy could look for the locket while he was there... but Severus was far too curious for his own good. The marks of a good spy, but he did not want anyone else knowing about the actual way he had been able to achieve immortality.

Regulus' betrayal hit him harder than it should have; if he had been alive the traitor would have suffered the tortures of the damned. Sane or insane, he didn't tolerate such actions; when he marked them he showed his trust in them, let them into his circle, and Black had let him down. He had been the perfect Death Eater, eager to prove himself; his own insanity had caused this…were there others who didn't wish to serve him now? Was there a way to regain that trust he had seemingly flippantly discarded in his desire to see the one potential threat that could destroy him defeated?

Two Horcruxes were still missing; he had Potter, the Gaunt ring, Nagini, and his diadem. The locket was missing, and the cup had been given to Bellatrix Lestrange. Hopefully she had been smart enough to hide it; he would get it back just as soon as he got her and the others liberated from Azkaban. If anything had happened to that cup…he would not be responsible for his actions. Losing one was hard enough, but two? Well, needless to say, someone would feel the full extent of his wrath and displeasure. Lucius had already been made aware of just how dissatisfied he was with him, but he was much too useful to permanently harm ― not that he would, really.

Against his will, his mind drifted to Potter. Something was nagging at him, about the bruises and busted lip. The Order wouldn't have let anything happen to their precious 'saviour', who incidentally wouldn't be saving anyone. If something had and they'd slipped up, why leave the wounds? Why not heal him? Surely Potter would have gone straight to them to complain? Or was he too embarrassed? Having been bested by a Muggle, of all things? No, there was no way Potter had been bested by a filthy Muggle! He didn't even seem embarrassed by the fact he'd seen the bruises. The boy had been as cocky as ever, defiant, and damn it, the boy made the blood rush through his veins in fury. He knew they were guarding the boy, Severus had said as such, but couldn't tell him exactly who was. There had been obviously more than just a few punches exchanged; the boy had difficulty moving...bruised ribs? Potter was fast, skilled at moving; a seeker without a broom, he'd had no problem outmanoeuvring him just a few weeks ago. He had not expected his first stunner to hit its target, no matter how quickly he'd drawn his wand attempting to surprise Harry. Yet it had, the boy hadn't even moved from his position on the bed, so the likelihood of having damaged ribs as well was pretty high. The potion he'd told the House-Elves to give to the boy would heal most of the damage; he couldn't have his Horcrux injured, now could he? Or that was what he told himself; after all, what other reason could he have for healing a boy who had caused him nothing but pain in his fourteen years of existence? Perhaps he should get his healer to look at Potter as well as Barty, just to be sure. He suspected Muggles to have done Potter damage, if they had he would kill them for harming his horcrux.

They did not deserve to live; they were a danger to him, to wizards, and how many had died because of the blasted war the Muggles had started? Voldemort closed his mind off; he did not want to think on his childhood and his feelings of helplessness with the war going on around him... He was successful, as memories began to turn around in his mind. Thirteen years old he had been when the Muggle war had descended on them. He could remember begging Dumbledore to be allowed to remain at Hogwarts…not wishing to return to the Muggle orphanage, to the bombs, the air raids, the terror of not knowing what was going to happen any moment. Not knowing when he would next get a decent meal, since the Muggles had been on rationing. Having a wand and being restricted, not allowed to use it if anything happened…not knowing any spell that could possibly save him from the Muggle bombs. A shudder stole over Voldemort's features, regaining control of himself; he wrapped his cloak tighter around him, insisting it had been the chill. He no longer feared the Muggles; he would make sure no wizarding child had to fear for their lives once he had control over the magical world. He would do it, and his Horcrux would be kept safe and out of the war; he had found a way to ensure it after all.

Fenrir had responded to his letter; since he wasn't marked, he couldn't be summoned. Unfortunately the wolf in Fenrir would never tolerate the thought of being marked by another. Truth be told, Voldemort didn't think it was just Fenrir's wolf, but the man himself. Fenrir hated most wizards, not that he could blame him really, since nearly all Wizards and Witches were terrified of werewolves and would kill Fenrir without a second's notice. At least those in the Ministry would, the rest of the population would be frozen in terror. Purely the Ministry's fault, they'd gone too far in trying to make Fenrir out to be some vicious, notorious werewolf beast that killed indiscriminatingly. Trying to bolster the Ministry's image, it had back fired; Fenrir had grown bigger and stronger than they'd anticipated. It was wrong on so many levels, to hunt down a nine-year-old child, blaming him for things beyond his control. Stating he purposely made his way in front of people's windows and turned children, whisking them off to raise them away from their wizarding parents. It was laughable, after all Fenrir had been only nine years old when the Ministry released that information. All just because he'd sought out revenge on Lupin. Unfortunately the reputation was made complete: he was a savage werewolf, who bit innocent children, who liked biting and eating human flesh... just a bit too much.

He was one of the few who hadn't been fearful of Fenrir; he hadn't had a reason to be worried or fearful, and why should he be? He had magic; he could defend himself if it came to that. It was Fenrir's disgust and wanted status that had drawn him to Voldemort's side. Fenrir might look rather old, even if he was twenty-nine or thirty years of age, but Voldemort was actually forty years older than him. With the same ideals, it wasn't hard to get on ― it had been inevitable. Voldemort would soon be celebrating his seventieth birthday…he certainly felt that age right now. It would not last of course, his body was getting stronger by the day, a fortnight had passed already.

"WORMTAIL!" Voldemort hissed out, knowing the rat was around somewhere, and he was correct, almost immediately the wizard shifted from his Animagus form to human. "Your arm, Wormtail." he demanded, holding his hand out expectantly, it was time to call Severus again he needed more information on Potter than he'd gotten so far.

----------0

Snape cursed quietly as the Mark flared to life, just as he was in the delicate stages of a potion. Pursing his lips, he wondered if it was worth the potential punishment. The Voldemort he had known best wouldn't have tortured him for being late, at least not after he got into the inner circle, which was quite quickly thanks to his abilities. Not only could he brew potions and duel, but he created his own spells, and that was something his Lord had admired. Then came the year two years before his defeat, when the Dark Lord had demanded that he gain Dumbledore's trust. If there was one thing he regretted, and not just because of Lily's death either, it was telling the Dark Lord that prophecy he'd overheard. He'd noticed an immediate change in him. Lucius hadn't, and he'd been with him. He didn't think there was a Death Eater out there who hadn't been praying for something to happen. They all knew the Dark Lord had gone down a darker path than they were capable of. At least most of them couldn't, he thought to himself, remembering Bellatrix Lestrange. He had no doubt she'd been the one mostly responsible for the fate that befell the Longbottoms. The Lestrange brothers were more laid back, and had agreed with many others that things needed to change. Bellatrix, however, seemed to revel in their Lord's madness, his bloodthirsty nature.

Relaxing slightly, Snape realized that he had time; if he had been at Hogwarts he would have only just begun to walk out of his Quarters. It would take him ten minutes to get OUT of Hogwarts itself, and a further ten minutes to get off the grounds. Albeit the Dark Lord probably knew he wasn't at Hogwarts. He preferred the solitude that he could get here, away from Dumbledore's prying eyes. The old fool never ventured to his house. In fact he rarely left Hogwarts; if he did leave it would be to go to Hogsmeade or Grimmauld Place, and he got there by going through the Floo Network. He never walked or went anywhere unless he absolutely had to.

He'd known he would be busy but Dumbledore was taking things too far. It had been three weeks since his Lord had returned, two since the holidays had began, yet he had been at five Order meetings. He was at the end of his tether; they did nothing but procrastinate, worry, and uselessly blab whatever came into their insipid heads. Mostly about Potter, finding new members, keeping the secret, and trying to get word out about his Lord while the rest of the world was content to think Potter was lying. They had succeeded in gaining a few new Order members: the younger yet eldest generation of the Weasleys, Bill and Charlie; two new Aurors, Kingsley Shacklebolt and Nymphadora Tonks. Bill and Charlie were powerful, so that was concerning, as was Kingsley Shacklebolt―he was a very shrewd man. Tonks was an idiot as far as he was concerned; even under disguise he'd know her the second she moved. She couldn't keep on her own two feet, without knocking something over or tripping up her own feet. If there was anyone that made him need to curse and scream, it was Alastor 'Mad-eye' Moody. How he wanted to kill that old man, and nothing would have given him greater pleasure than to take him down. Perhaps his Lord would give him the opportunity to do as such if it arose.

Nobody listened to Moody when he said 'once a Death Eater, always a Death Eater', and it would be their downfall... he hoped.

Stirring the potion, he removed the rod, then cleaned it before placing it on the table. He cast a stasis charm on the cauldron, freezing it at the correct time. Snape allowed himself to nod in satisfaction, knowing it would be fine when he came back to it; he certainly wasn't going to waste the ingredients that had gone into it already. Grabbing the potions that had already been made for his Lord, he shrank them and placed them in his cloak. Not even pausing from one movement to the next, he Apparated to where the Dark Mark was guiding him, to the quiet, tranquil, small but elegant manor (at least compared to Malfoy Manor) before him. It was truly something he wouldn't have expected his Lord to have.

His impassive masks went up; so far the Dark Lord had seemed patient, and more like his old self, but Severus did not want to get his hopes up. How long before he began obsessing over Harry Potter? Before it was all he would think about? He hoped the way his Lord was being was how he would remain. Perhaps he was hoping that being nearly defeated, practically dead for thirteen years would have given him patience.

Walking forward towards the meeting room, the doors automatically opened for him; he stalked through. "My Lord," Severus said in his dulcet tones.

"Sit, Severus," Voldemort stated, watching his spy closely; was he one of those who had wished for his death? Had he been glad when his downfall had been met at the hands of Harry Potter? Or had he bided his time, praying he returned? He would never know unless he managed to get through Severus' mental shields. Unfortunately he didn't even think such a thing was possible, Severus was admittedly brilliant at what he did; everything he did he mastered beautifully. Even the ability to fly; like himself, all it had taken was three lessons and Severus was flying like a duck took to water. Severus had impressed him, he had to admit.

"Thank you, My Lord," Severus said, sitting in the allotted seat. The Dark Lord had forgone his usual throne; instead he was sitting at a table with chairs―like an equal. Something he hadn't done for nearing two years before his defeat. It furthered his hope that his Lord wouldn't obsess over Harry Potter. Of course Severus had to think that and have his Lord ask…

"Has Potter left the vicinity of Privet Drive at all in the past two weeks?" Voldemort demanded, his red eyes noticing a flash of something he couldn't decipher in Severus' eyes.

"From what they've been saying, no, he hasn't even left the vicinity of the house," Severus admitted, displeased that his Lord was once again becoming obsessed with Harry bloody Potter. "They've even complained that the letters don't 'sound' like Potter, then they get into an argument about how witnessing the death of a fellow classmate would change him." Severus couldn't help himself, he had to roll his eyes ― it was absurd.

"And your opinion?" enquired Voldemort, his voice cautious now.

Severus snorted in derision, "None of them even know the boy, never mind well enough to send letters to. Black is the only one that might have a clue, but he hasn't said anything at the meetings. Merely complained about being stuck indoors and not being able to write to his godson." Here his lips curled, he loathed Black.

"And why wouldn't he be able to write to Potter?" Voldemort was quite frankly baffled, but he didn't show it.

"I believe Dumbledore has asked them not to. If what I overheard was correct, he believes they might be intercepted," Severus said sighing in vexation. He was very good at listening in on conversations, especially when he stuck to the shadows and was overlooked.

"Severus…do you still hold to the eternal loyalty you promised me upon becoming one with the fold?" Voldemort demanded, trying to catch Severus off guard. He knew though that it would take a lot more than just that question to catch Severus out.

"Always, my Lord, I do not discard my word so easily," Severus said, his exasperated posture no longer present. Instead he was sitting facing his Lord with a serious expression on his face, his eyes never once wavering from the red ones before him.

Voldemort stared straight into Severus' eyes; could he trust him with such a momentous task? After all he had assumed he could trust Regulus Black as well as Lucius; both of them had hurt him in different ways. Would Severus react the same way as Regulus had upon finding the lengths he'd taken to achieve immortality? He had no other way of achieving the goal, which was to retrieve his real Horcrux. Since he couldn't remember where the property was or what it was called, he had to rely on someone who knew where the property was. Severus wouldn't be able to tell him; he had no other option.

"I have a very important task for you," Voldemort eventually stated, having no choice but to trust his spy. "It will be tricky as well, since nobody can know about it."

"Of course, my Lord," Severus replied, waiting patiently for what his Lord would ask of him.

"There is a Slytherin locket I require somewhere in the Order headquarters; Regulus Black took what did not belong to him," Voldemort hissed, his anger still brewing dangerously under the surface. "You can leave this duplicate in its place; it can be summoned and is not a danger to you. I want you to come here as soon as you have retrieved it." That said, Voldemort removed the piece of jewellery from his robes, his long, thin, almost skeletal hands passed over the large locket and thick heavy chain that was attached to it. It didn't look like much, but it was Salazar Slytherin's pendant, once owned by one of the most powerful wizards ever remembered. Something that was, by right, his and his alone! He was the last descendant; he had made sure of that. Everyone that had left him in that orphanage thinking he had no family had paid dearly: his uncle…his filthy Muggle grandparents and father, even though they weren't the Slytherin descendants, at least not by blood.

Severus accepted the heavier than suspected Slytherin pendant, his mind whirling a mile a minute. Why would Regulus Black steal the locket? He couldn't say his Lord had killed him, since he too had been disconcerted by his continued absence, in the rare moments he wasn't obsessing over who had the potential to destroy him of course. Could he still be alive but in hiding? A body had never been recovered, if he remembered correctly. His family hadn't even known what had happened, but the general consensus was that he'd gotten in too deep and wanted out. That he had been killed by a Death Eater on his Lord's orders. Which wasn't true; the Dark Lord hadn't ordered such a thing, and Regulus had been an avid supporter, he'd hung on to the Dark Lord's every word. Admittedly he had been like everyone else by the end, wanting his Lord back to how he was before the Prophecy interrupted their strategic moves. Had he been more desperate than the others? More shocked and disgusted? Not that he had seen, but he hadn't been close to Black; they were merely acquaintances if they could actually call them as such. It was a long time to remain in hiding, without money and without being spotted even once. No, there was no way Regulus Black was alive, so what had happened to him, he wondered?

"Your potions, my Lord," Severus said, placing the locket in his pocket and removing the shrunk crate of Potions and returning them to their normal size.

"Any news on the Order?" asked Voldemort, refusing to dwell on Potter and the implications until he was alone. Or as alone as he could get with Pettigrew skulking around somewhere.

"They have a few new recruits, and from what I understand they have an additional two considering their proposal," Severus grimly stated. "Nymphadora Tonks, Kingsley Shacklebolt, Charlie and Bill Weasley have joined, and those they have considering is a disgusting thief― Mundungus Fletcher― and Sturgis Podmore. They are doing nothing more than guarding Potter, trying to convince people you are back, and getting to those whom they consider worthy of joining their Order." Yes, their Order, he didn't consider it as his. They were just a bunch of idiots trying to play hero, for a cause they did not understand. They were basically, in his opinion, running around like a bunch of headless chickens. They brought nothing worthy of note to the table, only he did, or so they should think; he only revealed what his Lord wished him to.

"I see," Voldemort replied, he would have to get Lucius to do a background search on all of them; he wanted to know every little detail about them. "You may go, Severus," Voldemort added absently.

"My Lord," Severus respectfully said, inclining his head before he stood up and departed, hope blooming further. The Dark Lord did seem much better; it relieved him greatly.

Voldemort however, wasn't relieved, he was perplexed. If Potter hadn't been out of his damn house…how the hell did he end up all black and blue? He had always been extremely smart, and it didn't take him long to come to the only natural conclusion one could reach. Abuse; his red eyes flashed in fury― how he hated Muggles. Why would Potter fight for the light side if he had been abused? It made no sense to him whatsoever; why fight for the Muggles who hated and hurt him? The boy was a conundrum. He would get Grant to run a full history diagnostic on him, that way he would have his answer for sure.

Grant would be here today again, so he had to do something with Potter before then; either way the boy wasn't going to cooperate. Nothing he did had ever cowed the boy; threatening, torture... it was as if he was completely fearless. It would be such a Gryffindor trait if it wasn't so damn Slytherin. He would find out for sure, although if his suspicions were confirmed he honestly didn't know what he would do.

He let out a frustrated breath, everything was taking forever; patience had never been a virtue that he possessed. That and he was very easy to anger, he had often wondered if it had anything to do with the strength of his magic. He hadn't been curious enough to investigate; he had other things more worthy of his attention. Plucking two potions from the crate Severus had brought, he downed them in one go before eating his breakfast. He had some research to do; he couldn't allow his Horcrux to escape.

---------0

Harry murmured quietly, as the Dreamless Sleeping potion began to work its way out of his system. His face was peaceful, something that anyone rarely got to see. Harry's dreams were normally plagued with nightmares; thankfully for most part he wasn't vocal when he was asleep. So most people didn't even realize Harry had nightmares, which was fine by him, the fewer weaknesses they knew about, the better, in his opinion. The Daily Prophet had already ripped him to shreds this year, including the fact he had 'seizures'. Harry's peaceful green eyes blinked open, a yawn breaking loose until Harry sat up abruptly, ignoring the pain igniting in his ribs, the serene mood vanishing like a boat in the Bermuda Triangle. He'd been bloody drugged! He knew he shouldn't have eaten that food, although he had to admit it had been delicious.

Why was Harry's main concern right now; why had he been drugged? What had they done to him? Nothing made sense anymore; why wasn't Voldemort trying to kill him? The unknown was quite frankly freaking him out. His encounters with Voldemort usually only lasted a little while. Go somewhere, be threatened, be nearly killed, thwart him, get to spend time with Poppy in the Hospital wing. After a few days, depending on if he had been unconscious, go to a feast and be patted on the head like a 'good little boy'. Harry's lip curled just thinking about it; if Dumbledore thought he didn't know about his manipulations he was an idiot. He was meant to be sorted into Slytherin for a reason; his self-preservation had kicked in, and he'd done what he'd had to ― to blend in amongst everyone. Just then an urgent need made itself known; ―oh, he shouldn't have drank all that juice―, and he badly needed to pee. Grimacing at the toilet he groaned, cursing violently; if he didn't do the toilet he would pee himself and that was the last thing he wanted. Who knows how long he'd be down here? He'd rather not sit in his own soiled clothes.

Harry listened for any sound whatsoever, before edging towards the toilet. They were doing this to torture him before he was killed, he just knew it. Gritting his teeth, he hastily did the toilet, sighing in relief as he did so, before climbing back on the bed. When he did, he felt something on his leg; confused, he hoisted his leg onto the mattress and arched it to the side. His heart pounded desperately in his ribcage at the sight; what the hell was it? First prodding at it cautiously, he then yanked at it. Nothing happened. The green and silver band just refused to budge. His fingers trailed around the length of it, looking for an opening but he found none. His mouth was dry; closing his eyes briefly, he opened them again, fire burning in their emerald depths as he continued to try and remove the thing around his ankle.

His head jerked up when he heard a loud clanging; he held his breath wondering who it was. It obviously wasn't Voldemort, otherwise his scar would have been burning by this time…so who was it? Death Eaters? Surprise flashed through his green eyes when the snake-faced git made an appearance; why hadn't his scar burned? His brow furrowed in confusion, even as his hands continued to try and remove the band. He glared fiercer at the red eyes that lit up in amusement, at his expense no doubt.

"What the fuck did you do to me?" Harry snarled, unable to keep his mouth shut. There was no golden boy pretence to put up here. Neither did survival seem to be a thing he cared for, as he spoke to the Dark Lord with a bite nobody else would have gotten away with. Especially if the way the wizard beside Snakey reacted, he'd inhaled sharply, in shock no doubt, at his words. His green eyes sparked with feral amusement when the red eyes flared with anger, as he sat watching as Voldemort's hands clenched in an attempt to keeping his calm.

Grant watched the Dark Lord out of the corner of his eyes, extremely surprised. Never in all the years, when he had served the Dark Lord, when he needed it, had he seen such restraint on his part. He had expected the boy... no, teenager.... to be writhing under the Cruciatus Curse by now. By Merlin, the boy had more guts than the entire Dark Lord's army combined. Never had he seen such blatant disrespect spat at him before. Everyone trembled and bowed before Lord Voldemort; it seemed this young boy was an exception to that rule. Keeping his face impassive, he waited, on what he wasn't sure.

Voldemort opened the cell door, his red eyes never removed from Harry's, his wand held loosely in his fingers. Harry however, wasn't fooled by the seemingly calm display of casualness. Voldemort could strike lightening last; he had reflexes that, even if it burned to admit, that Harry was envious of. Harry remained on the bed, his eyes never wavering from the pair, keeping them in sight which was easy to do from where he sat. Was this it? Would he be breathing his last here and now? It was unlike Voldemort, he liked an audience, and he'd proven that just a few weeks ago. Unless he didn't want to be embarrassed again, but Harry couldn't see how that would happen; he didn't have a wand or any means to protect himself. Why bother with the band? What fucking game was Voldemort playing? Well, he refused to play along; he wouldn't act like a kicked pup! He wasn't scared of death; he'd almost died in the Chamber, had felt himself dying, poisoned by the basilisk.

Jutting up his chin defiantly, the urge to cross his arms against his chest was strong but he didn't want to leave himself vulnerable in case he was attacked. No, he would put up a fight, even if it was a useless one, just like it had been at the graveyard, again surviving by sheer dumb luck.

Harry arched away slightly, defensively, when the unnamed wizard knelt on the floor. Harry gave him a quick confused look before he scooted back on the bed a bit, so he could keep a better eye on the pair of them. What the fuck was going on? His gaze switched back to the wizard watching him remove... a potions bag? The stranger unrolled it and left it sitting there on the floor before sitting on the bed next to him.

"Drink this," Grant said, his tone as soothing as if he was speaking to a reluctant child. He couldn't help but grin slightly, seeing the look of incredulity that passed over Harry's face. Oh yes, he knew who the boy was, and was very surprised to find that he was still breathing. To make matters even more curious, he was being asked to do a full check-up on the boy? Well, at least his job was never boring it seemed. "It will not harm you; surely you've taken it before?" the healer questioned.

Harry's lips disappeared, his nose flared in anger; he did not like being played. Yet his mind whispered to him why would they give him a choice? Why not just do what they'd done before? Put it in his food and be done with it? He had no idea what the bloody potion was, and he didn't want to find out. The thought of being bound and forced to take it was even less appealing. He knew that whatever happened, he only had the illusion of willingness. Gritting his teeth, he looked ready to rip someone's head off.

"You've never taken this potion before, have you?" Grant said, becoming quite alarmed; all children going through Hogwarts was supposed to get this potion. It seemed his lord might have other motives about this entire thing. He wasn't stupid enough to ask any questions about it, which was putting it bluntly. "I am a healer, Harry, I am oath-bound never to harm another, and this potion will not hurt you in any way."

"I only have your word for that," Harry sneered, pondering inwardly if it was true. The Muggles had something similar, a Hippocratic Oath; it didn't stop them from murdering people. The news showed horrible things doctors and nurses did, but with magic…was it truly binding?

Seeing that his Lord was losing patience, he uncorked the potion and took a sip of it himself, showing the boy that it wouldn't harm him. Nobody would be stupid enough to take a sip of a potion that could potentially harm them. "See?" added Grant, holding the potion out.

"You could have taken the antidote before coming in," Harry stated, still not trusting them; he never would.

"Just take the damn potion," Voldemort hissed, his red eyes flaring as his patience waned. The urge to curse the boy was stronger than ever, in fact he was fingering his wand, ready to cast the Cruciatus curse. "Or I will have him pour it down your incapacitated throat."

Grant winced even if that anger wasn't directed at him; the magic pouring off the older wizard was terrifyingly dark in its nature. He glanced at Harry to find him not even slightly bothered. He was beginning to think the boy had a death wish; how could he sit there calmly with this wizard's ire so intently focused on him? The others would be prostrating themselves at his feet by now, begging for forgiveness, doing whatever they had to just to make it better.

"Cr―" Voldemort started to snarl, but not getting to finish before the boy spoke.

"Alright, alright, fuck, I'll take the damn potion!" Harry snapped, thinking, give in today, fight and live for tomorrow. If he was going to be in pain he'd rather not have the Cruciatus Curse's after-effects thrumming through him too. The pain he remembered had been intolerable. Like the time his uncle and Cousin had stamped on his arm and leg, kicking him in the stomach and head and rendering him unconscious within minutes. That had been before Hogwarts, when his accidental magic had Apparated him onto the school roof. Grabbing the vial from the wizard, he glared at everything, furious that he was being backed into a corner. His hand clenched around the vial as he gritted his teeth again. He'd rather lose the battle than lose the war; he would find a way out of this damn place. To do that he needed to be as pain free as possible. If he could accidentally Apparate when he was younger, maybe he could do it again, or do some sort of accidental magic to get him the fuck out of here. A snide voice reminded him he'd just end up back in another prison: the Dursleys'. It was better than dying... no, no it wasn't, really; he was tired of constantly fighting, constantly defending himself, and exhausted from being betrayed and hurt by everyone around him.

The vial must have been unbreakable; since he was clutching it so hard it should have shattered the glass into his hand. Was he really going to do this? He must be off his rocker; sitting there clutching it in his hand he realized he couldn't do it. He'd refused to bow to the Dursleys; he refused to truly mould himsef into the saviour image everyone wanted. He damn well wasn't going to bow to Voldemort, he could curse him if he liked. He twitched and was brought out of his thoughts by the sound of a murmured spell, and then he felt it, the alarming sensation of something suddenly hitting his stomach.

Looking down he noticed the vial was empty; he sat glaring at the wizard, seething with fury. He hadn't realized there was a spell that could put potions into his stomach, even after all his time spent in Hospital wing. Then again he wouldn't be, would he? They would have been administered that way when he was bloody unconscious. Why hadn't he done that to begin with? His scorching glare didn't let up, not even when the wizard began chanting; that just made him tense up even further, coiled ready to strike. If he thought he could get out of here, he would have struck out, but with Voldemort there he knew he'd be on his back quicker than lightening. If he wanted to get away, he would need to do it when he was alone. He didn't care about the consequences anymore, he would do magic if it saved his life... even if he was expelled.

Then just like that both wizards began exiting the cell. Voldemort didn't let him out of his sight until the door banged shut and was locked with magic again. His hands clenched as he watched them, the urge to punch that smug look on Voldemort's face was strong. Once they were gone, Harry punched the mattress repeatedly, screaming his frustration, taking it out on the only thing there that wouldn't hurt him in the process.

---------0

"My Lord, do you think the boy has taken the potion before?" Grant asked, sitting himself down on a seat in the Dark Lord's study. It was dark, not because the curtains were closed but because the room itself was done in dark woods, and dark green colours. It worked well together, he certainly wouldn't have used those colours together but he had to admit it was a sight to see. It was much nicer than the other place his Lord had, in the Muggle mansion. It was a genius move; the light side wouldn't think to look for him there. He had no idea of course that by birthright the mansion was actually his Lord's.

"From his unwillingness to take it, I would assume not," Voldemort replied, the appearance of being unbothered by the events that had just transpired evident on his face. However, Voldemort was far from unbothered, but he wasn't about to let anyone in on that annoying fact. Even he remembered the potion; it was one of the first ones he'd ever taken that first night at Hogwarts. All children were required to take it at some point in their lives, and the information revealed was stored in their files. Not only did it give them a past history of all injuries, treatments, and illnesses, it also let them know what the children were allergic to. Purebloods or half-bloods raised in the Magical world didn't need to go through it at school, since their records were automatically sent to Hogwarts when they were eleven. As far as he knew, Severus still insisted that all his Slytherins get the treatment; he wanted to make sure they were being looked after. Considering all the abuse the wizard had gone through, Voldemort didn't blame him.

"He's Muggle-raised isn't he?" Grant frowned, quite frankly unsettled.

"He is," Voldemort stated, twitching as he remembered something Potter had said weeks ago. He didn't know why he hadn't remembered it before this, but he was remembering a lot lately; it was as if close proximity to his Horcruxes was helping him. The boy had said, 'Oh, please, like you're the only one who's had a shit childhood.' Could he be referring to the loss of his parents? Or were his assumptions right and the boy had been abused? It seemed inconceivable to him; the boy was too sickeningly light, sticking to Dumbledore like a loyal puppy. Then there was Dumbledore… would he really risk his saviour by allowing him to be abused by Muggles?

Grant swished and flicked his wand in a long complicated motion, then a scroll began to materialise in front of him. He expected it to be long, after all, the boy was fourteen years old, but it was much longer than he'd anticipated. He'd seen patients decades older with fewer results than this. Eventually his wand stopped producing the results and Grant could snatch it out of the air. Dark or not, the results on the parchment enraged him beyond comprehension. Nobody, not even Harry Potter, deserved this! Yes, the Dark Lord made examples of those who betrayed him, but they were adults and had willfully done it knowing the consequences. The boy had been a child; having children as he did, just made the matter worse.

"Well?" Voldemort demanded impatiently.

Grant quickly looked up at the Dark Lord, pausing briefly, aware that he could be cursed any minute. His Lord wasn't known for his patience; his hubris was that he wanted too much too soon. Of course he would never come out and tell him that. His mind drifted to what had happened earlier. If it had been Death Eaters they would have been under that painful curse; he obviously had no desire to kill Harry Potter anymore. Why? And why had he wanted him to run a full diagnostic on him? Better yet, how would he react when he saw these results? He obvious had his suspicions. Instead of saying anything, he handed over the scroll, letting the results speak for themselves in all their grave certainty.

He knew when the Dark Lord had finally taken in the results; Grant barely dared to breathe as the room became unbearable hot with his anger. Merlin, thought Grant, would he be leaving here without being hurt? He couldn't help shrinking back into his seat; pride be damned, the wizard was fucking scary.

"FILTHY DISGUSTING MUGGLES!" Voldemort spat, his rage expanding exponentially. He would find a way around the wards of Privet Drive and he would kill the sons of bitches! Nobody hurt a wizarding child and got away with it, and people wondered why he wanted Muggles put down like the filthy animals that they were? They didn't deserve to live; they were the ones that were depraved. Dumbledore had to have known, there was no doubt…which had him wondering if his precious Order knew. If they were watching as closely as he'd been told, they probably did. Calming down slightly, his red eyes were still brighter than ever, filled with raw hatred. Hopefully Lucius would be back with something he could use to get through to Potter. It oddly enough didn't fill him with malicious glee at the thought of breaking him, making him see that nobody cared about him, just about the weapon that he was to them. Perhaps it was because he knew Potter had been through enough shit to last him a lifetime. Why should he care? As long as his Horcrux survived... yet he was beginning to see the boy, not the vessel…was that why? Was Dumbledore doing this to see how far he could push the boy, not caring because his, Vodemort's, soul was inside him? No, that wasn't like the old fool, but he did often have others do his dirty work for him. How could the boy be so naïve? He'd seen right through Dumbledore from the beginning!

"My Lord?" Grant carefully questioned, still remaining stiff and as far back in the chair as he could possibly get, hoping to distract him from the Muggles and his fury. "Do you wish for me to repair the damage?" Although getting the boy to drink the potions he'd prescribe would apparently be the biggest challenge of his life.

"Yes," Voldemort replied, his answer immediate and stern. "List the potions, Severus will brew them." He trusted nobody else.

"As you wish, My Lord," Grant said, his voice still careful. "Will I add one to correct his vision, or shall I see about getting him a pair of glasses more suitable?" The ones he had on were causing untold damage; they weren't the correct prescription and they were making his eyes worse. His eyesight wouldn't be as bad if he hadn't been wearing them, that he knew from experience as a healer.

"Correct it," Voldemort stated flippantly; he didn't like weaknesses and glasses were one. If they were removed you would be blind, unable to see any assault coming your way. Grant would know better than to talk about anything they discussed, including the fact he was helping the boy. Yet it didn't matter, all his Death Eaters would soon become aware that the boy was to be untouched; anyone that did would die a horribly painful death.

"Yes, My Lord," replied Grant, eyes slightly wide. He had expected an outright refusal but just thought to cover all the bases like he always did. That potion was expensive, extremely difficult to make; not a problem for a Potions Master like Severus, but nonetheless hard to brew. It was said to be even harder than the Wolfsbane potion; if he knew Severus he would be salivating over the challenge, he was immensely fond of brewing difficult concoctions. Especially if they were forbidden by the Ministry for being 'dark', which was basically anything that required blood. Dark and grey magics were dwindling, soon there would only be a handful of spells you would be allowed to cast, all very sickeningly 'light' in nature. Yes, he was a healer, which actually made it worse; there were potions and spells deemed 'dark' by those fools that could save people, and he was forbidden from using them. Although he had a more personal reason for joining the dark….after what that cowardly Muggle had done to his child.

"My Lord, if I may be so bold…why are you helping the boy? Do you not want him dead?" asked Grant, risking his wrath on the off-chance he might get even a cryptic statement to think on.

"I despise every drop of magical blood spilled, you know this," Voldemort said, his ruby eyes regarding Grant cautiously. However, he wouldn't let the idiotic fools fighting for something they had no clue about bring him down either, so he killed when he had to.

Grant blinked at the wizard, surprised. "You are going back to your original goals?" Then he stiffened; he had not meant to say that out loud.

"I never wavered from them," Voldemort answered, his voice deceptively mild. Well... that wasn't strictly true, he would never admit that, but he realized he would need to reassure his followers somehow. He would not, could not allow anyone else to betray him, he already had to deal with traitors in his midst. Karkaroff was one of them; he had all but imprisoned a number of Voldemort's followers himself. His end wouldn't be easy; he would be dealt with by the very people he had betrayed.

Grant dipped his head in respect, slightly apologetic for questioning him.

"You may go check on Barty," Voldemort replied, adding, "You are free to go afterwards."

"Very well, My Lord," Grant said. "I shall leave the list of needed potions with a House-Elf before I leave."

"Indeed," was all Voldemort said, waving his hand and dismissing him silently. Grant was barely out of the room when he decided he go to the boy and directly get an answer (which he already knew the answer to).

Chapter Text

Embracing His True Self

Chapter 5

Lowered Masks

Harry leaned against the wall of his cell, one foot raised and against the wall, displaying a casual stance of nonchalance as Voldemort stared at him. He would never admit that the stare was beginning to wear on him. It was as if he was waiting for something, or trying to confirm something he suspected. He was getting hungry again as well; he hadn't touched either the breakfast or the lunch they'd sent down to him. He refused to be drugged again; he'd spent the afternoon trying to remove the band but had given up that task as futile.

"What game are you playing at Voldemort?" Harry asked, his tone wary and tired. Not physically; no, it was a mental tiredness. Everything was all Topsy-turvy; nothing was as he expected it to be, and he really didn't like the mind games going on here. Nothing had happened after that potion had been spelled into his stomach, at least nothing he could feel as of yet, but he wouldn't put it past them to have some sort of delayed effect just to fuck with him more. If he went by the food, it was a day ago, surely nothing could happen now?

"Would you believe me if I told you I'm not playing any game?" Voldemort replied, his red eyes alight with amusement.

Harry merely snorted; they already both knew the answer to that question.

"Why do you follow Dumbledore? Doesn't it grate on your nerves how he adores his precious Muggles and insists they are more than the animals I claim they are?" Voldemort sneered; just mentioning Dumbledore caused him to lose control.

Harry narrowed his eyes, not liking where this was going at all; the bastard couldn't be trying to convert him to his side, could he? No, there was no way, Voldemort wanted him dead…well, he did; hell, he wasn't sure anymore and he was beginning to think he was being played big time. Why on earth would he think bringing Muggles up would help that matter? Unless…Harry gulped ― loudly, he suspected…no, that was impossible; nobody knew. Arching an eyebrow in Voldemort's direction he answered, "Why would it?" despite the fact his heart was hammering in his chest.

"I know everything," Voldemort stated, his tone calm and truthful; he could feel what Potter was feeling at the moment: embarrassment and fear. He'd never felt any fear up until this moment…so he knew it wasn't aimed at him, but at what he knew. Interesting, why would that bother the boy so much? "The question is, why do you follow Dumbledore around like a love-sick puppy?" The sneer was back again, he couldn't have helped it even if he tried.

Harry dropped every pretence and a vindictive smirk spread across his face, "Who says I do?"

Voldemort lost all patience, and slid into Harry's mind, wanting to see for himself whether or not the boy was lying to him. Surprisingly enough, Harry seemed to sense his presence in his mind, from the first second he penetrated his memories. He could feel futile struggling as the boy tried to get him out. For someone who was obviously a complete novice at the mind arts he was quite insistent. Some of his Death Eaters couldn't even tug with that much pressure, and they were older and more experienced. Tugging or not, the boy wasn't quite able to keep him out, he was only giving himself a headache. Which he could feel pounding into his own skull; once he had seen the memories he wanted to see... no, needed to see, he slowly withdrew. Blinking he found Potter on his knees, clutching at his head dramatically as if he'd just cursed him.

"What the hell did you just do?" groaned Harry, rubbing at his temples, had he seen everything he had? He'd rifled through his memories like a hot knife sliced through butter. Still disoriented, he used his hands to push himself off his aching knees and sat on the bed. Once the ache left his mind he glared at Voldemort, remembering himself.

"The official name is Legilimens, for when someone can read other people's minds. Legilimency and Occlumency are the terms for reading and blocking one's mind. Occluding is the term for when someone can close their mind against external penetration," Voldemort answered, his answer curt curiously absent of any mocking.

"I always knew he could read my mind," Harry muttered, shaking his head. Snape and Dumbledore; it hadn't felt anything like what Voldemort had just done though. If he got out of this he was definitely going to read up about Legilimency and Occlumency and learn them. Harry wanted to scoff at his thoughts, as if he would ever get out of here; for whatever reason, he was being kept alive and relatively sane. No, his luck had run out, there was no way he could beat Voldemort without a wand.

"Surface thoughts only, he would never risk going any deeper," Voldemort sneered, he too had been a victim of Dumbledore's mind reading. It had annoyed him as a young boy, but as soon as he had acquaintances he found out just what the Deputy Headmaster and Transfiguration Professor was doing. He had realized just how dangerous the old man was then, but he had gotten even more dangerous after defeating Grindelwald. Nobody could think ill of him, with his disgusting display of being a champion to Muggles and Mudbloods. They didn't even seem to care that the quality of education had gotten worse, not better, since he became Headmaster. The amount of legislation he had seen passed forbidding certain magics, books, and potions was immense. The Dark and grey side of the Wizengamot wasn't big enough to see Dumbledore's legislations denied. He didn't just mean the idiots in the Order, but the old 'light' families; most were smart enough never to get directly involved in the war.

Harry shook his head, feeling very odd; he was actually sitting here having a genial conversation with Voldemort. Or what could be passed as one at any rate. He knew everything now, and Harry honestly didn't know what the hell to say or do. Voldemort didn't even need confirmation, he'd read it all from his mind. Did it matter? It wasn't as if he would get out of here. He was a bloody captive; removed from the very place Dumbledore insisted he was 'safe'.

"You want to know why Dumbledore would send you back to the Dursleys, sets up traps to test you, that could potentially have killed you…yet expects you to defeat me?" Voldemort said softly, his red eyes filled with fire― as if the boy would be able to defeat him as he was. Then again, Dumbledore didn't want to train him; he knew why. Voldemort watched as the boy's head snapped up to glare at him, unable to hide his curiosity fully. Oh, he knew how much Harry dwelled on that. It was in his mind nearly all the time, but he'd resigned himself to never knowing the full extent of why Dumbledore was manipulating him. He was going along with it just to remain in Hogwarts, aware that Dumbledore could see him expelled at any given moment.

Harry gritted his teeth, did Voldemort know? How would he know? He'd just come back from being a spirit for thirteen years. Unless…unless it had something to do with the fact Voldemort went after him in the first place. Oh, he knew Voldemort hadn't been after his parents, just him; had known since last year, thanks to the Dementors. He had so many questions he didn't have the answer to, but the one Voldemort had just asked was definitely on the top of the list. The second one was why Voldemort had asked his mother to step aside, she was after all a Muggle-born, and Voldemort didn't care about them, wanted to see them dead… didn't he? When the silence continued he realised Voldemort wanted him to ask! Well he would be in for a long wait, he wasn't about to beg or ask Voldemort for anything. It wasn't as if it mattered anymore anyway, not unless Dumbledore figured out where he was and rescued him but that thought was ludicrous. If it had been that easy to find Voldemort, the war would have been over long before he was born.

"Haven't you wondered why you have the ability to speak Parseltongue?" Voldemort hissed, becoming amused as Harry twitched. He was beginning to enjoy any genuine emotion he could elicit from the boy. Especially after seeing him defy him for years, then seeing him practically impassive during his rebirthing ceremony. He must admit, he was glad to have a body, but he wanted his true self back; not only would it remind his Death Eaters of their original goals, they might respect him again. He wasn't stupid; he could see how disgusted they were by his new appearance, which hadn't been this bad before this boy had left him nothing but a spirit.

"How can you do that without a snake being nearby?" cried Harry, too surprised to censor his mouth.

"You did it in the graveyard," Voldemort sneered, not as irritated as he ought to have been. At least he had an answer as to why the boy had his ability, they were equals, and once the boy got used to being here then he would be treated as such. He wouldn't be surprised if the boy had other traits that belong to him; one day he would find out.

Oh, he had no idea.

Harry's eyebrows scrunched down as he tried to remember, had he really spoken Parseltongue? He could never tell when he was, could it be because the ability had only been transferred? It certainly seemed like Voldemort had full control of it, but Harry hadn't been able to practice; he'd never used the ability since he was twelve years old. It had been an unbearable year, and he had no wish for it to continue. That was before he'd gotten so sick of the magical world and the people in it, trying to mould him into something they all wanted, yet were perfectly content to let him be a scrape goat. It had been this way for four years now, they either hated him or liked him, and he was tired. None of the other students were treated like he was; it was inevitable really, and people could only take so much.

"You, Harry Potter, are my Horcrux," Voldemort said, his voice smug, sinful, and satisfied, as if he was admitting something extremely forbidden. He couldn't wait until he figured out what it was. The expression on his face…just imagining it made him smirk in a self satisfied way. Perhaps he should let the boy read the book for himself.

A Horcrux? What the hell was that? And he wasn't Voldemorts! Why would Dumbledore care about him being whatever the hell a Horcrux was? He'd never come across anything in reference to a Horcrux before. The way Voldemort said it though... it must be bad to get that kind of reaction from him. Is that why he'd decided not to kill him? How the hell had he figured out he was some sort of Horcrux anyway? Did it have something to do with the potion he'd given him earlier…or the spell he'd cast on him? If it was so bad why hadn't Dumbledore just killed him?

"Come," Voldemort said, opening the cell door. Harry just threw him a look of incredulity. He didn't wait for the boy to follow him; he left the dungeons. It wasn't as if he could get out of the manor wards anyway. It would just entertain him watching the boy try to leave, as much as it would entertain him watching Harry figure out what being HIS Horcrux entailed. He had to go to the library anyway, he wanted to look up on getting his body back; if it brought his loyal Death Eaters closer to him again he would do it in a heartbeat. He didn't want any more betrayals, and he would certainly make an example of Karkaroff in front of everybody.

Harry watched Voldemort leave; had the wizard gone completely insane? Why was he letting him out? Unless he knew for a fact he wouldn't be able to escape. His green eyes went straight to the band around his ankle and his heart sank; could it be? He would find out sooner or later, but he had a feeling that's what it was. Cursing under his breath, he weighted the pros and cons of getting out of this damn cell. He might not get another opportunity, then again Voldemort might be toying with him, it might slam shut as he approached it. Groaning he stood up, edging his way over and grasping onto the cell door; nothing happened, so he stepped outside and began wandering. He was very surprised to find that he wasn't underground; the entire floor was level. So when he left the 'dungeon' door he wandered straight into a grand hallway. It was beautiful, even he had to admit that.

There was a door open to his left, he could hear hissing inside. He stood there for long moments, looking longingly at the front door to his right. Where did he have to go? The Dursleys', to be locked up too? Or to Hogwarts, if they'd even noticed him gone? No, they'd never let him go to Hogwarts, he'd be locked up somewhere else. What difference did it make where he was? At least here he was getting information, although he knew deep down he wasn't going to like what he found out.

"If you are thinking about running, you won't get far," Voldemort stated, smirking at the boy in feral amusement as he watched from the open left-hand doorway.

"Even without this I wouldn't anyway," Harry said, pointing towards the band. Seeing the red eyes flash with some sort of emotion he knew he'd been right, the bloody band would stop him getting away.

"You are smarter than anyone gives you credit for, Potter," Voldemort said. Even he had underestimated the boy, and his intelligence, something he would elect not to do in future. Voldemort moved away from the door and removed books from the shelves, floating all but one over to the desk he was using. He knew curiosity would get the better of Harry; he would want to know what a Horcrux was.

Harry stared back at the front door before cursing under his breath; finally he walked towards the library, dragging his feet. He couldn't believe he was standing a few feet from Voldemort and still alive. It was madness, complete and utter madness. Once he entered the library he noticed that it was huge, bigger than Hogwarts' own library, a lot of the books were dusty old tomes. Nagini was there, that explained the hissing he'd heard earlier. He eyed the snake suspiciously; who could blame him? The bloody snake wanted to eat him. Every snake Voldemort interacted with wanted to eat him, just take the basilisk for example. A book was floating in mid air, although not for long; it actually moved towards him and Harry caught it in reflex when it fell abruptly.

Harry looked at the front, finding the title: Secrets of the Darkest Arts by Owle Bullock. Darkest Arts? Great, he didn't have a good feeling about this at all. The large black tome was faded and peeled, on the back was the date it was written; it was old ― ancient old. He felt those intense red eyes boring into his head, but he wasn't going to give Voldemort the satisfaction of thinking he was getting to him. He didn't care what was in this thing, he wouldn't react, and he wouldn't let Voldemort win.

Opening the index page he found the writing was faded and old, possibly medieval. Information on Horcruxes was on page one hundred and eight. It was, Harry found, completely impossible to try and read such a heavy tome while standing. Staring at Nagini and Voldemort he edged around the furthest corner of the room, keeping his distance from the pair of them. Not that it would save him if he was to be a snake dinner, or if Voldemort decided to curse him, really. It was just his way of letting them know he didn't trust them as far as he could throw them.

Sitting down on the chair he pulled it towards the desk he'd settled at, and laid the book down, flipping until he found the page he required. He had barely read two sentences when he wanted to slam it shut. Yet he couldn't, he kept reading in fascinated horror. His stomach almost wanted to rebel; his mind flashed back to the diary in second year…Voldemort had done this when he was seventeen years old?

"H-how?" Harry muttered, unable to look away from the book; he didn't want Voldemort to see the fear written across his face.

"The book is pretty self-explanatory," Voldemort said, feeling the horror, fear, and exhilarating curiosity through the band.

"No, how am I still here? The diary was killing Ginny, so how hasn't your soul overtaken me?" croaked Harry, and why the hell was he asking Voldemort this instead of running far and fast? But where would he go? Dumbledore obviously knew this... transferred some of his magic into him indeed! What a lot of bullshit! The test in first year hadn't been to make him stronger, or to see how powerful he was…had Dumbledore wanted him to die? Had he hoped he would die at the Dursleys'? Why was he keeping him alive? He just didn't understand…

"It doesn't work like that, albeit there hasn't ever been a human Horcrux before…it is a unique situation; if there has been one in the past, it was certainly never written about. The Ministry of magic tried to destroy all books pertaining to Horcruxes a long time ago, along with all other books on Dark magic. As hard as it may be to believe, Dark magic doesn't automatically mean evil. During Dumbledore's tenure as Headmaster, over ninety books have been removed from the library at Hogwarts. Instead, he has been filling it with books about filthy Muggles, and light magic, and let's not forget all the other classes he's stopped," Voldemort admitted. "The soul-fragment has never affected you before; I doubt it will do so now, it merely gives you the ability to speak Parseltongue... unless of course we are related."

Harry grimaced at the thought, causing Voldemort to chuckle evilly, but his mind flashed towards the Chamber, they had looked so alike…it wouldn't have surprised him if they were distantly related.

"If he knew, why was he keeping me alive? And why the hell haven't you killed me?" Harry hissed, fuming.

"Because you were prophesized to be my downfall," Voldemort said, speaking softly, as he always liked to do when he wasn't hissing.

"Huh?" was the only sound Harry could make, as he stared dumbfounded at the Darkest Wizard in Britain. That was the last thing he'd expected; he was prophesized to defeat Voldemort? He wanted to laugh at the absurdity of it all, how the hell could he defeat Voldemort? Well, he already had, but that hadn't really been anything to do with him, had it? He was finally getting the answers that Dumbledore had refused to tell him. "Say what?"

"A year before you were born, a prophecy was uttered, but my spy was only able to hear half of it before he was discovered and thrown from the premises. It stated that someone with the power to defeat me approaches, born to those who have thrice defied me, born as the seventh month dies," Voldemort whispered, watching the teenager's eyes widen in shocked incredulity.

"They defied you three times?" asked Harry, his lips twitching in amusement.

Voldemort stared at him... not the slightest bit amused. More confounded than anything, the boy was speaking about his parents as if he wasn't hurt at their loss. Then again, he knew you couldn't miss something you never had; yes, it might be his fault, but it was their choice to join the Order and engage in war; he would never have touched them if they hadn't. Well that wasn't true, if the prophecy had still been uttered he would have gone after them, Order members or not.

"Surely I'm not the only wizard or witch that was born as the 'seventh month dies'," Harry muttered petulantly.

"No, there were two boys that were close enough to fit the prophecy," Voldemort explained, "You of course, and Neville Longbottom. I chose you because you were the most like me. A half-blood; I saw myself in you before I even met you."

"Whoa, whoa, wait a minute, you agree that Half-Bloods are more powerful, but you want to go out and kill all the Muggles and Muggle-Borns?!" cried Harry, rubbing his temples; he just didn't get Voldemort's logic at all.

"Who said anything about killing Muggle-Borns?" Voldemort sneered.

"You did, at the graveyard: champion of Muggles and Mudbloods, ring any bells? Muggle-borns are smarter, more motivated, and more powerful than any of your Death Eaters, and you can't deny that!" Harry snapped, glaring at Voldemort.

"Dumbledore IS a champion for Muggles and Mudbloods," Voldemort calmly said, staring Potter down.

"You don't get it! We need new blood, without it we will all end up like Crabbe and Goyle," Harry blurted, disgusted at the thought, almost laughing at the face Voldemort pulled. "Keeping the family 'pure' comes at the expense of squibs, near-squibs, and the pureblood lines are going to fade out."

Voldemort stared blankly at the boy, not sure what to think at the moment. Honestly he was confounded; Harry never reacted like he expected him to. It was as if he was on a different frequency than everyone else; he'd just found out he was a Horcrux and here he was going on about Muggles and Muggle-borns. Even speaking about his parents had done nothing but caused him to smirk and state 'They defied you three times?' as if nothing had amused him more in his life. Yes, there was something about the boy, and he found it impossible to retain his disdain for him. Harry was speaking to him out of turn and he actually didn't care, other than to feel respect that the boy wasn't cowering before him? Why? How could that be? Anyone else would be on the floor screaming in agony at this point, so why was he different? Was it because he recognized that the boy was his equal of sorts? Because he knew the boy was a Horcrux? Unfortunately not, he had grudgingly respected him and his stoic display in the Graveyard.

"There is no such thing as a Mudblood! Or a Muggle-Born; their magic came from somewhere. I'll bet you ten Galleons that you'll find my mother is a descendant from a pureblood line somewhere," Harry snapped, irritated that Voldemort was just looking at him without reacting to anything he was saying.

"You shouldn't make bets you will never win," Voldemort replied, his red eyes gleaming dangerously.

"What's wrong? Scared I'm right?" Harry ground out through gritted teeth.

"This bargain won't get you out of the manor in an effort to escape," Voldemort stated, why was the boy so adamant about this? Did he seriously think it would stop his plans from going forward?

Harry blinked in surprise, both at the fact Voldemort had seemingly accepted the wager and the fact that, for some reason, Voldemort thought it was an escape attempt. He just kept staring the older wizard down, refusing to budge; he would be proven right, and Voldemort would have to rethink some of his strategy. If it saved people's lives in the process then he would consider it a double win; when he was proven right, surely Voldemort wouldn't continue this vendetta he had against Muggle-Borns. Although he wasn't quite sure what his problems against them were, if he was honest. He didn't know much actually, only what he'd picked up during his four years at Hogwarts. Nobody had told him how bad Voldemort was, what his goals had been, or anything of the sort. He'd just been the wizard who had killed his parents and tried to kill him.

"Very well, let's go," Voldemort announced standing up; he found himself enjoying the wary look the boy sent him. Harry had every right to be cautious; he was unpredictable, vicious when he needed to be. The boy didn't have anything to worry about, but he wasn't going to tell him that. He deserved to worry about when he would strike, after everything he'd done. He had to give him his due, when Nagini snaked forward, Harry didn't even twitch.

They walked in the direction he'd come into the library, but instead of entering straight ahead, Voldemort opened a door to the right. It was a potions lab, Harry realized. There was something oddly familiar about the set up, from the way the drying racks were set up, to the bin in the corner, and even the position of the corks in the middle of the table. His heartbeat pounded faster; of course, it shouldn't have even taken him this long― he was an idiot. It was almost an exact replica of Snape's private potions lab, where he had scrubbed clean the cauldrons during detentions, although sometimes that was held out in the Potions classroom. Snape was a spy, but who was he playing? Voldemort or Dumbledore? Did that mean Dumbledore was aware that he was missing? Or kidnapped, more like. What would happen to him if he was removed from here with the band on him? Knowing Voldemort... he actually didn't want to know. It would probably involve more pain, or death actually; Voldemort wouldn't want him to get away.

He gaped when Voldemort set up a cauldron and actually began to brew a potion! There wasn't even a book in sight; he was brewing it from memory. Moving his hand, he pinched his leg and winced, he was definitely awake then, yet he didn't want to believe this was real. This had to be the most absurd day in his life; considering what all he'd gone through to date, that said a great deal. Why the hell was he here? Damn it, he wanted to get away… yet his bloody mind continued to remind him he had nowhere to go.

"No need to look so surprised," Voldemort snapped, irritated at the look he was receiving from the boy, as if he couldn't do anything for himself. "I surpassed Dumbledore's O.W.L.s and N.E.W.T.s; one didn't become Head boy by being insignificant or incompetent."

Harry's lips twitched, he sounded just like he did in the diary, although the one in the book was much easier on the eyes. "Yet instead of taking control of your inheritance and going through the Ministry to get your changes made, you took the path of least resistance, leaving carnage and death in your wake?"

"Do you think anyone would have been willing to listen when they had their hero Dumbledore in charge?!" Voldemort snarled, red eyes gleaming with raw hatred for the meddling old fool.

"You were smart, you could have become the Minister of Magic, and then proceeded to make any change you wanted!" Harry protested. "You would have had the entire female population following you around like puppies, and charmed the men into thinking you were Merlin reincarnated! They're nothing but sheep! They do what they're told and believe everything they hear!"

"I'm sure they would have allowed all Mudbloods to be barred from the magical world. And all the filthy Muggles exterminated," Voldemort retorted sardonically, regaining control of himself just in time to add the next ingredient into the cauldron. Thankfully the potion wasn't a complicated or time consuming one, and soon he would be able to prove Potter wrong. It was however, extremely expensive, due to several of the ingredients that were required within it.

"What is it with you and Muggles and Muggle-Borns?" Harry cried in exasperation. He looked around the lab until he found a seat and walked over to it. His ribs were killing him; he wouldn't remain standing much longer. Sitting down on the stool he continued watching Voldemort. Would the wizard answer him?

Voldemort didn't answer him, deliberately ignoring the question; he did not have to answer to Potter. He didn't like the familiarity the boy had with his youngest Horcrux. He seemed very sure that he could have made the changes he wanted, aware of the inheritance he had, not that it was much. Just a Slytherin vault that the Gaunts mustn't have known about and of course the land and a few properties. They may have been Slytherin descendants, but they were stupid; they didn't even think to ask the goblins or enquire about potential vaults. Harry had even alluded to the fact his looks would have had women and men all hanging on to his every word. If he could get a hold of his diary he would be able to collect the memories of his soul part even if the horcrux itself was 'dead'. If it was even possible, although if there was anything he knew about Dumbledore, it was that he would keep it 'safe' in his office. He was an old fool, predictable but powerful, one that had seen right through him even at the age of eleven. Then he'd kept an annoyingly close watch on him, although nowhere as annoyingly close as after he'd had Hagrid expelled.

"The potion seems easy; I've never heard of it," Harry mused, peering into the potion, before remembering who he was in here with and backed off a bit.

"You wouldn't, it's one of the potions your precious Dumbledore made illegal," Voldemort responded.

"He's not mine," Harry replied through gritted teeth. "Why?"

"Because it requires blood," Voldemort sneered, "He's made all potions that require blood illegal, even if the blood is required to be willingly given."

"Ever thought it was so he could continue the war?" Harry asked raising an eyebrow, crossing his arms, and examining both the potion and the dark wizard. "That potion would allow every single Muggle-Born to see that they had pureblood relatives; if the direct lines were gone they could be in for a substantial inheritance. Dumbledore isn't stupid; he could have prevented your last war."

"You are extremely sure about that," Voldemort said acerbically. "Have you brewed this potion right under Dumbledore's nose?" That thought made him extremely gleeful, more than anything else had since his resurrection. Dumbledore thought he had the perfect little weapon; little did he know he was being played expertly by a fourteen-year-old, who had been playing the game since he was eleven. Sending the boy to the Dursleys to be abused was the single most stupid thing he could have done. The old bastard was under the impression that abuse makes people malleable, desperate for approval, easy to mould and control. He had severely miscalculated; abuse made you strong, defiant, un-bendable like steel, and it was so easy for them to blend into their environment. In other words, Harry had adapted his behavior to what the people at Hogwarts wanted to see, wanted him to be, like a chameleon changing his appearance.

"No; number one, they don't have three of the ingredients required at Hogwarts; number two, it's never been in any book I've read, and three…I wouldn't dare risk it even to prove my point, not at Hogwarts," Harry said. "Until now, my biggest scheme was to stay under Dumbledore's radar until I could get away from both him and my relatives. Which meant my playing by his rules and only doing small things that would be seen as innocuous." What the fuck? Why had he just confessed that? Was he out of his mind? But Voldemort had already seen everything in his memories, so he was only telling him what he'd already seen. This was Voldemort! He'd wanted him dead for as long as he'd been alive. If he didn't kill him eventually, one of the Death Eaters would! They probably hated him just as much as Voldemort did. His days were numbered either way.

Of course, Harry would underestimate the hold Voldemort had over his Death Eaters and how much he valued his own soul.

"Give me your hand," Voldemort demanded imperiously.

Harry gave him a look that suggested he was completely insane. He just knew if Voldemort had a nose it would be flaring dangerously…but as it stood he didn't have one ― which made him slightly more intimidating.

Hissing under his breath, he passed over the needle. "Three drops into the cauldron," Voldemort commanded, his red eyes warning Harry that he was pushing the limits. While the boy had a point to distrust him, he was beginning to tire and quite frankly he'd never been very patient. He was not going to allow Potter to realize how easily tired he was in this borrowed body. Hopefully Severus would bring the potions soon, so he could begin the ritual to reabsorb himself, the main soul fragment from one of his Horcruxes. This would give him his appearance at the age he had been at the time of creating whichever one he used. Snape was the only one he honestly trusted to brew the potion; not even he had the confidence to brew such a complicated potion.

Harry weighed the pros and cons of complying with Voldemort's order. He had nothing to lose; he wanted to prove his point (which by the way he hoped was actually proven), otherwise he would feel like a right idiot. Wait, were those pros or cons? They sounded like cons, but really…they were his pros; he had no cons that he could think of. He was stuck here, there was nothing he could do about it…he would just have to adapt. He'd adapted to Hogwarts well enough, learned how to behave the way they wanted him to. He could never be the boy he'd been for four years here; to be honest, he didn't think he could be that boy ever again. It had been such a struggle during his last days at Hogwarts. Everyone was avoiding him, thinking he had killed Cedric Diggory.

"Stubborn boy," hissed Voldemort, seconds away from cursing the brat; this had been his idea.

"DON'T CALL ME THAT!" Harry snarled, his magic flaring and making his green eyes glow eerily, reminding Voldemort of the night he'd lost his body. Stepping up to the workbench, he prodded the needle into his thumb with more force than necessary, but Harry was used to pain; it didn't hurt all that much. What had he said? Three drops? Well, thought Harry, here goes, time to prove Voldemort wrong... he hoped. Squeezing his thumb over the cauldron, he allowed the three falling drops of blood to blend into in the potion, turning it a vibrant red.

"Watch who you are talking to, Potter," Voldemort spat, breathing heavily, his wand clutched in his hand; of all the impudent things! He had the brass knickers to talk to him that way? Oh, he was so very tempted to curse the boy, and wondered briefly when it would stop. Potter kept pushing his luck, and one day he would snap. He finally forced himself to calm down, still glaring at the unrepentant teenager who looked just as furious as him just because of the word boy. Then again, he had just been in the boy's memories; he had seen things, but it didn't mean he knew everything. He hadn't realized the word would spark such a fury in him. "Dumbledore calls you that all the time; as sickening as it is, you do not react so negatively to him."

"Do you know how hard it was to sit there with a smile on my face when all I wanted to do was punch that smug face and snarl at him not to call me that?" Harry grimaced, shuddering in disgust. "To add insult to injury, I had to make sure my thoughts were what he expected when I met his eyes."

"You knew about it?" Voldemort was extremely surprised.

"I suspected they were reading my thoughts, yes," Harry murmured with a sigh. "I didn't have any definitive proof, but I did the best I could. And considering I was never caught out, it was obviously good enough."

"They?" This time Voldemort caught it, unlike the time he said it in the cell.

"Mmm," Harry said, not elaborating. Was he actually trying to protect Snape, or was he just not willing to give any more information up? Or was he actually thinking Snape would save him? That thought made him want to laugh. Snape was a dark wizard, and the chances of him honestly spying FOR Dumbledore were next to nothing. It made more sense that he'd duped Dumbledore into thinking he'd changed his coat and managed to get the wizard to think he was spying for him, Not for Voldemort. "What happens next?" He wanted to laugh; here he was, asking Voldemort what happens next. Yeah, he was either insane or had begun feeling the first stages of Stockholm syndrome…he didn't know which would comfort him more. Stockholm syndrome didn't happen that quickly anyway, did it? Probably, but he didn't see himself as a victim… but that was a stage of the phenomena about the Syndrome itself. Then again, one could argue he had felt it stepping into the magical world; Dumbledore was an abuser as well. At least here he wasn't expected to sacrifice himself… although the torture might come later…who knew?

"Accio blank parchment!" Voldemort chanted, and as quickly as the summoned item flew at him, as he snatched it out of mid-air.

Voldemort sucked up some of the potion into a dropper, then as quickly as possible spread it across the top of the parchment. Immediately it hardened to a crust, as if it was wax and unable to stay in liquid form without heat. Voldemort tapped his wand against it, saying nothing, but sparks shot out of his wand indicating some sort of non-verbal magic had just been used. Immediately writing began to pen itself out on the parchment, bleeding down further to where it was still rolled up. The parchment got wider and longer as the text went along, accommodating itself for the apparently long family line that belonged to Harry Potter. Handing the competed parchment over, Voldemort didn't try to keep from smirking, he was so sure he would be on the receiving end of ten galleons soon.

Harry accepted the parchment scroll and went to an empty table and unrolled it, surprised at the length it was. He didn't pay any attention to his father's long line, but rather he studied the line belonging to his mother. The further up he got, the more disheartened he felt when he didn't recognize any of the names. There might be one there, but he didn't know all the names; Voldemort might have more luck. Then he saw it; his heart sank, and he wished he hadn't done it ― at all. He stared at the name, unable to comprehend it; he knew the name well, it was imprinted into his mind.

"Well?" Voldemort impatiently snapped when the boy continued to stare at the geneology vacantly.

"You owe me ten galleons," Harry muttered distantly, distractedly.

Voldemort came around the bench; it must be bad, he mused when the boy didn't automatically move away from him like he had been doing. His red eyes widened in frank astonishment when he saw where the boy was looking. The Potter family had been removed from the sacred registry for not being 'truly pureblood', but that was clearly a lot of drivel now. Lestrange; Harry Potter's maternal great-grandfather was a bloody Lestrange. He must have been adopted by the Evans family, since the next name that appeared was Marcus Evans, followed by Harold Evans, then Petunia and Lily Evans. To top it off, Potter's grandmother on his father's side was a Black; the Malfoys made an appearance up the Lestrange side as well. However, the Gaunts name caught his attention; he stared at his own name in disbelief. There were the Peverell brothers, and then the Slytherin line. So much for Potters being in Gryffindor as long as the line had been going. It might not even be due to the Horcrux that Harry had the ability to talk to snakes. They had turned out to be very, very distant cousins. So much for killing off his entire family... well, he had done for at least his immediate line.

Quite frankly, he didn't know what the hell to think. "This isn't to say it's the same for every Muggle-Born," Voldemort stated, not ready to totally concede the point just yet.

Harry grinned at him, and it took Voldemort a second to catch up on why, and he wanted to curse, he'd just said Muggle-Born! Glaring at the boy, he silently told him there would be swift retribution if he dared mention it to anyone or anything. "Still not ready to admit defeat?"

"Do you even know who the Lestranges are?" Voldemort sneered, his red eyes gleaming in triumph. Would the boy be so smug about all he'd learned when he found out they were his most loyal followers? Oh the look on his face would be worth remembering, that was for sure.

"Yes, they tortured the Longbottoms into insanity; they were sentenced to Azkaban for life for being Death Eaters…very loyal to you…they claimed rather loudly that you would be back and they'd be free. That you would reward them most faithfully for trying to find you; the Longbottoms are purebloods!" Harry said pointedly.

"They are," agreed Voldemort. "How do you know what they said?"

"Dumbledore's pensieve," Harry smirked, his green eyes glinting deviously. "The sanctimonious old fool thought I got accidentally sucked into it."

Voldemort chuckled gleefully, he really was beginning to like this side of Potter very much.

"Even if I hadn't, you mentioned them in the graveyard. It wouldn't be hard to figure out they were Death Eaters," Harry pointed out.

"Do you have any idea how many of the sacred lines run through you?" Voldemort asked, feeling almost envious.

"Sacred?" Harry asked blankly.

"Yes, the name for what was thought to be the Twenty-eight pureblood families still 'pure', but the name Potter can be added right back to it," Voldemort stated. "The Lestranges are one of them, as are the Blacks and Malfoys and the Gaunts, which we are the last living descendants from. Sixteen of those families are loyal to me."

"I assume the four founders are part of that?" Harry frowned; Merlin, this pureblood mania was driving him insane.

"No," Voldemort stated. "There is a book written about it by Cantankerus Nott; you may read about it, if you wish."

Harry snorted, greatly amused by the horrific name. Still, he was interested in reading it, to see the situation from someone else's point of view despite the fact it differed from his own beliefs.

Chapter Text

Embracing His True Self

Chapter 6

Rituals

Voldemort drew the rune circle, using his blood in pure form from a large gash in his palm. Inside the runes with him was Ravenclaw's Diadem; this ritual and his Horcrux combined would give him the appearance of his thirty-year-old body, but none of his knowledge would be lost as it merged the two forms together. At least in theory it would, but he was extremely positive it would work― he had done all research. If there was anything he was good at, it would be just that. He would have preferred, but not liked, using his Diary, that would have given him half his soul back, but he was having to use the Diadem; he refused to look like a teenager, not that it was possible at any rate. The diary was lost to him.

Taking a deep breath, he placed the uncorked potion just outside the rune space he'd created, yet within arm's reach so he could grab it when he needed it. Gripping his wand tightly, he began chanting. One by one each rune began to glow brightly, as if it was on fire, as each phrase of the chant reached its crescendo. Three minutes into the chant all the runes were alight with the fiery flames, but it touched nothing but the blood runes Voldemort had drawn up.

Two minutes later a mist began to form around the Diadem, drifting to surround Voldemort briefly before going back into the Diadem. It continued with this cycle until the mist began to become larger each time it went back and forth, until an almighty cloud hovered over the Diadem... before slamming into Voldemort at an alarming pace.

Voldemort screamed in agony, dropping to his knees; he felt as though he was being torn apart again, just like he had that fateful Halloween night. Unbeknown to Voldemort, the other Horcruxes in his desk began to vibrate, but nothing emerged from them, they just felt the presence of their 'host' so close by. Muddled by the pain lancing through him, it took him a few seconds to realize he had to drink the potion…otherwise this torment was for nothing. He just didn't think he could move; no other magic was allowed to co-mingle with the ritual, so he couldn't summon it.

Biting the inside of his cheek, he almost doubled over in anguish just moving his arm but with determination his fingers curled around the unbreakable vial at last. Panting desperately, ignoring the sweat trickling down his body, he drew his arm up, his mouth opening both to take the potion and to scream as his bones protested very heavily at his actions. Gargling the potion, he almost spit it out with a muted scream, but he stopped himself by sheer force of will.

The transformation itself was less painful than his soul piece being rejoined; in fact it was a bit like consuming Poly-Juice potion. His skin bubbled and changed; he was still the same height, but his very pale fingers and hands changed to a healthier colour; skin-coloured, but no less thin―he'd always had elegant, fine hands.

The runes which had just been on fire abruptly blew out as if a sharp wind had swept through the room. The ritual was done; taking a deep breath he wavered to his feet, and began to inspect himself, much like he had done in the Graveyard. Stepping up to the mirror he tentatively touched his cheek, his nose... he had a nose once more. Most importantly, he had his hair back; the only thing that had not changed, he realized, was his eyes. They were still that deep ruby red... he could live with that. No more disgust, no more delays in their plans; he would get his followers' loyalty back and ensure it one hundred percent, and at the same time show what happened to traitors.

Flicking his wand, the blood and the runes were gone leaving the room back in its normal state.

Unfortunately once he was safely ensconced in his bed, his mind wouldn't shut down and let him sleep. His mind kept wondering 'What if?', What if Potter was right? What if all Mudbloods were just descendants from pureblood lines? It meant they did belong in the magical world, but the true Muggles still posed a real danger to the magical world…and Mudbloods came from Muggles; their parents were Muggles, which was still a danger… Squibs shouldn't be allowed leave the magical world. They should remain, it would prevent more influxes of 'Muggle-Borns'. That didn't help all the squibs who'd left before…who knew when magic would spring forth in their families again? Why didn't all the children become magical if they had a pureblood ancestor? Like Potter's disgusting Aunt. Oh, she would die, just as soon as he could get near the family. Potter was his, and nobody hurt what was his and got away with it (with the obvious exception of himself).

Just then Voldemort jumped from his bed as if he'd been scalded, as magic, extremely strong magic, coursed through him, through the manor, and oddly enough, he thought, Potter? Blood wards… impossible…. the blood wards couldn't have just been transferred here! He was the reason they'd been created in the first place… unless… unless they'd never truly held before…until now, for the first time. His declaration of Potter being his had inadvertently caused the wards to spontaneously settle here, of all places. He began to pace, extremely agitated; ever since Potter had shown up things were going wrong. Not bad wrong, just wrong in ways he didn't like.

Merlin, he just wanted to Obliviate the last few days from his mind, go back to the way he was before. His preconceived notions had been shot to hell, in more ways than one.

---------0

Albus Dumbledore lay in bed, thoroughly tired and exasperated. His name was being dragged through the mud; he was moments from losing his position as Wizengamot chief, just because he was trying to alert the world to the danger they were in once more. But that didn't bother him as much as the fact they were also smearing Harry's good name, after he had worked so hard to create Harry in the image of a beloved saviour. He had put him with Muggles to make sure he was humbled, modest and meek, especially when it came to the public. And to build up his image even more, he had put the boy through trials, even setting him up to save the school so the students would tell their parents and news of how heroic he was would spread. Harry was perfect; he couldn't have made him any better if he'd tried harder. Which of course he hadn't, since that had been the Dursleys' job for ten years, and for every summer after he'd started at Hogwarts. He couldn't allow the boy to forget where he truly belonged, after all; he was nothing special, and Harry had to be reminded of that.

No, when the time came, the boy would sacrifice himself for the greater good, allowing him, the great Albus Dumbledore, to finish Voldemort off for good. He would get the praise and accolades while the world mourned their dead saviour, and continue to look to him to lead them. That was the only reason the boy had survived thus far― a dead hero was better than a living one, at least to him. He couldn't have everyone looking to Harry for leadership in the end, now could he? Not with how malleable the boy was; he could make everything Albus had done for nothing.

The only thing that really irritated him was Minerva' constant harassment about Harry's living situation. For the past thirteen years she'd gone on about it; that the Dursleys were the worst sort of Muggles, how Harry was far too skinny when he came back to school each time, and his clothes weren't exactly right. Fortunately with the changing times, Muggles now liked wearing their clothes baggy; hence he was able to get out of that one. Not that it mattered, she'd never let it drop; his only consolation was she fussed about this to him in private. He couldn't let anyone else begin to doubt Harry's living situation. And although he had heard talking here and there that concerned him, he would deal with it soon enough.

He did contemplate bringing the boy to Hogwarts for safety, the Ministry was moving against them, and he knew what they were capable of. He would think on it later, right now he had to allow the wards time to replenish to keep the blood magic appeased and stronger than ever. They were pretty much useless now that Voldemort had Potters' blood running through his veins, but it would still stop Voldemort and the Death Eaters from getting anywhere near Privet Drive. That was the main thing; if he thought for a second that breaking the blood wards would weaken Voldemort, he would do it in a heartbeat.

The Order would keep an eye on the goings-on in the Ministry, and if anything got out of hand he'd bring the boy to safety. He sincerely hoped nothing happened, with all else that was going on; he really didn't want to have to keep an eye on a soon-to-be fifteen-year-old boy. The Order was doing everything they could to get people to join, to see that Voldemort was back; regretfully they weren't having much success. Alastor had gotten three Aurors onside, they were very promising and he was grateful for that.

Glancing at the time, he sighed softly, it was so unbelievably late. Closing his eyes, Albus began to meditate and make sure his mind shields were fully up, giving him peace from all his thoughts and worries. But his mind quieted down at last, and he was just drifting off to sleep when a bright white light caused him to startle slightly. Wide eyed and fully awake now, he sat up. It was a Patronus Message, and it had to be from someone in the Order. Why would they be getting in touch with him so late?

'The wards on Potter's house have disappeared,' the Patronus said in Shacklebolt's voice before it disappeared, leaving the room in shocked darkness.

What the hell? thought Albus, staring dumbly at the space where the Lynx Patronus had been just moments ago. When his mind finally processed the message, he jumped from the bed and hastily began to dress. Not even bothering to remove his nightwear, he just placing a closed cloak over them. Rushing out of his quarters, he closed the door and hastily descended the spiralling stairs in the dark. Only once he was at the bottom did he wave his hands, and his office lit up brightly.

"Fawkes, take us to Privet Drive, immediately!" Dumbledore called out urgently.

Fawkes trilled, calming his human down, before spreading his great magnificent wings. He took fight briefly before landing on the Headmaster, then flaming them from the office to where he had been asked to go.

"Headmaster, what is going on?" Arabella Figg asked as she stared at him in surprise before jumping up from her daisy covered couch. Her cats stared at him before going back to napping; it was night time, after all. She had just been ready to go to bed herself... quite literally, since she'd just turned her TV off.

"The wards have come down," Albus declared, saying nothing else. Fawkes disappeared in a flash of flames as Albus left the squib's home. The old wizard ran down Wisteria Walk, making his way to Privet Drive with haste; he couldn't allow anything to happen to his weapon. He was Voldemort's Horcrux, and only Voldemort could kill him. It was imperative that it was him who did the deed. Since the Dark Lord believed the prophecy, Albus knew that wouldn't be a problem, but he didn't want the boy dead yet, not when the war was just beginning. He needed the boy's aid to help with recruitment for the Order; he brought people hope by just being who he was, as disgusting as that fact was. If he died, people would lose hope; they wouldn't join him in his quest to bring an end to the darkness.

Wand out now, he approached Privet Drive cautiously, but he was surprised to find that there seemed to be nothing out of the ordinary. No Dark Mark, no Death Eaters, no Voldemort; the area was in darkness. Some houses were still lit like a beacon, but... nothing. Flicking his wand, he realized it was true; the wards were gone. What on earth had happened? If Petunia had done something stupid, he would make sure it was the last thing she did.

"Kingsley?" Albus whispered, looking around the area in front of number four, where Kingsley was keeping watch over the property.

"I'm here," the Auror answered, removing the cloak keeping him invisible to everyone.

"What happened?" demanded the Headmaster.

"I was watching the house as usual, when I felt as though thunder was going through me; the wards caused a backlash," Shacklebolt said while rubbing at his chest as if it pained him. It was a good job the wards hadn't been more powerful; he dreaded to think what would have happened in that case. The probability of his heart stopping due to the magical flux was extremely high. "When I came around, the wards were gone. I cannot feel anything."

"Is Harry still inside?" Albus asked, playing the concerned Headmaster. Nobody would ever find out he was more than willing for Potter to die to end the war. They loved the boy too greatly to forgive even him if they found out; no, it was a secret that would die with him when his time was up. Which would definitely be decades after Potter. What the world didn't know... wouldn't hurt them.

"He should be, but I've not seen him," Shacklebolt admitted. "I was only unconscious for a few seconds until the wards snapped completely." He would never admit how painful it had been, and that the only thing keeping him still standing upright was his sheer stubborn pride.

Making a small noise of agreement, Dumbledore moved onto the house's front step, deeply concerned. The wards should never have broken like that; there was something going on, something he'd missed. He'd impressed the importance of maintaining the wards to both Petunia and Harry; neither would have dared disobey him. Opening the letter box, he pressed his wand inside and chanted out a spell to let him know how many inhabitants were in the dwelling at number four Privet Drive. He expected four to be the total; after all, there had been no attack, he just had to figure out what happened to the wards.

Yet the results were extremely alarming, only three people were in the building. He calmed himself down; just because there were only three people here, it didn't mean anything. Perhaps the husband was out, or the son; there was nothing to say Harry wasn't there. "Point me, Harry Potter!" Dumbledore stated calmly. When his wand didn't even twitch... he became rightfully alarmed.

"Point me, Harry Potter!" Dumbledore declaimed once more a little louder, but again nothing happened.

"He isn't here," Dumbledore admitted, and the boy was obviously out of range for the spell to pick up his magical signature. This was not good news, not good at all.

"He has to be. He hasn't left the property, not on my watch," Shacklebolt objected; he hadn't been outwitted by a fourteen-year-old, he knew that much.

"Alohomora!" Albus muttered, letting himself into the house, not seeing it as breaking and entering―after all, he was Albus Dumbledore.

"Lumos!" Shacklebolt chanted, giving themselves some light as the two wizards began moving around the main floor of the house, checking for any signs of something having gone wrong. Maybe Harry had been killed in the backlash of the wards coming down? The thought left Kingsley cold, but there was no sign of anyone down here. They were probably asleep; it was late. "Downstairs is clear," he whispered so as not to wake the Muggles up.

"Let's check his bedroom," Albus said, before he began to make his way up the stairs. The climb took no time at all, as the house was small. Well, at least compared to Hogwarts and all the stairs they had to climb every day. He was utterly perplexed; where was the boy? He couldn't have gotten past the Order members.

"What the hell?" Shacklebolt muttered on seeing all the locks; why did they have a dozen locks on the door? Not that they were intact, in fact they weren't even latched. Pushing the door open, his wand waved around the room, which was bare. It looked like a squalor area. The room was disgusting, dusty and just extremely shabby, especially when compared to the rest of the house. Considering the boy didn't spend much time here, he might understand why it was bare, but the griminess of it was truly disturbing. "It doesn't even look like it's been used lately; we need to inform the Order, Albus, and find out when they last saw him."

"Yes, we do," Dumbledore agreed looking around. None of this place screamed that a wizard lived there. His trunk and possessions weren't even there. Had the boy run away? When he got his hands on the boy, young Harry would rue the day he decided to try and neglect his duties. He didn't dare wake the Muggles up, so he would have to wait until tomorrow morning to speak to Petunia. He didn't have the same thoughts for the rest of the Order though, as he quickly removed the coin from his pocket and scheduled an emergency meeting.

They had to begin looking for Potter straight away before it got too late.

-------0

Half An Hour Later

"Do you have any idea what's going on?" Tonks asked as she rubbed her sleepy eyes, slumping down on the at least clean chair in the dirty townhouse, aptly named Grimmauld Place. To think her mother had often been here to see her 'aunt' or cousins, Reg and Sirius... Oh, she knew a lot of tales, and they usually made her smile. Not tonight though, since she'd just gotten off a twelve hour shift at the Ministry one hour ago, only to have to make her way here.

"No," Remus replied, shaking his head. He'd made coffee for everyone; it was sitting on the table for them to help themselves. He'd received the meeting notice half an hour ago, but he was already staying in Grimmauld Place anyway so he hadn't had to travel. He had a lot of apologising and catching up to do with Sirius, after all.

"Who's missing?" Tonks wondered, looking around to count heads. Snape, Shacklebolt and Dumbledore; they were the only ones who had yet to make an appearance, she saw.

"Does anyone want some biscuits?" Molly asked, tamping down the urge to do something, anything. She was always anxious these days, despite the fact her family was completely safe here in Grimmauld Place, along with as Hermione Granger. The kids were fast asleep, not that they would hear anything since Albus put pretty strong wards up to keep their meetings a secret.

"No thanks," various voices murmured tiredly.

"How long do we need to sit here for?" Charlie asked his father; he had just gotten here from Romania to help with the war and was exhausted.

"Not long," Arthur assured him. "If you want go back to bed, I'll let you know what happen―" he cut himself off as the Headmaster, Severus, and Shacklebolt made their appearance through the kitchen door. The wards were promptly thrown up by a worried looking Dumbledore. Arthur Weasley wasn't used to seeing the Headmaster looking anything but sure of himself, so he was quite rightfully alarmed by it. Severus moved into the corner, arms crossed as he stared at nothing in particular and looking to be in an even worse mood than usual. Severus did look more exhausted than the rest of them, probably due to his duties; Arthur couldn't help but feel sympathy for the saturnine wizard. It couldn't be easy facing You-Know-Who and lying to him successfully on a routine basis.

"Who was the last person to see Harry Potter?" Dumbledore demanded, not even taking a seat; he stayed standing at the head of the table staring at them grimly. He was speaking solely to those who had been on Potter-watch duty.

"Well…I saw him the second day, doing the gardening," said Dedalus Diggle.

"What's going on?" Sirius asked urgently. What was wrong with his godson?

"Has anyone seen him the last few days?" Dumbledore asked ignoring Black, deceptively calm.

The silence spoke volumes as they looked at each other.

"Where is Harry?" Sirius shouted; he did not like being ignored. "Is he alright?"

"He is…missing," Dumbledore cautiously said. "The wards around Privet Drive have disappeared this evening."

Suddenly everyone who had been tired and sleepy ... discovered that they weren't feeling so tired after all. That grim news had certainly woken them up, injecting fear into their systems.

"What would cause them to disappear?" Molly asked worriedly, wringing her hands together as her fear grew.

"They shouldn't have, that's the problem," Shacklebolt said, evading her question somewhat.

"What do we do? Start looking for him?" Doge asked, sitting up straighter.

"It's too late right now, we have no idea where he could be, and cannot search the Muggle world in the dark. I will ask Tom if he's seen Harry at the Leaky Cauldron ― hopefully he has gone there," Albus said, taking back control of the meeting. Everyone knew that the boy had done that the last time he'd run off. He would also be summoning the Knight Bus, to ensure Harry hadn't used the bus service to go anywhere else.

"We can't just sit here and do nothing while he's out there alone," Sirius cried, worried for his godson.

"Sirius, there is nothing we can do right now. We have to be smart and cautious about this; we must remain calm. He has no doubt gone to the Leaky Cauldron like he did before," Minerva said, agreeing with Dumbledore and supporting him like she always did in public. "Albus is right, Tom will know."

Sirius grudgingly nodded his head, his godson had done that the last time, after all, so he saw no reason why Harry wouldn't do it again. Why had he left Privet Drive to begin with? Didn't he understand the bloody dangers out there now, with Voldemort back? "When we find him, can he stay here?" Sirius asked, his voice hopeful.

"No, he will be going back to his Aunt and Uncle," Dumbledore immediately said.

Sirius just shook his head without replying, giving in, and not demanding anything further.

"I'll begin searching for him in the Muggle world as soon as it's light enough," Remus volunteered.

"I'll help!" Tonks said, always eager to help, "I'll be fine as long as I get to the Ministry on time for my shift."

"Good," Albus said agreeably, "I'll call another meeting later, hopefully by then Harry will have been found." His mind wasn't as easily calmed as his sheep were, though. Although, it was obvious that Harry had left on his own accord, his trunk and all his magical items were gone. If the boy had been kidnapped, he certainly wouldn't have had his things taken with him. He was just worried what could happen if they didn't find the stupid boy first.

"Should I go to the Burrow in case Harry decides to go there?" asked Molly.

"No, it's unsafe to go there, you know that," Albus said immediately. He didn't want her dying on him and leaving him with heartbroken Order members; they would be no use to him like that.

"Why don't you just write to the boy?" Severus suggested sardonically, barely refraining from rolling his eyes. They were idiots, the lot of them.

"I will," Dumbledore said, twitching in irritation at the tone of Severus' voice; he didn't appreciate it at all. He put up with a lot to keep the dark wizard close, since Snape was one of the few Order members to bring really decent information to the table, due to his spying on Voldemort. He kept them one step ahead, otherwise he would have ensured a timely demise for the snide git. The Potions master had brought a lot of trouble to him over the years, especially with the way he treated the students. He could say nothing against it either, since that was exactly how he wanted Snape treating Potter.

"Do we tell the children?" Arthur asked, not sure what he could say to Ron ― how did you tell your son that his best friend had disappeared off the face of the earth?

"Nobody else can know; the more people who do, the more chance of the dark side finding out. That cannot happen; we must get him back," Dumbledore said almost violently at the thought of other people finding out.

"Alright," soothed Arthur, trying to calm the seemingly unhinged powerful wizard down.

"Keep your coins close by," Dumbledore demanded before he quickly Apparated away. He had to speak to Tom immediately.

Severus was the first to follow Dumbledore's lead and Apparate away; he had no desire to spend any time with the idiots in the Order.

---------0

The Leaky Cauldron was always open, it was the pathway between the Muggle and Magical world, so it was an important establishment. Although, you wouldn't think so just looking at it, and luckily Muggles couldn't, not unless they were with someone magical, of course. Tom wasn't on at all hours though; he had someone working for him during the night for those patrons that needed anything. They didn't serve food during the night ―the kitchens were closed― but they still sold alcohol.

"Is Tom available?" Dumbledore asked, wasting no time.

"No, sorry, he's not," the young wizard replied, barely looking up from his current task.

"I need to speak to him; it's urgent," Dumbledore stated sharply, in no mood to play around. "Tell him Albus Dumbledore needs him." Tom stayed in the Leaky Cauldron, it was his home as well as his job. It had been in the family for two generations, and Albus had known the publican since he was a little boy, clambering around the pub, talking to the patrons.

"Yes, sir," was the night man's swift reply, and then he was moving towards the office and opening the door. The other door on the far side of the office led to Tom's private rooms; he'd never had to disturb him before, so he was a little hesitant.

Knocking on the door firmly, he waited with bated breath.

"Who's there?" came the groggy reply.

"It's Ross, sir, Albus Dumbledore said he need to speak with you, it's urgent," the young wizard tentatively replied.

"I'm coming," Tom said right away, "Let him know I'll be there momentarily."

"Yes, sir!" Ross said immediately, scampering off to tell the wizard what Tom had asked of him.

"He will be with you in a minute, sir," Ross said upon finding the wizard still waiting.

Albus nodded grimly, giving no other thanks or recognition for what the young wizard had done. Waiting impatiently for Tom to make an appearance, each second felt like hours to him; he was feeling at the end of his tether. He didn't think he would get any sleep tonight; he was far too worried about his weapon to rest. Sighing inaudibly, Albus couldn't help wishing he had just kept an even closer eye on the boy; sometimes he was more trouble than he was worth. If he wasn't so important to his plans, he'd leave the brat to make his own way, danger and all; it would be nothing more than he deserved.

"Albus? What can I do for you?" Tom asked, appearing from the office doorway and staring at the Headmaster in obvious concern.

"I need to speak to you in private," Albus said, not wishing for the other wizard to overhear them.

"Of course; take a break," Tom said to Ross, flicking his wand and casting a privacy bubble around them without even waiting for Ross' reply. "What's wrong?"

"Have you seen Harry Potter lately?" Albus urgently asked.

"Harry? No, I've not seen him for a year now," Tom answered; the last time he had seen him was when he had come to them from the Knight bus. Gave everyone a right scare, the boy had, disappearing when the infamous Sirius Black had escaped Azkaban prison.

"Are you absolutely positive?" Dumbledore urgently pressed.

"Yes, in times like these I always demand ID; he hasn't come here…has he gone missing?" Tom asked, concerned for the little boy he remembered so well.

"Yes, but you cannot speak of this," Albus gravely told him.

"Of course, you can count on me; if he does appear here, I'll let you know at once," Tom reassured the genial Headmaster, so concerned now for his missing student.

"Thank you, Tom," Albus gratefully said, his grandfatherly mask firmly in place.

"I'll keep an eye out," Tom added, after a few seconds of silence, Albus just stared behind him, lost in thought. Unlike everyone else, Tom believed Harry and Albus about the fact You-Know-Who had returned.

Albus nodded before Apparating away, to the wards of Hogwarts. Then removing his wand, he slashed it down in a downward motion. Seconds later the large purple tripe-Decker was in front of him, and Stan was giving his speech about the bus.

"Have you had Harry Potter on this bus?" Dumbledore firmly inquired, cutting off the wizard in mid-spiel, having no interest in anything he had to say.

"Potter? No, he hasn't called the bus," Stan said, looking at the elderly wizard in confusion.

"Are you sure?" Dumbledore asked again, keeping the desperation from his voice.

"Yes, sir," said both Stan and Ernie, staring at Dumbledore now in apparent interest.

"Thank you," Dumbledore said before twisting away and storming off towards the school. Just wait until he got his hands on the boy, he would regret it deeply. In fact he wanted so badly to send him a howler... But he couldn't risk him being in a Muggle environment; an owl would just have to do. If it came to that, he would just follow the owl and see if he could get his hands on the boy that way. Stupid boy, always interfering and messing up perfectly good plans; why, of all people, had it had to be him? Even Longbottom would have been preferable; at least that boy did what he was told.

Chapter Text

Embracing His True Self

Chapter 7

Dilemmas and Disturbances

Severus sat in his rooms, which were deep in the dungeons of Hogwarts, a place that had always been a sanctuary for him. Nobody came down here, not even Albus Dumbledore, although he would Floo call him from time to time, but mostly he just used Patroni Messaging. He had created the idea during the last war, or at least he was taking credit for it. For all he knew, Albus had taken credit for someone else's work; he wouldn't put it past the old hypocrite. Severus sat swirling the tumbler of whiskey in his hand, his face utterly conflicted as he stared into the flickering flames of the fire, not really seeing it in front of him.

He had absolutely no idea what to do. It was obvious the Dark Lord didn't have Harry; if he did, he would have called all the Death Eaters together once more. At least he assumed the Dark Lord would have called, he would want to show that Harry escaping more than once was just sheer happenstance ―blind luck― and that he always got his way in the end. It had been something he admired about the Dark Lord, his tenacity; he was willing to go to any lengths necessary to get what he wanted. That was, he'd admired it until his Lord began hunting down toddlers because of a stupid seer's words. He was so conflicted; his loyalty had always been to the Dark side. He was a dark wizard, it was…natural to him. But so many books, spells, and potions had been adjudged 'dark' just because of ignorance and fear. Of course, this was just on the British Isles; everywhere else wizards freely practiced Dark Magicks. Durmstrang was a perfect example; they had actual defence classes, not just the rubbish they taught here.

His brow furrowed as he tried to work out what was going on with the Dark Lord; he had been acting very…curious since his return. Not curious as if he was doing things differently, it was the questions he'd asked, and the potions he'd requested. The Dark Lord had never been a vain man, as evidenced by his deteriorating looks over the past few decades before his downfall. The Dark Lord certainly wasn't malnourished, so he had no real reason for those potions either.

He knew it was only a matter of time before word got out about Harry's disappearance. This left him in a very tight spot; did he tell the Dark Lord and risk him finding the boy he was doing his hardest to protect? Or did he keep silent and end up cursed into next week for failing to inform him? With that was the very real possibility of falling totally out of favour and having the Dark Lord kill him as a traitor. Which he would be in that case. Not to the cause; the cause was always his own, close to his heart. Muggles should never know about magic, and he should be able to freely brew whatever potion he felt like, without 'breaking the law' just because some idiot had come along and labelled it 'dangerous'.

Raising his empty hand, he rubbed at his temples, feeling torn in two. This couldn't continue, it had almost torn him apart over the year he'd had to endure it last time. Even then he had felt as though he was betraying all that he was, all that he would ever be. He wasn't a light wizard, but unfortunately his ties to the past kept him precariously teetering on a thin line of rope.

Dumbledore of course had been so eager to have someone so far up in the enemy's ranks in his flimsy Order that he'd tried to emotionally blackmail him into it. He had allowed the old coot to think that he'd succeeded, but he'd always made sure that the information he passed along was nothing that could bring the Dark side down. Even during that time the other Order members were just a bunch of sitting ducks, getting picked off one at a time. He'd watched their pained faces, mourning the loss of each member as the organization slowly all but crumbled. Then the worst thing imaginable happened: not only had the Dark Lord died, he had taken out the one thing, the one person Severus cared about before being disembodied.

He had assumed Dumbledore would have had him arrested with everyone else, until he realized that Dumbledore somehow knew the Dark Lord would be back. He had sworn a Vow while in a tight spot, swearing to help Harry defeat 'Voldemort' when the time came. It was just too bad the boy was as light as they came, since the Vow would have been negated if Harry didn't want help to defeat the Dark Lord. No, he was now in a tighter jam than ever. He wished he could trust the Dark Lord to tell him everything. Unfortunately he was just…too far gone, too obsessed with the prophecy and killing Harry, instead of trying to convert him to their side. The thought of it happening now though was laughable; the Dark Lord had killed the boy's parents, and had tried to kill Harry numerous times over the years.

Gulping down the whisky, Snape realized that the cube of ice was already gone, indicating how long he'd spent lost in thought. He still had no idea of what the blasted hell he was going to do. Severus didn't so much as react to the burn surging down his throat; the clink of the class hitting the arm of his chair and the crackling of the fire was all that could be heard. Why the hell did the Dark Lord have to believe in a stupid prophecy? And why the hell did Lily have to be so bloody damn pure and honest and good ― joining the Order which had sent this entire situation down this path. He didn't have any faith in predictions; you chose your own path, which in a way was exactly what the Dark Lord had done. He had chosen to go after Harry, and this was the results of it.

Where was the damn boy? Why run away? Why now? The boy wasn't scared of anything. It was quite frankly infuriating how fearless he was; it had made him utterly impossible to protect. For some reason he didn't think the boy had run away; if he had planned on doing so, he wouldn't have waited until now, he would have done it years ago, surely? Unless the pressure was getting too much for him; everyone seemed to forget he was just a fourteen-year-old boy. He too would have buckled under the pressure of being expected to face such a powerful wizard at such a young age. Still, this was so out of character for Harry that he just couldn't believe it.

Groaning under his breath, he stood up, unaffected by the alcohol, or rather not impaired; he'd only had two glasses spaced out over so many hours, he honestly hadn't kept track. Flicking out the flames burning in the fireplace, he carefully ensured they was thoroughly doused. Grasping a handful of Floo Powder, he stepped into the fireplace and yelled in his destination: "Spinners End!"

It wasn't long before he was standing in his childhood home; everything was covered in a small layer of dust that had accumulated while he was away. He didn't linger long, merely regained his footing before he Apparated to his next destination. Now there was no way for Dumbledore to trace him to there; to Spinners End, yes, but not to the Dark Lord's hideout.

Taking a deep breath, inwardly he was unable to believe what he was about to do. The urge to backtrack and return to Hogwarts was strong. If he told the Dark Lord and Voldemort found Harry first, he really didn't know what he would do. Looking back wistfully, he summoned up his steely courage and resolve. The Dark Lord knew he was here now, he would have been alerted the second he Apparated onto his land. Stepping forward, Snape suddenly stopped in confusion. Rippling tendrils of his magic out, he was surprised to feel blood wards on the property. He could sense something vaguely familiar about them, or the magic itself, but for the life of him he couldn't figure out what. Regardless of that, he could feel the wards humming... welcoming him into the property? Baffled to the core, he stalked up the path and into the building, not sparing another glance at his surroundings as he walked with purpose towards the hall the Dark Lord used to greet them in. His mind was still dwelling on the wards; there was something going on, he just couldn't put his finger on what.

Severus entered the room, his gaze falling on the figure in the middle, sitting on the Lord's seat. His jaw unhinged momentarily before he regained his iron-clad composure. He could scarcely believe his eyes: it was not Lord Voldemort standing in front of him... no, it was Tom Riddle. Somehow, someway, the wizard he'd only heard about, and whom the elder generation had revered was back. His heart thumped dangerously fast in his chest; if the Dark Lord was sane…and went back to his old goals…this was going to tear him apart. Well, more than it already was. Breathing deeply, he tried to steady himself; unfortunately, sane or not, he would continue going after Harry.

In fact, the Dark Lord looked to be as deep in thought as Snape had been just ten minutes prior.

"You have news, Severus?" Tom demanded. His snake-like quality might be gone, but the demanding steely undertone was very much still present. He might look different but those red eyes could still burn holes in you without any effort whatsoever.

"Harry Potter has gone missing from his home," Severus managed to get out without stuttering, feeling as though his heart was about to explode. He had actually done it; he prayed that the Order somehow managed to find the boy before the Dark Lord did. He hated this feeling of confliction, at this rate he was going to go grey before he turned forty.

"Missing?" Tom repeated. Well of course that was what they would think. After all, he had brought the rest of the boy's possessions to the manor, after going through them thoroughly to remove the tracking charms that had been placed on various items. The first item he'd discovered to be spelled was the boy's glasses; he had to admit he would have placed one on those too. There had been others placed on Potter's invisibility cloak, his owl, and last but no means least, the photo album which he had not opened, allowing the boy that much privacy at least.

"Yes, My Lord," Severus respectfully confirmed, surprised when no move was made to start searching for Harry. What was he missing? He was receiving jarringly fragmented pieces of puzzles, unfamiliar attitudes; had he somehow slipped into an alternative universe?

"I see," Tom said, remaining calm, taking delight in the obvious confusion and wariness he could feel coming from Severus. "Anything else?"

"Nothing. The Order will begin scouring both the magical and Muggle worlds to look for him," Severus stated, sneering out the word Muggle with distaste and heavy disdain. There would never be love lost between him and a Muggle; he loathed them all, not necessarily enough to kill them, but he'd rather never go near one.

"Keep me appraised, and I will send a House-Elf for the potions I requested in twenty minutes," Tom curtly replied. "Now go, before he gets suspicious." Dumbledore believed that Severus or any of his Death Eaters only came when called after all.

"My Lord," Severus said, nodding curtly before he turned and left the way he came.

Lord Voldemort watched him leave, blood red eyes boring into his back. He wanted to trust Severus, and he really did. If there was anyone whom he could feel kinship with, it would be that wizard, maybe even Potter as well. Three wizards with Muggle blood in their veins, three of the most powerful wizards in the magical world…Muggle-borns who could potentially have magical ancestors. He didn't want to believe it, yet the evidence was staring him in the face; he needed further proof though. He needed the blood of some Muggle-borns to test, to see if there was magical blood in their veins.

Who would have thought love would somehow enable people to change their beliefs more thoroughly than fear could? He had always considered it a weakness, but now he realised it was what motivated most people. It was the same reason that stopped his most loyal from coming to him when he needed their help most. Oh, he wanted to believe they thought him dead, but that wasn't true, his mark had still been present; faded, true enough, but still there, proving he was still alive. But they had been too terrified of his ways to find him and continue with the quest they had all at one point believed in.

He would have to change, he realized, if he were to have any hope of his most loyal remaining that way... if they even were still loyal now, or just serving out of fear. He couldn't help but curl his lip; he wasn't a man fond of change, in fact he loathed the very thought of it, but to get things back to the way they were, without the prophecy clouding his vision... It would take time for them to trust him again.

-----0

Harry groaned weakly, sitting himself up as he rubbed at his temples. He felt as though Dementors were circling around him; with the obvious exception of not being cold he exhibited all the other symptoms of their presence. He felt like they'd been sucking the life out of him; straining inwardly, he realized it wasn't life he felt drained of... but his magic? What the hell had happened last night? He had proved to Voldemort that his mother wasn't a 'Muggle-born' witch, but a descendant of magical people. The Lestranges, of all people. He had noticed Voldemort's shock at the appearance of the 'Gaunt' family; he wondered who they were, and why he'd been so shocked about them. Maybe there would be more information in the library; if he was going to be forced to stay here, he might as well make the most of it.

Standing up, he had to hold onto the wall as a dizzy spell hit him. Harry concentrated on breathing evenly as he squinted to see around himself as always without the aid of his glasses. He had expected to be escorted back to the cell he'd been in before, when Voldemort had had enough of him, or rather, just got too exasperated and angry to be anywhere near him. He was actually surprised he hadn't been cursed; Voldemort must be losing his touch, not that he'd ever tell him that. Instead he had been shown into a very…gorgeous room, and he hated to admit it but it was pure luxury. There was a queen-sized four poster bed beside a sliding door that opened out into a balcony. An ensuite next to it, a built-in walk-in cupboard... it was the kind of place he'd always imagined owning some day in his dreams of when he was free of the Dursleys. Other than the bed it was empty though; everything looked brand new, as if it had just been bought. The wood still had that new smell to it, as did the bedding.

The bedroom door was open, he noticed that it didn't even have a lock, not that he was surprised; even if it had one, it would be easily unlocked. It was a simple spell, one he'd known even at the age of eleven: 'Alohomora' he thought to himself. He poked his head out the door and looked towards both ends of the corridor cautiously, expecting who knows what to be lurking there, but nothing, not even a sound could be heard. As he made his way down the corridor, he went back to his original though, what had happened last night? A frown appeared on his face as he continued to walk; there was a very familiar feel to this place, a feel that shouldn't be there.

Just as he was about to open the last door, he finally realized what it was that he now sensed: the blood wards! The wards that had kept him 'safe' in Privet Drive. What the hell were they doing here? Why had it affected his magic? Why would they protect this house? They were supposed to protect him from the only other person that was here!

"Come in, Potter," Tom demanded.

Harry shuddered at the feeling of déjà vu he experienced, flashing back to the dream he'd had last year on, quite frankly, almost this very day. The dream where the snake, Nagini, was telling Voldemort that a Muggle was at the other side of the door... before he killed Franks. He was just someone who had been looking after the property even after the Riddles had died. Harry understood why he had been able to see out of Nagini now; he was a Horcrux, just like Nagini was. They were connected to each other, just like he was connected to Voldemort.

Harry opened the door reluctantly, finding himself in some sort of hall, which was doubling as a dining room apparently. There were plates full of breakfast foods lying on the table, and his nose caught the smell of it all, causing his stomach to rumble hungrily. Then his half blind eyes caught sight of Voldemort, causing him to freeze, and gulp loudly. Holy shit, thought Harry to himself, as an unfamiliar emotion swelled through him but left just as quickly. He continued to stare at the wizard dumbly.

What. The. Fucking. Hell. Was. Going. On? Harry thought, feeling as though he was going insane. Voldemort was changing his looks and attitude faster than Draco Malfoy went through new robes. It was like looking at an older version of the teenager from the Diary Horcrux during his second year.

"Lost for words, Potter?" Voldemort asked, smirking in satisfaction. As always, it was amusing being able to elicit genuine emotions from the boy. Harry was squinting to see properly; it was the first time he'd noticed it, perhaps because the boy had infuriated him too much for him to notice before.

"No," Harry said, immediately snapping into gear, glaring at Voldemort for good measure and arching an eyebrow at the hand that twitched.

"Drink these," Voldemort commanded, placing three vials of potions on the table beside him.

Harry wasn't inclined to do what he was told... especially considering he was being held captive by Voldemort. Yet his mind returned to what had happened in the dungeons what felt like days ago.

"I do have other means at my disposal to ensure they are taken, Potter, and I guarantee you won't like any of them," Voldemort snarled, his patience completely gone. To damn bad the Imperius curse wouldn't work; it had been humiliating when the boy had successfully broke out of his curse, and in front of his Death Eaters no less. Inwardly he knew it had nothing to do with magical prowess, but rather with the boy's mental state; his mind was unyielding. He would find Occlumency and Legilimency a piece of cake, of that he had no doubt. "I think I've proven by now that I do not want you dead, otherwise you would be."

"What are they?" Harry asked; none of them were familiar to him, just like the potion from the healer and the heritage potion Voldemort had brewed.

He was seriously reconsidering having let Potter out of that cell; did he grate on everyone's nerves like he did his?

"One will correct your eyesight, another will heal your injuries, and the last one will give your body the nutrients you've been missing thanks to those despicable Muggles," Voldemort replied, spitting Muggles out as if it was the nastiest of words.

Correct his eyesight? He liked the sound of that… "Let me guess: the potion to correct my eyesight is illegal?" Harry asked sounding indignant.

"No, it's just extremely complicated and expensive, only a few Potion Masters can even brew it," Voldemort explained; was that anger he heard at the unfairness of potions being termed illegal? Perhaps it wouldn't take much to turn Potter to him after all.

Snape was Harry's immediate thought, he knew he was right without even having to wonder. Which meant what? That Snape was really on Voldemort's side? Or was he really spying? Did he dare drink the potion? What if there was something wrong with it? No, he doubted Snape would mess up a potion intentionally; he wouldn't risk his cover or Voldemort's wrath this soon in the game of war that was currently brewing on the horizon. He had no choice anyway; he wasn't under any illusions that he really had a choice. Voldemort would force him to drink them one way or another; he still couldn't get used to the fact Voldemort wanted him kept alive! Still, it was better than being hunted by him, he mused quietly, especially considering he really didn't want to fight him. It didn't mean he wanted to be stuck here though, but as he'd already thought several times before ― where else could he go?

------------0

Tom stalked up the stairs to where his most loyal follower was currently healing from the mental damage done to him after spending over a decade under his father's Imperius Curse. For a wizard who hadn't been in Azkaban, he was in very bad shape, not just mentally but physically as well. It made Tom despair at the state he knew his other followers would be in; the thought that he might have lost them to insanity was disheartening, to say the least. He couldn't help but also wonder what the Lestranges would think upon learning that Harry Potter was related to them. He knew they would react negatively, unlike the teenager he currently had in his home. It didn't seem as though much could trouble Potter; had he truly been through so much that little bothered him anymore? Or was he just that good at hiding his genuine emotions? He hadn't been when he was eleven.

The child he remembered had been very vocal back then; nothing had changed in that respect, he was just more bitter at the world in general. Yet his emotions had been obvious in his face, in his eyes... much like his mother, who had stood defiantly in front of him, refusing to move aside. That sort of foolhardy courage and pride was what he liked in his followers. It was just too damn bad that Dumbledore continued to get his claws into generations of children and convince them that his goal was to exterminate all Muggle-borns. At the beginning it hadn't been, things had just gone bad towards the end there, along with him losing his sanity.

Opening the door to Crouch's room he observed what was happening. Voldemort knew the healer realized he was there by the stiffening of his spine. The wizard was still deeply uncomfortable with him, but he was loyal, and that was all that mattered. "How is he?" Tom demanded of Grant.

"He's doing much better, My Lord," Grant said respectfully. "He will be fine to get up and about soon," although, he thought unhappily, it hadn't been good for him to have been taking Poly-Juice Potion for nearly a year on top of everything else. He had to stop himself gaping, he knew without a doubt that it was his Lord but his looks had changed so rapidly since he saw him last.

"My Lord," rasped Barty, trying to get up, to see if he was needed. He wondered if his sight was playing tricks on him.

"Stay down," Tom ordered, his red eyes flashing in irritation.

Almost immediately Barty stopped moving, doing as he was told.

"I have a guest in the manor. He is not to be touched under any circumstances; if he is…death is the consequence for anyone stupid enough to disobey me," Tom commanded, his tone showing just how serious he was.

Barty desperately wanted to ask who it was that the Dark Lord held in such a high esteem, but he didn't dare. He would find out sooner or later, since his Lord was kind enough to allow him to stay here... since he had nowhere else to go. Not only was he 'dead', but if he tried to claim any of the Crouch estate he would end up back in Azkaban before he could draw another breath. He was essentially homeless; regretfully there was nothing he could do about that. Ever since he had returned he had been going from one emotion to another so fast it felt like he was getting whiplash. He didn't know what to think anymore, and that new look of his Lord's just wasn't helping matters. He'd heard of the Dark Lord and his good looks, mostly from Lucius' father, and later from his portrait. He had assumed they were exaggerating, having being so enamoured with the Dark Lord... but boy…he was wrong to have doubted them. "Yes, My Lord," he said, realizing belatedly he had not replied to his demand.

"Good," Tom stated sharply. He knew Barty would heed his warning; it was the others he was more concerned about. He didn't have to be worry about that yet; it would take a while before he could break his people out of Azkaban. He had quite a lot to organize before then, including finding out if Dumbledore was guarding the prophecy. With the Headmaster already knowing he was back, he wouldn't put it past the old fool to guard it. With his flimsy Order, he probably wouldn't have many people guarding the room…with Potter 'missing' he might not even have anyone guarding it. Still, it was a bit too risky to try for it at the moment until he knew more. He still had to know what it said, but regardless of what it did ― everything was already set. He couldn't kill Potter, wouldn't kill him; he couldn't risk destabilizing his soul any more than it already was … he had no idea what killing another part of his soul would do to him.

So it didn't matter what the prophecy revealed in the end, but he still had to know what it said.

Turning swiftly, he left the room without saying another word. Tom returned to his office, and sat down in the dark room, his scarlet eyes zoning in on the piece of paper showing Harry Potter's family tree. Could the boy be right, or had he just been lucky? It wouldn't be the first time, it was as though Potter had been bottle fed Felix Felicis at birth. The amount of luck the boy had was just utterly irritating and diabolical. Although Tom mused, it was perhaps a good thing, now; not only would he be immortal as long as the boy lived, he could potentially gain one of his greatest allies.

He just needed to know which buttons to push. Dumbledore was evidently already one of them. How the boy didn't hate the filthy Muggles he didn't know. He hadn't been abused to the extent the boy had, yet his hatred was sealed... but it wasn't solely for that reason. No, the war also had had a huge impact, even though he'd never admit that to any living creature.

There was one way to know for sure whether the boy was right: administering the potion to other Muggle-borns. The thought made his lip curl in disgust, but if the boy was right ... his plans would need to be altered to make sure Squibs couldn't leave the magical world ― that way he would prevent another influx of Muggle-Borns. He found himself startled by his thoughts, had he just made plans without first knowing whether the boy was right? Damn Potter to hell, he was getting under his skin and into his mind, spreading his peace-to-all-living-things attitude at the same time.

The wards alerted him to the fact Grant was now gone; Pettigrew was in the kitchen, no doubt hiding from him. This thought brightened him up and caused him to smirk. Potter was in his library, and Barty was still in his room, which did surprise him. He'd expected the wizard to get up regardless of his orders to find out who he had placed strictly off-limits to any harm. His followers might think he didn't know them but that was far from the truth, he knew them better than he knew himself sometimes.

To test Potter's theory he would need someone with access to Muggle-Borns; that only left him with one option: to use Severus to find out for him. This wouldn't be possible until after the summer holidays; he would demand Severus do it with the first-years when Hogwarts started back up. That way the ignorant children wouldn't have any idea of what was going on. They wouldn't know enough to tattle back to the fool Dumbledore and bring attention to Severus' orders. The Potions master was more important than finding out if Potter was right or not, at the end of the day, since it was vital he always knew what the enemy was up to. That is, if Severus was truly on his side and providing accurate information; there was just no way to know unless he set the wizard up. He had no reason to suspect anything as of yet, but if he did have to... he wouldn't be pleased.

Tom didn't even twitch when Nagini slithered into the room; he merely moved his hand so it trailed down her body as she slithered by until she'd wrapped herself around his chair and across his lap. She was perhaps the only living creature that hadn't reacted to his new looks. She was just as always, happy to have someone taking care of her. Whoever said snakes were independent creatures had it wrong, not that he cared what others thought of snakes.

"Master? What's wrong?" Nagini hissed, sensing his chaotic emotions and wishing to help him even in the smallest measures.

The Dark Lord had to remember that it wasn't as safe as it used to be to speak to Nagini... not with another parselmouth in the manor. The disgruntled look on his handsome face would have had Harry laughing uproariously; too bad he wasn't there.

---------0

Severus himself sported an extremely disgruntled look on his face as he stared at the disgustingly normal house. The lawn was immaculate, not a blade out of place; the plant beds didn't have a single weed in them. The magical world wasn't messy per se…but this was a nightmare. It was too Muggle for his tastes; how had he ended up here? Oh yes, Dumbledore, as always demanding his presence. It was odd that he hadn't allowed Minerva to come, she usually went with him... Snape wished Dumbledore had let her. No, instead he had demanded him and Moody to follow him.

Severus made no attempt to hide his disgust; Dumbledore would just assume it was at the situation and being so commanded. The old git would never come to the conclusion that he still loathed all Muggles, which he did; Dumbledore was just blind to his true character. He had been all too easy to convince of his change of heart, but the only thing he'd cared about was saving Lily... which hadn't turned out well at all, obviously. The rest Dumbledore had assumed on his own, and Severus wasn't about to clue him in otherwise.

It seemed only Moody could see through his masks, although he hadn't even looked at him suspiciously since getting out of that blasted trunk of his. It had affected the paranoid Auror more than he cared to admit; it probably stung more than a little that his 'old friend' hadn't even realized it wasn't him. It made Snape inwardly grin in feral satisfaction at the thought of Moody in there, biding his time under the assumption that Dumbledore would figure it out and he'd get out. Those thoughts had surely tapered off after the first few months. Oh yes, he would never let the Auror live it down... and he was just waiting for a time when he could bring it up and rub it in his scarred face.

Severus reluctantly moved closer when Albus began knocking on the door. Then to his horror the biggest, fattest teenager he'd ever encountered answered the door. His black eyes were wide; how on earth could the boy get around the house? Had they enlarged the doors to make sure he could fit? Dear Merlin, Muggles truly were insane ― he was surprised Potter was so thin if this was the sort of family he'd grown up with. Getting anything he wanted, even if it was evidently unhealthy; did the parents not have even a small measure of control with either boy? This boy looked unpleasant but the words out of his mouth made him even more so.

"What do you freaks want?" Dudley grunted, staring at them rudely. He knew they wouldn't use their magic on him ― his parents told him that they weren't allowed.

"Hello, Dudley! We're here to speak to your parents, are they here?" Dumbledore asked, eyes twinkling brightly as if nothing pleased him more than to talk to the boy. Truth was, he was admiring the boy's tendency to make Potter's life as unbearable as possible. He couldn't have planned that better if he'd decided to ensure it had happened himself. The boy's parents had created such a child in Dudley as he had known Potter would turn out to be like if he'd been left in the magical world to be pampered. It proved his decision right at the end of the day... not that it mattered, as Potter would still die sooner or later.

Dudley grunted before turning his back on them and lumbering towards the kitchen. The House shook in his wake, almost groaning under the stress of having such a heavy-set burden day and night to hold up. "MUMMY, DADDY! THE FREAKS ARE AT THE DOOR!"

"Freaks?" Severus questioned, his face twitching in anger at being called such, that vulgar little word. It brought back memories of his childhood, specifically ones dealing with his father and Petunia… Surely she hadn't raised Harry calling him a freak? No, the woman had adored Lily…although they had fallen out when Lily had gone to Hogwarts. They must have made up at some point since Petunia had been at her wedding. He'd heard the rumours about Black terrorising them from the other Order members. He heard the boy squeak when he spoke before he disappeared from view altogether.

"Regretfully Harry didn't have as good a childhood as I hoped," Albus sadly lamented, his twinkle gone and his body hunching as if he'd just suffered a physical blow of pain.

"Which means what exactly?" Severus asked coldly, the sinking feeling in his stomach causing him a great deal of concern.

"What do you want?" Vernon Dudley barked loudly, his beady eyes looking around them at the neighbours. He could just see their faces pressed up against their windows seeing the freaks in front of his home. He was perfectly normal and he didn't want the neighbours thinking otherwise. They were supposed to have the freak for the rest of the summer according to the crackpot old fool.

"Do you know where your nephew is?" Moody also barked loudly.

Severus stared straight at Vernon Dursley, the bad feeling in his stomach growing to epic proportions. He saw that Vernon reacted to the word 'nephew' as if it physically repulsed him to have a nephew. This wasn't the reaction one had to a nephew they cared for.

"The lazy freak has disappeared," Vernon grunted, gesturing towards the stairs and having nothing further to do with them.

Severus' eye twitched; neither Dumbledore nor Moody seemed surprised by this attitude. Why? Surely Dumbledore wouldn't send Potter here if he knew…then again, he had basically admitted that he had sent him back here knowing his childhood wasn't 'great'. Dumbledore had this huge tendency to underestimate things, or rather understate them, as the case may be. He had to find out just how 'not good' Harry's childhood had been; it seemed as though he might be looking at why the child had chosen to run.

Stepping into the house, Severus moved towards the first door on the left and peered into the living room; nothing. Moving swiftly towards the kitchen, he saw her there, sitting down with a cup of coffee. Three large packets of biscuits were lying on the table between the two biggest people he'd ever encountered. The sink was overflowing with what he assumed was the remains of breakfast... they surely had just eaten? Yet they were eating again; he told himself he really shouldn't be surprised. His eyes narrowed in on Petunia― she hadn't changed the slightest in all the passing years, other than becoming sourer, it seemed.

"YOU!" she spat, her brown eyes glimmering with disgust and a good amount of fear.

She remembered him then; good, he would find it easier to get answers to his questions. "Where is Potter?" Severus demanded; in the background he heard Albus entering and Moody lumbering up the stairs in a second attempt to find some sort of clue that Shacklebolt had missed, no doubt.

"The lazy boy didn't come out of his room when I called him to make breakfast; he wasn't anywhere to be found," she said just as bitterly as her statement of recognition had been.

"You heard nothing?" Albus patiently enquired, as if he was used to dealing with Petunia's attitude.

"We told you, the boy disappeared," Vernon shouted. "Now get out of my house, and don't darken my doorstep again! You told us when we took the boy in we wouldn't have to deal with you freaks!"

"The wards are no longer as…efficient as the blood wards, we really should find somewhere safer for you; Voldemort might come here," Dumbledore said; he couldn't let anything happen to them, after all. The boy would go back to them with or without the blood wards.

"The freak isn't here, he has no reason to bother us!" Petunia sniped, adding, "Leave us alone."

"Do not be so easy to dismiss my advice, Petunia. I cannot spare the people to watch over the house; we must concentrate our efforts in finding Harry," Albus warned.

"Then go and find the brat, but do not bring him back here," she said, sick and tired of Harry and the wizarding world... who were forcing their presence on her and her family. Of course she knew Dumbledore would just force her to take Potter back in, so the longer he remained gone the better it was for them.

Severus was quite frankly aghast at the manner in which she was speaking; she genuinely held no love for Potter. He had assumed the boy had been spoiled beyond comprehension, pampered and doted on by her. How could he have misread everything so egregiously? For a child who spent his life ignored…he did display all the signs, he belated realized…but they could be construed as a disregard for the rules. He was used to being ignored, so he didn't ask for the teachers' help, instead he just tried to help on his own.

In the kitchen of Privet Drive ―the home of the Boy-Who-Lived― his preconceived notions were shot to hell.

Albus hearing Moody clambering back down the stairs and went to investigate, hoping his old friend had found a clue as to where Potter was. The tracking charms he had put on the boy's possessions had vanished; he was either under the wards of an un-Plottable property, or he had found and removed them. The second was as unlikely as the first, so he wasn't sure what to believe anymore; what he did know was that Potter was getting harder and harder to control every year.

"Anything?" Albus enquired, his tone genuinely desperate.

"Nothing, everything belonging to the boy is gone; there's no sign of a struggle or magic. It seems as if he's left on his own accord," Moody muttered darkly. Of all the foolish decisions the boy had made ― this topped the list. He was in a significant amount of danger and he decided to run away? Now they had to look for him and keep Black from freaking out... No, they'd leave that to Lupin. Although they might need the werewolf for his sense of smell if they caught up to Harry and get close enough that his scent still lingered. They would worry about it when that time came; they just needed to get the boy before something happened they couldn't repair... like death at the hands of the Death Eaters or Voldemort.

"Then there is nothing for us here, they didn't see or hear anything," Albus told him, frowning in concern.

Severus stared down at Petunia, only half listening to the other wizards' conversation. She was worried, terrified really. Uncaring of the consequences, he slid into Petunia's mind, meeting no resistance ― not that he expected any; she was a Muggle. Then like a film reel, he summoned all of her memories dealing with Potter and they played for him like a movie on fast forward. She knew he was doing something, and was able to see the same memories he could, but her attempts stop him were futile. Her memories showed Severus that the problem wasn't just them ignoring Harry, it was abuse…but she rarely lifted a hand to him. She just doled out the occasional smack with anything close to hand... such as a frying pan. It was mostly Vernon Dursley who was physical with Harry. Snape viciously ripped himself from her mind, causing her to feel faint and clutch her head in agony.

Vernon opened his mouth to roar at the wizard, what about he didn't know but since he blamed magic for every little thing... this was no exception. Unfortunately he wasn't able to, since Severus had viciously penetrated his mind, making no secret of what he was doing ― not that it mattered, since neither Albus or Moody had returned to the kitchen. He couldn't blame them; these were the most disgustingly rude people on the planet. That was the nicest name for them really, he thought as he watched Vernon's memories of Harry's life under this roof. Severus removed his wand, his face filled with seething fury as he pointed it straight at Vernon's heart. He would be saving other people the pain of having to look at him. He should kill Dursley where he stood and save two boys in the process, before the disgusting brat ended up more like his father than he already was…Snape had a feeling it was far too late. There was no hope for Dudley Dursley; he would probably die before he reached his thirties, the way he was going. Severus' grip on his wand tightened as he fought with himself; killing Dursley in the open would only grantee him a one-way trip to Azkaban.

"Severus?" Albus called, sounding slightly irritated ― not to anyone else, but Snape knew Dumbledore well enough to know when he was losing his patience... and incidentally his mask of kindness along with it.

He gave the Dursleys a look of such utter loathing that conveyed the depth of his emotions. His eyes blazed with 'I'll be back'; the Dursleys would die, just as soon as he could do it without drawing suspicion on himself. Not that it would, really, after all he 'hated' Harry Potter, so why would he kill his family? Dumbledore had to keep that impression at least; he couldn't let him find out how he really felt.

"Let's go," Severus coolly stated as he emerged from the kitchen, his face a calm, composed yet bored mask. He left the Dursleys trembling in fear, two of them with massive headaches and the knowledge that their actions had been laid bare for the wizard to see. When he left he closed the door behind him, sparing a vicious smirk at nothing; they would regret their actions. It wasn't solely for the fact it was Harry Potter but because he detested abuse ... and what had happened to Harry was as bad as it could get. He didn't blame the boy for running, he just had to find him before the Order and the Dark Lord did, and keep him safe from those who sought to use him or kill him.

"Where is the boy?" growled Moody; he had no idea where to start. He shifted the hat he had on his head, making sure it covered his magical eye. Despite the fact it was covered, he could see perfectly clearly with it ― as if such an item would fool his eye. He had on trousers that went down his leg, covering his wooden stump.

It was a good question, Severus thought; where would a boy go to hide? He wouldn't be stupid enough to go to the magical world or any of his friends. It would be a question of whether Harry had taken money from his vaults, or stolen from his family to stay in a motel or hotel. He wouldn't stay in the immediate vicinity; if he was smart he would have walked a few miles before stopping. Was he seriously contemplating hunting the Muggle world for the boy? He hated this world, but he did know a great deal about it. He and Potter would never get on, but they didn't need to for him to make sure the boy was safe. With narrowed, thoughtful eyes he followed Albus and Moody back to Grimmauld Place where the rest of the Order were already waiting to get their orders. The idiots would end up lost; they didn't have a clue about the Muggle world.

It would have been hilarious watching them try ― if he wasn't on a mission himself now:

Find Harry Potter.

------0

"Has Ron said anything?" Albus enquired, staring at Arthur.

"Nothing, he's unaware of what is going on, as per your request, Albus," Arthur firmly insisted.

"How about Hermione?" Minerva asked, worried about Harry being out there alone. If anyone, Harry probably trusted Hermione the most.

"No, they've not been in touch with him…perhaps that's why he's done this?" Molly suggested. She was loaded down with guilt at the thought of anything happening to Harry.

"Does she suspect anything?" Albus asked, knowing the girl well enough to know if she did suspect something, they wouldn't just be keeping an eye on Black and looking for Harry, but keeping an eye on the determined witch too.

"I made it sound like we were making sure that they were sticking to the rules," Molly said brushing it off. Evidently she was not as concerned as Albus was when it came to Hermione Granger, perhaps brushing off the teen's intelligence at the same time.

Severus sat through everything stoically; his mind wandering like it hadn't before. Were Granger and Weasley using Harry? Telling Dumbledore everything the child said and did? Were the Weasleys using Harry's desperate desires for a family to make sure he stayed light? The thought quite frankly sickened him to the core. He'd thought he had seen it all, by both sides.

Severus stood up abruptly, not even waiting for Albus to give them leave as he walked out of Grimmauld Place's kitchen and Apparated to Spinners End. He barely landed on his feet before he was pacing back and forth in his small living room, his cloak swishing behind him and knocking the empty potion vials he had on small tables skittering around to the floor.

His world was being torn asunder; any remaining loyalty he had drained completely. Not only that, but his hatred of Dumbledore heightened exponentially. He had no idea what to do; if he thought he was stuck a day ago…well, he felt even more conflicted and torn than ever. How did he protect Harry Potter without breaking his word? His Lord wanted Harry dead; he refused to allow it. The Dark Lord wouldn't stop until Harry was dead… and the light would never let him go and would continue searching for him even if the Dark Lord took over; they believed wholeheartedly in Harry being the one that must end the war, just because Dumbledore said so.

His stomach finally rebelled against the images he'd seen of the abuse and he vomited violently down the sink in the kitchen... which he made it to by the skin of his teeth. He had failed in his vow ― all thanks to Dumbledore. Would he even be able to convince the boy to stay hidden if he found him, or had the manipulations run so deep that he couldn't even contemplate the thought of being betrayed?

Chapter Text

Embracing His True Self

Chapter 8

Musing

Harry sighed softly as he walked out of the bedroom and ambled towards the library, his thoughts chaotic. He was still shocked at what he’d found out, that he was a Horcrux, but it made a lot of things make sense. All the tests... it had been Dumbledore’s way of trying to get him to defeat Voldemort, or at least trying to get Voldemort to kill him, and with it the piece of his own soul that was currently inside Harry. Either way, Dumbedore hadn’t cared in the slightest what happened to Harry, and it had made him furious. All those years of playing by his rules just to survive…and that was what Dumbledore had wanted all along. It made him long to wrap his hands around the old fool's neck and rip his head from his insufferably smug person. He didn’t like the thought that he had been played, but considering how old Dumbledore was… he was just a novice at the game.

He’d gone from one prison to another all his life; would he ever be free to do as he wished? He did acknowledge that his situation could be worse; just because he was a Horcrux, it didn’t mean Voldemort had to let him roam around this place, but he did. He was getting fed here, something he didn’t get at the Dursleys'. Voldemort really didn’t need to give him all this freedom, so why do it? Just because he didn’t want to kill him anymore? Life was bloody odd, that much was certain. No, Tom was trying to get him on his side, he realized; after all, keeping someone locked up only worked for so long, before they got away or were rescued. You were actually better off getting them on your side, that way they would fight to remain where they were, and wouldn’t try to escape. Would Voldemort do that? With only a minuscule chance of it succeeding? It just didn’t sound like Voldemort, but what did he really know?

It was a very good question; Harry wondered to himself as he lifted the book on the sacred lines off the shelf, and sat down on the window sill. It was a comfortable seat; it had predictable green padding around it. What did he truly know about Voldemort, other than his history? And of course, what had been fed to him by Dumbledore over the years, as well as what was in the newspapers. Those were hardly the most reliable of sources, but Voldemort himself admitted to wanting to kill all Muggles. Why? He also wanted to kill Muggle-Born wizards and witches; again, why? He was adamant about it, but he’d never given him a reason so far.

Harry scoffed at his own thoughts. Why did he want to kill Muggles; as if that was a hard one. He knew he couldn’t possibly be the only Muggle-raised wizard or witch to be abused by their Muggle relatives. Apparently even being abandoned caused you to turn into the Darkest Wizard the world had ever seen.

Harry's head jerked up when he heard the flapping of wings. ‘Hedwig!’ Harry thought, but his heart was dismayed when he realized that, no, it wasn’t his faithful owl companion. It was a tawny brown owl, like the ones you usually see at Post office, although a few of the students in the school had them also. His hand went to the window latch and he paused briefly; would he even be able to open it without the bracelet on his leg reacting? Knowing Voldemort, it would be something incredibly painful. It was obvious Voldemort wouldn’t let him get out, not that he wanted to chance it. He had absolutely nowhere to go... and he would never crawl back to Dumbledore; the thought turned his stomach.

Well, he’d never been a coward before; he wasn’t about to start now. He opened the window and allowed the owl to come in. It hooted much like Hedwig did when she was delivering something to him... although Hedwig didn't hoot, she churred. It flew onto his leg, causing Harry to grin; he hoped Hedwig was okay wherever she was, and was able to hunt. If anything happened to her…then there would be hell to pay. Removing the string around the bird’s leg, he absently stroked its head and neck; they loved it when you did it. Although, he had met his share of owls that loathed being touched by anyone other than their owner.

Then just like that the owl took flight, flying back out the window and away until it was nothing but a blot on the horizon. He loved flying; it made him feel free, as free as that owl had looked. He always hoped he was some sort of Animagus that had wings, so he could fly without a broom. This library had books…there was probably one on Animagi? And from what he knew, you didn’t need a wand to transform. He didn’t have anything else to do, though, so why not?

Opening the paper his eyebrows shot up, as the headlines blazed in front of him.

 

Boy-Who-Lived Missing - Running away from the lies?

 

Harry’s nostrils flared as he read the article, then he squashed the newspaper as he tried to keep his cool. Merlin, he could fucking kill Rita Skeeter, the lying, manipulative, disgusting bitch. It didn’t surprise him that the Ministry were all too happy to go along with the lies, making him seem even more deluded and a murderer to boot. Dumbledore had apparently ‘declined to comment’ after being ‘unavailable’ for the past twenty-four hours. Of course he would be; by the looks of things, the shit had hit the fan. Was Dumbledore’s ‘Order’ out looking for him? Fuck knows who the hell was in the Order, other than Sirius; probably Remus, Moody, oh, and the Weasleys, maybe even professor McGonagall… Not to forget Snape, if he was a spy ― but the spy for who was the big question.

“Now what has happened to cause the ire of Harry Potter?” Voldemort drawled, staring at the boy from the door. The band had alerted him to the window being opened; he had assumed the boy was trying to leave so he'd begun to make his way to the library. There had been nothing further but a pang of heartache from the bond, then pure unadulterated hatred scalded him. Hatred he understood, he revelled in it, really; then he saw the boy sitting with the paper. Now, the paper had worked in his favour since his return, making Dumbledore out to be a meddlesome old insane fool. It had always amused him, but he knew it wouldn’t last. They would be praising the old man's name before long; it made his lips curl in disgust.

“Why did you decide not to be Tom Riddle any more, then change your name to Voldemort only to make everyone too scared to say it? Doesn’t it kind of defeat the purpose of the name change?” Harry asked, staring at Voldemort blankly. Not that it was easy to think of him as Voldemort any more, with the way he looked now. It just reminded him of ‘Tom’ in the chamber of secrets; Voldemort was the face on the back of Quirrell's head, the snake-faced bastard he’d faced at the end of the tournament. Tom…Tom was the seventeen-year-old who’d tried to kill him with a sixty-foot basilisk. A boy who had been exactly like him, was exactly like him, but who'd chosen to hide behind a created persona instead.

“Evidently not everyone is too scared to speak it,” Voldemort said, irritated. He did not owe the boy an answer to that question, and so elected not to give one. He hated being called Tom, or reminded of his Muggle name, and the boy continued to bring it up; why he didn’t curse him into next week he didn’t know. It wouldn’t harm his Horcrux; after all, he’d put him under the Cruciatus Curse before.

Harry shrugged his shoulders, “I find it ridiculous, that's all. It took Hagrid three tries to actually say the name loud enough for me to hear: You-Know-Who, and it’s pathetic. He didn’t deserve what you did to him.”

A derisive snort left Voldemort’s mouth. “I blamed him falsely, yes, but the events that transpired afterwards were solely Headmaster Dippet’s choices. If that idiot couldn’t tell the difference between something that petrified the students and something that could only bite, that is not my problem.” Then he added, “And I am to believe you wouldn’t have done the exactly same thing if the roles had been reversed?” knowing full well the boy would have done so. He would have killed his own relatives if he knew it would have enabled him to stay at Hogwarts. The boy could lie to his heart's content, but he had seen the darkest recesses of Harry's mind, he knew his darkest dreams and desires.

Harry’s jaw almost dropped. Well, he hadn’t said that when he was in the diary the last time. When you thought about it…it made him feel like an idiot. Frowning, he began to think about it. From what he could see when Cedric fell, he did look petrified like Mrs. Norris; if the two conditions looked so much alike, how could they distinguish the difference between a killing curse and a petrification? For that matter, how could they expel Hagrid without a shred of evidence, even if the Head boy had said something? Then again, when had the wizarding world ever needed proof before they condemned anyone? he thought with savage disgust. “When has the wizarding world ever needed proof before condemning anyone?” he sneered his own thoughts aloud.

Would he have done the same thing? Well, the only reason he’d gone on those crazy adventures was to keep Hogwarts open. If there had been no other alternative…he would have. That made him feel like a terrible person, but he would have done anything to stay away from the Dursleys. It was survival of the fittest; you did what you had to do.

“Well, would you have?” Voldemort pressed, his ruby eyes twinkling in vindictive pleasure. He knew what the boy would do, whether he would admit it or not. He took great delight in bringing out people's baser, animal selves, making them acknowledge what normal society would condemn them for. Apparently, though, he’d brought it a bit too far out with Bellatrix; he would need to rein her in. If such a thing was even possible at this point; he would just have to have the damage assessed by his healer.

Harry didn’t rise to the bait; he just gave Voldemort his best blank stare. He knew that look well, and he didn’t respond to it anymore; Vernon usually got that look in his eyes when he screwed up. Of course, it had been a long time since that had happened; instead his uncle just pounced on him for half-assed excuses. Harry shook off his thoughts, determined not to dwell on them; it wasn’t like Vernon could hurt him here. No, here he had to watch his back from every single Death Eater…and Voldemort. Just because he’d left him alone until now, it didn’t mean things would stay that way. He might just be lulling him into a false sense of security, although he wasn’t sure if he believed that. Voldemort liked to play games, but not these kind of mind games.

“Breakfast is ready, take your potions,” Voldemort snapped, disgruntled. The boy was more Slytherin than he had anticipated, which would mean getting through to him would be more difficult. When he realized how he'd sounded, he added in a silky, threatening tone, “Ignore it, and you will wish you hadn’t.” Then he turned around and stalked through to the dining hall that he had anticipated using as a meeting room between him and his Death Eaters.

Harry knew better than to think Voldemort wouldn’t follow through on his threats, which probably just made him want to defy them all the more. Then he saw something out of the corner of his eye. Narrowing them to get a better look, his heart jumped into his throat. It was fucking Pettigrew! Now he was worse than pissed off. Hearing the chittering he’d been familiar with for three years made him grind his teeth. Moving into action he ran towards the door, timing it perfectly, and then he just happened to accidentally stand on the rat.

An unholy squeak turned abruptly into a scream of agony as Peter Pettigrew turned back into his human form once more.

“Potter!” Voldemort hissed, his eyes gleaming; he glanced down at Pettigrew before dismissing him.

“What?” Harry responded, staring at his captor with exaggerated innocence while making sure there was no mistaking that he had in fact actually meant to do it.

Voldemort glared at Harry for his impudence, but he had bigger things he needed seeing to than Pettigrew being healed.

“It’s hardly my fault, he shouldn’t be sneaking around spying,” Harry stated, the obvious implication behind it laid bare for them all to hear. Glancing at Pettigrew, he was finding it increasingly difficult to keep his emotions in check. If he thought he could get away with it, he would strangle the rat where he lay still crying in pain. He felt that Pettigrew was pathetic, and he allowed that emotion to show through. Not that he could have stopped it, really.

Even without a wand the boy was able to cause havoc; he should have known. Feeling his true emotions while observing the boy, he realized Potter was able to conceal his feelings extremely well. Considering he had been able to try and eject him from his mind, it shouldn’t have surprised him. He had already admitted to himself that the boy would be good at Occlumency and Legilimency. “Get over here,” he hissed in warning. “Now,” he added when the boy had the audacity to glare at him.

Harry fought with himself for a few seconds before the smell of the breakfast did it for him. Shrugging his shoulders he stepped over Pettigrew; looking down at him, he smirked in a way that said he would be doing it again, the first chance he got. If he was stuck here, he might as well have some fun. Part of him did wonder how far he could push Voldemort before he did something in retaliation. Although, he did get the feeling Voldemort couldn’t care less about Pettigrew. Or would he be like that no matter what he did? Hmm... well, he’d consider that a personal challenge.

“Leave us!” Voldemort demanded of Pettigrew.

Staring at the potions, Harry could scarcely believe this was happening… he had been kidnapped by Voldemort, kept alive, allowed to roam, was being given potions, and no matter what he did ― Voldemort didn’t seem to care. It was fun pushing his buttons but he only went so far. It had definitely been more fun to get Pettigrew back though; he would need to do it again very soon. He heard the wizard (if he could be called that, really) whimpering some more as he practically crawled out of the room, terrified of what Voldemort would do if he didn’t go.

“Stay here,” Voldemort ordered before he was out of the room, locking the door behind him. He’d planned it that way; he couldn’t let Potter have a free rein when he wasn’t there to stop him. It was becoming apparent that he wouldn’t be able to leave him with Pettigrew, otherwise he would come back to find one of them dead. He would put all his money on Potter coming out on top; as much as it turned his stomach to admit it. The boy had a knack for getting out of the most damning situations intact. Even when he wasn’t trying to kill him, it still irked him something rotten.
Harry stood up and moved towards the door and tried to open it; it wouldn’t budge, unsurprisingly. Smacking his fist against it, he swore under his breath before wandering towards the windows and looking out, but he was unable to see anything. Grumbling under his breath, he sat back down and began eating hungrily. His stomach was getting used to three meals a day now. He was recovering much quicker with the potion; if he got out of here and into a situation like that again, he would need to remember to take a nutrition potion. His own thoughts made him laugh; there was no way he was going to get out of here. Voldemort had made sure of that, he wasn’t sure how many times he’d tried to remove the bracelet with no success.

‘What was he up to? Who was here?’ Harry wondered, ‘And why didn’t he want him seen? Pettigrew knew, and he was the weakest link as far as Harry was concerned. Then again, he knew Pettigrew rarely left Voldemort’s side, so there wasn’t much chance of someone finding out from the rat. What would Dumbledore do if he knew he was here? Harry wondered, as he scarfed down his breakfast as quickly as possible. Kill him in hopes of destroying the Horcrux, now that he was, what? Expendable? Unreliable? Terrified that he would join Voldemort for real? Did Dumbledore even consider it a possibility? Had he played his part so well that Dumbledore would have decided not to kill him? No, a big resounding no. What would Sirius think? Would he side with Dumbledore and let him be killed if he learned the truth?

Once he finished his breakfast, he moved back over to the window, taking his book with him. He wanted to see who was here, if anyone was; but he didn’t see any other reason for locking him in this room. Opening the book, he began to read about the sacred lines from a pureblood’s point of view. The smugness literally dripped from every word on the page; admittedly, the author did write why they were so important. From what he could gather and understand, it was like a hierarchy, with the sacred lines at the very top. They were powerful, wealthy, and had a big influence on the Wizengamot and the Hogwarts council, which was a set of twelve governors at the moment. Apparently there were supposed to be more. What was not explained was how they were important on the Wizengamot…wasn’t that just a bunch of wizards who decided on whether a Witch or Wizard was guilty and sent them to Azkaban?

He was curious; he would need to see if he could find a book on the Wizengamot as soon as he could get out of this room. His brain was beginning to get cramped with all this new information he was trying to digest. It was like he was finally turning into Hermione, but the information he was absorbing was vital in understanding the Death Eaters… maybe he might be able to stop the mindless killing, if nothing else. Anything he could do was a good thing, since apparently he wasn’t going to be able to do much else. He’d already proven that Muggle-born students were just descendants from some pureblood family whose magic had died out. Surely Voldemort wouldn’t be able to dismiss the information? The look on his face had been hilarious; what couldn’t be denied was that his mother hadn’t been the ‘Mudblood’ he’d spat at her.

What would his mum think right now? She’d just wanted him to live; this was him, living whether he liked it or not. It was better than looking over his shoulder wondering when Voldemort would strike. Of course…the same still applied, he apparently just didn’t want to kill him. Did it really matter what they thought? The part that wanted his parents' approval so badly screamed yes, but the more realistic side, the Slytherin side, if you would, knew they were gone. Living his life to please them would just make him miserable. He would have been different if he'd been raised by them, but he hadn’t; he’d been given to abusive sons of bitches who had taken delight in trying to squash the magic out of him... as if such a thing was possible. Harry believed they had made him more powerful, more aware of his magic, even if he hadn’t realized consciously what it was.
Realizing he wasn’t going to be out of here any time soon, he began to read the rest of the book.
------0------

Severus accurately Apparated exactly three miles east of his current location and muttered the locating spell, anchoring it by using Harry’s name. When his wand remained still, he wanted to curse nastily, but he had run out of curses thirty-nine locations ago. It seemed impossible, but with all the Apparating he had done…he’d truly been at a loss for words, and had begun repeating ones he’d already used. He sighed tiredly; he’d been at this all night; it was much safer doing it at night. Harry would be less likely to be on the move, and he wouldn’t accidentally bump into anyone.
Determined not to give in, he Apparated once more, a further three miles east of his current location and once more used the spell. He wasn’t one to give up easily, but even this was lowering his spirits. He had been all over London, Crawley, Worthing, Brighton and Eastbourne, and Hastings.
Harry couldn’t have figured out how to take the trace off, so the spell should have worked if he was in the area. Which he knew the boy wasn’t; the spell was never wrong. Harry couldn’t have gotten that far, surely? Unless of course he had taken the train somewhere else, and actually was out of the country. It was becoming glaringly obvious that he wasn’t going to be able to find him using this means. That meant he might have to resort to other… darker methods. To do so would require him to have something of Harry’s, preferably something with body fluid on it, like spit, sweat, or blood.

There was nothing at Hogwarts that could help with that, and then suddenly an idea bloomed. His heart twisted; he didn’t like the thought of going back there…but if it could potentially help him find Harry, then needs must. It was a long shot, he had to admit it, but nonetheless Severus Apparated straight into the condemned building at Godric’s Hollow… where Lily had breathed her last.

Severus swallowed thickly, remembering the last time he was here very vividly. Only this time there were no bodies; they were buried in the cemetery not far from here. All he needed was a toy Harry had used ―and chewed― when he was a baby. It would still work with the potion; despite the fact so many years had gone by, the saliva would give him Harry’s exact location.

Moving up stairs, he took his time, not touching anything as he did so. The place was quite frankly disgusting; weeds and everything were growing inside of this house that Lily probably had adored. The door was blown off its hinges, still as he remembered it. He didn’t understand how Harry had survived the roof falling in on him like that, coming out with only a scratch; it was unbelievable. The crib was half intact; his eyes narrowed in confusion when he saw the crib mattress covered in old blood. He closed his eyes, flashing back to the night as he remembered it. There had been nothing there, what had caused Harry to lose so much blood AFTER the attack? Was it even Harry’s blood? But there hadn’t been anyone else there.
Something had happened…but what? Shaking off his thoughts, he resolved that he would find out later…much later, if it was possible. He probably wouldn’t be able to let the puzzle rest until he had his answer, either. Using his wand, he cut out a large square chunk of the mattress and shrunk it before placing it inside a bag. Then he narrowed his eyes once more and began looking around for something... anything, really, just in case it wasn’t Harry’s blood. He always felt the need for a backup plan if things didn’t work out well.

He found a cuddly toy snitch, a typical thing for babies to have; levitating that, he placed it into another bag he had with him. He never went anywhere without the assortment of items he usually used for collecting potion ingredients. The bags were usually for gathering stuff like Gillyweed, that needed to be kept in water, to keep it fresh. He never expected to be using them for this. Slipping the bags into his pocket he quickly Apparated away, not wishing to remain in there a second longer. Not only did it bring up bad memories, the building was very unstable.
Of course he Apparated into Spinners End, someplace that was only just slightly better than where he had been. At least in his opinion, but it was habitable, so he couldn’t complain too much. Add to the fact that it actually had a safe foundation and a roof for over his head, it was definitely much better. He swiftly made his way to the lab, ignoring the potions he had already bubbling away; he would be alerted a few minutes before anything needed to be added to one of those.

If the Ministry were to see what he was brewing…he would be in Azkaban before he could deny all knowledge. He seriously doubted the Dark Lord would help him out of that one. He would be useless as a spy; of course, he could just claim to Albus that he had been forced to brew the potions…and Dumbledore, too desperate to risk losing his spy, would be all too eager to make the problem go away.

Grabbing an unused but clean cauldron, he poured water from his wand into it with a quick ‘Aguamenti’ before spelling flames under it and quickly got to work. It would take less than three hours for the potion to be complete. The rest was a waiting game to see if he would find Harry with anything he’d brought with him. He had no idea if it would really work; it should in theory, but theory wasn’t real life.

True to his thoughts, it took less than three hours, in fact only two hours and fifteen minutes for three of the potions to be complete. He hadn’t just completed a single potion, but three. He couldn’t risk the toy snitch he’d taken from Godric’s Hollow not working; although he had a feeling if the toy snitch didn’t work the blood wouldn’t either. Once the blood was immersed in the potion it would become wet, and there should be enough DNA in it to guide him towards Harry Potter. The reason he was using the saliva first, was for one sole reason - he didn’t want the potion taking him towards the Dark Lord. The Dark Lord had Harry’s magic, which meant it might not even work, he could be stretched both ways and end up splinched or guided towards both the Dark Lord and Harry. Waving his wand he extinguished the fires under the potions, knowing if it boiled over even for ten seconds extra the potions would be ruined.

Picking up the bag with the toy snitch, he used a spell to snip a piece of it off, there was no need to put it all in the potion. Picking up the cut piece, he stepped back knowing it would explode and he would rather not get a boiled potion spitting in his face. He would have levitated the piece but magic and potions didn’t work very well together - as he told his students, there would be no wand waving in his class. With precision he flicked it into the potion causing a small explosion, waving the smoke away he ladled it up and placed only a drop onto the parchment - praying that it worked. He was in a rush against time, against three different organizations to get to Harry first, the Dark Lord, the Order and of course the Ministry of magic. He was surprised Harry had managed to remain hidden, but it boded well, it gave him the time he needed to find him and keep him safe from all that would see harm coming to him. He’d been through enough, he doubted they’d ever get on but he didn’t care about that he had promised Lily something and intended to see it through.

Peering at the parchment, waiting for the results with bated breath. Unfortunately as each second passed he began to become extremely discouraged that nothing was appearing. Apparently the saliva wasn’t enough, or it had really been too long and exposed to the elements and it had become contaminated. Just as he was about to banish the potion, its contents and the parchment it began to squiggle, black lines began to form as it began to map out an area - giving him Harry Potter’s exact location.

He knew the location well, and it seemed he was far too late.

The Dark Lord already had him.

Groaning in frustration, he slumped against the stool, what the hell was he supposed to do now? The Dark Lord had been more of his normal self, perhaps he could be convinced that they were better off keeping him alive and converting him to his side? He scoffed at his own thoughts, the thought of Harry joining him was laughable, he was so light…so blinded that there was no way Harry could possibly conceive working for the dark side. The added fact that the Dark Lord had killed his parents, this would be the one thing that would prevent it even if he was capable of opening the child’s eyes to the fact he had been manipulated from the second he’d entered the magical world. It might not even just be Harry, it potentially could be Granger and Weasley as well, he just didn’t know.

Then it dawned on him…he hadn’t been called, the last time he had tried the Death Eaters had been called. Perhaps he didn’t want to risk an additional embarrassment? It just didn’t seem like something His Lord would fear, especially not from a fourteen year old child. There was something going on, he was sure of it, thinking back to their previous conversations, especially about the one regarding Harry Potter. He hadn’t seemed overly concerned about the boy or the fact he was missing not that he would be concerned just elated. He hadn’t called the Death Eaters and immediately ordered a search for him. In fact he had even asked his opinion on the boy! He needed answers, no matter how sane his Lord appeared right now, he knew the likelihood of getting an answer from him was less than zero until he wanted to share - and to add insult to injury he would end up with a torture curse on him for his troubles.

He would just have to risk it, what other choice did he have? He knew where Harry was, and he had sworn a Vow to protect him. If he failed then his life was forfeit just like Harry’s was if he couldn’t stop this madness. If he couldn’t get the Dark Lord to change his mind, the only thing left might be to actually tell him the truth. Either way it seemed as if his death warrant was signed, as soon as the Dark Lord knew he would have to die protecting Harry - the wizard would know he was useless to the dark side. He would probably make the assumption that he was firmly on Dumbledore’s side, which wasn’t true, he couldn’t stand the old fool or teaching unworthy students how to brew potions.

Looking around his Potions lab, he wondered if he would live long enough to see it again before he spun on his heel and Apparated.

--------0

Voldemort - his study

Voldemort stared down at the small glowing orb that had been cause of the source of his madness and downfall all those years ago. He had entered the Ministry and it had been quite ludicrously easy especially seeing as he had been under he influence of Poly-juice potion, and as Lucius Malfoy no questions had been asked. The pitiful spells Albus Dumbledore had on the prophecy had been easily bypassed - as easily as it was to pass the guard on duty. He had been tempted to let Nagini have at him, but instead chose to keep a low profile; he didn’t want the Ministry to know he was here after all.

Only Dumbledore and perhaps a few of his pathetic Order members even knew about the Prophecy. If he realized it was gone…and tried to talk about it nobody would believe him. To the world he was an insane crazy old fool, and the longer it stayed that way the harder it would be to repair his reputation. It would take him a while to even realize it was gone unless he personally went down to see for himself. He had left a replica in its place, and a good one at that so it would take serious investigating to realize it wasn’t the original.

For so long he had wanted to know what this thing said, now that he was so close to it that he could taste it he was unsure about hearing it. What if he had set up his own destruction? What if it told him of his own death by Potter’s hand? He wouldn’t be able to prevent himself killing the brat. With it he may be destroying his own sanity, which until recently had been lost to him. It wasn’t something he relished happening once again; he had been a fool to think he could split his soul into so many pieces without consequence.

Nobody could accuse Voldemort of being a coward, he thought to himself, and with that the prophecy slipped from his fingers and smashed against the floor. And with it came Trelawney’s voice, shrieking at the top of her lungs, the words of the prophecy. The first three were familiar to him as he had obsessed over it for so long…while wondering about the other half.

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…

Voldemort sat up straighter, his face intense as he waited for the next one…finally after so long he would hear, he would know.

And the Dark Lord will mark him as his equal…

The breath left him as he thought of the mark adorning Potter’s head, the damnable scar. His worst fears were being realized, he had set in motion his own downfall. If he had heard this…knew the entire thing he may not have acted so rashly. He had set their destiny in motion, he honestly didnt know what to think now.

But he will have the power the Dark Lord knows not…

Voldemort’s red eyes twinkled unmercifully, how dare they think he wouldn’t find out? As if Potter being a Horcrux was a power, prophecies had the tendency to be very vague. Oh he knew, and that was why the boy was currently still alive. The power to keeping him alive, the power to keeping himself alive. Together they were immortal, bound together by a soul they now shared. His soul. Nothing could harm it except for him.

And either must die at the hand of the other…for neither can live while the other survives…

Voldemort snorted in a very un-Dark Lord like fashion, very smart with the word play, but he hadn’t become the greatest wizard in the world by chance or happenstance. He was smart and powerful, and had the best grades Hogwarts had ever seen; he had even outdone Dumbledore in some subjects. Neither of them was just surviving…if he could just get Potter onside, although it truly wouldn’t be that difficult, Potter hated Dumbledore with a passion that rivalled his own.

The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord will be born as the seventh month dies.

The thought that Potter was powerful enough to destroy him did not sit well with him, but he knew now that it wasn’t an outright duel, no the power laid within him, his Horcrux. He would need to keep the boy alive and out of harms way, but given his tendency to get into trouble…he would need to make sure the boy knew how to fight. Then he needed to concentrate on breaking his followers out of Azkaban. It looked as though the boy would live then, not that it seemed to be a damnable problem for the boy - he seemed to like to push everyone’s buttons to see how far they would go. He didn’t fear death, and that was a new prospect to him, everyone feared death, even him.

Dumbledore wouldn’t know what hit him, due to the fact he had made the same mistake again by leaving another boy to be abused he had ensured he would win.

He would make sure of it.

--------------0

Harry was wandering around the manor, trying to come upon Pettigrew again, but so far he wasn’t having much luck. He must have a little hole he liked to climb in as a rat. He couldn’t very well search every little small hideout fit for a rat, which would take him days…although he did have a lot of time on his hands. Perhaps he should learn Wandless magic as well as how to be an Animagus, he honestly hoped he didn’t become anything like Pettigrew. He absolutely refused to call him Wormtail that was something his dad and Sirius had thought up to give him when he’d been a friend. He was nothing but a cowardly, stinking, disgusting, ugly betrayer now. If he could only get Voldemort to send him to the Ministry Sirius would be free. He wasn’t trustworthy, to any cause, if he could betray one he would and could betray the other. Maybe he should put those doubts into Voldemort’s head; well he might as well have fun while he was stuck here.

Although it looked as though every time Voldemort left he would be locked up in a single room. He wasn’t happy about it and had expressed his sentiments to Voldemort quite happily. Oh it had amused him to see him clenching his teeth and fists, and still do nothing. If he needed further proof that he changed…he wouldn’t need to look anymore. Voldemort in the graveyard would have cast that spell in seconds; the power was quite…heady to have. He honestly wanted to see how far he could go before Voldemort lost it and actually cursed him. Oh, things always went crazy when he as bored.

So here was investigating the manor, which was tastefully done for a Dark wizard that is…no thrones made of skulls or dungeons full of prisoners. If he had just stumbled upon the place he wouldn’t have thought twice about going in, that probably made it even more deceptive. Sliding into another room, he found it occupied. It definitely wasn’t Pettigrew; no…it was who had they said it was? Bartemius Crouch Junior? He had posed as Mad-Eye Moody. He must have been good to fool even Dumbledore unless the old fool had known, but it seemed like an awfully big risk to take for so little reward.

“You,” muttered Barty wide eyed, completely shocked. So this was who his Lord held in such high esteem? Why was he protected so? He had been trying to kill him for years...he just didn't understand it at all. All through this year he had been planning and re-planning Harry Potter's death. What had he missed? Something had happened damn being trapped in this bed.

Harry briefly wondered what that was about, he was just about to turn around and leave when the door automatically slammed shut on him.

“NOT AGAIN!” snapped Harry, slamming his fist into it, before yelping in pain and jumping around like an idiot until the pain dulled slightly. “Fuck!” well at least it wasn’t broken, he thought to himself. Unfortunately it just meant he was trapped in a room with a man who had seemed utterly insane the last time he saw him. Someone must be in the manor, why was he so determined to keep him hidden? Pettigrew and now Crouch knew so what gives?

“Are you alright?” asked Barty, concerned.

“Who are you, and what have you done with Crouch Junior? You know the one that tried to kill me?” asked Harry, staring at the wizard as if he had lost his mind. Why the hell would he be concerned about him? The whole world had gone weird and he didn’t like it at all.

“Do not call me that,” twitched Barty hissing slightly, he absolutely loathed being reminded who his father was and what he’d been named after. “And I didn’t try to kill you,” he hadn’t really had the chance.

“That’s only because it was too public and everyone else arrived before you could,” snorted Harry, as if he was stupid enough to believe that one.

“And yet you are alive,” said Barty, his tone now filled with nothing but curiosity.

“Unfortunately,” muttered Harry glaring at the door darkly.

“Why?” was then asked, when his Lord had said there was someone here…he hadn’t expected it to be Harry ‘I won’t die’ potter.

“Why don’t you ask him?” grinned Harry ferally his mood changing too quickly for even the most experienced men to keep up with. “I’m sure he would just love your opinion.”

“I’m not a masochist.” muttered Barty under his breath.

“No just a sadist.” sniped Harry, thinking of the Longbottoms. He couldn’t have been more surprised when Barty looked away…was he embarrassed? Or ashamed? That wasn’t the reaction he had been expecting. What the hell? This was getting weird…getting? It had been weird ever since that damn House-Elf had Apparated into Dudley’s second bedroom and abducted him. Everything he thought he knew was being tested to the limits and beyond.

“Believe it or not…we weren’t always like that,” sighed Barty. “We just lost sight of who we were and what we hoped to accomplish. We became the monsters the light side were saying we were.”

“Tell that to Neville Longbottom, it wasn’t enough that you tortured his parents you had to show him the spell up close and personal.” hissed Harry, and not to forget him. It wasn’t just the Cruciatus Curse that had been shown but the killing curse as well. Although Lucius Malfoy had almost said the spell in his second year - he hadn’t actually seen the spell formed and used to kill a living creature - even if it was only a spider. Why wasn’t he fighting back? Using some sort of excuse? Getting angry? It was odd, unless…unless Voldemort had made it clear to them that he wasn’t to be touched. Well, if that was the case he would definitely need to have some fun with Pettigrew. Would he though? It just wasn’t like Voldemort…man this was making his head ache.

“I was playing my part,” stated Barty, sharply, “I was playing an Auror who was known for his suspicion of everything and everyone…which admittedly played in my favour. It’s exactly what Moody would have done, showed everyone the consequences of those spells especially with a war on the horizon. Do you think Dumbledore would have allowed it if its not exactly what he had planned…what his friend would do?” sarcasm thick when speaking of Dumbledore and the thought of the old fool actually having friends.

Harry had to concede the point…it obviously was what Moody would have done otherwise Dumbledore would have ended up suspicious. He hadn’t really thought of it like that before. It didn’t really matter, after all they’d done what they had and nothing could undo it. It was hard to decide who was worse, him for doing it or Dumbledore allowing it knowing exactly what he was putting him and Neville through. Wasn’t it enough that he had heard his parent’s death all last year because Dumbledore had allowed the Dementors in the school? He wasn’t stupid enough to think they would have been there unless it was something Dumbledore wanted. He probably suspected that Sirius was really innocent - he wasn’t overly surprised when they’d claimed he as. And he hadn’t assumed they’d been hexed like everyone else.

“Why are you here?” Barty asked again, really wishing for an answer.

“Same reply as before, ask HIM!” muttered Harry, looking around the room, it was just like his in layout and everything in it. Well there were books here and a bag but other than that it was the same colour scheme as his. “Haven’t you been reading the newspapers?”

“That rag? It’s only purpose should be for lighting fires,” sneered Barty, grimacing in distaste. “Plus it only writes what the Ministry allows them to write.”

Harry didn’t question how he would know such a thing since his father had been on the run for the Minister of Magic position. Popular for throwing the Death Eaters into prison without trial and giving the Auror’s the freedom to use the killing curses. His dislike for Crouch came from the fact he’d forced him to compete in the tournament and had a hand in locking up Sirius without trial. The only reason the wizarding world had become disenchanted with Crouch was due to his son being a Death Eater. They were so fickle it was actually disgusting and abhorrent to him. Still, he hadn’t expected to have a…slightly normal conversation with Bartemius Crouch junior of all people. He’s been completely mad the last time he saw him. “How are you so…normal?” asked Harry, staring at Crouch.

“Excuse me?” asked Barty surprised.

“What? You’re not spitting and demanding to know what he had done to the other Death Eaters!” stated Harry defensively.

“Potions,” grunted Barty, glaring at the teenager.

“They have potions that can help mental illnesses?” asked Harry in curiosity staring over at the vials slightly impressed.

“I am not mentally ill,” hissed Barty insulted. “They just help people who’ve been exposed to Dementors,” the other potion helped clear his mind of the affects the Imperius Curse had on him. He was filled with potions, but he couldn’t deny the results, he was feeling more like his old self than ever before.

Harry nodded his head, wondering why Sirius hadn’t been given those potions. He sure could use them, although he couldn’t say for sure since he didn’t know Sirius as well as he would like. He’d only seen him a few times and written with him every now and again, but surely he shouldn’t act the way he did? He took too many risks, acted as if he was still seventeen years old…and could only get reprimanded not thrown back in Azkaban or kissed by a Dementor. He was thinking of the time Sirius had wanted to meet him when the whole tournament fiasco - comparing him to his father saying he was less like him than he thought. That had surprisingly hurt him, just like Remus’ words had when he basically told him he was ungrateful for his parents sacrifice because he was wandering Hogwarts at night. He hadn’t felt the same fondness for Remus since then…and when he had heard nothing from the wizard it had cemented his anger for him. He wasn’t the only student who wandered the castle! The hypocrite used to do it too.

He didn’t know Crouch either, but the difference in him…was quite frankly astonishing. He was no longer spitting leering and demanding, he would add trying to kill him but he knew…he just knew Voldemort had something to do with that not the potions.

“Here,” said Barty, throwing a book at the bottom of his bed. “Sit down your pacing is giving me a headache.

“Dark arts?“ stated Harry, reading the title.

“You were better than some of the seventh years I taught,” grunted Barty, sounding a bit like Moody in that moment. “You have a natural affinity for that branch of magic.”

“Hmm,” was the only sound Harry made as he sat down.

“Plus its funny imagining the look on Dumbledore’s face if he saw you reading a book like that…he often commented on you being his greatest creation.” the sadistic grin was back, showing Harry that he wasn’t completely different and Harry took comfort in that.

“Yes, just hilarious,” Harry told him a deadpanned look on his face. Creation? That’s what he was? Something that Dumbledore had created? Pft that’s what the old fool liked to think. He must have really had him fooled, either he wasn’t as good as he liked to think himself…or he wasn’t as powerful as he made out. He was obviously powerful, Voldemort was scared to go up against him, or was he? After all he’d only ever heard that from his classmates, they wouldn’t know any better than him what the last war had been like. He didn’t know anything…so perhaps now was the time to find out.

“Why did you join?” asked Harry, not even pretending to read the book - as interesting as it actually was. Was there more to the Dark side than the evil, insanity, and pureblood-melodrama, the relentless pursuit of power and to dominate all wizards and witches without caring about the consequences or repercussions. Their savagery and eagerness to cause people as much pain as possible as their bloodthirsty killing.

Barty gave Harry a measuring look, as if judging the sincerity and reason behind him asking. “I respected and admired the Dark Lord, and I believe in the cause.” there was more to it than that but he refused to tell the teenager that. He craved the Dark Lord’s approval, he thought of him as a father, he had been there for him when his own biological father had not, had taught him everything he knew…it wasn’t hard to admire him, his power, his knowledge and abilities. His biological father had never been around, not for as long as he could remember him, he spent all his time at the Ministry, even when his mother got sick and even during her dying days he had never been around. He had never cared about his mother or him, and he loathed him with all he had.

“And the Cause?” questioned Harry seriously, giving Crouch his undivided attention. He heard the door clicking open, nobody was there it was just magic letting him out now that whoever was in the Manor either gone or told about him…he would go with gone.

“We are the ones that question the logic of the Ministry, who believe in good and evil, light and dark, but the reality is there is no good or evil only power and those determined enough to seek it.” stated Barty.

Harry blinked, flashing back to his first year “There is no good and evil, only power, and those too weak to seek it.” Voldemort had said that.
“That’s it? That’s the speech you give to people considering coming to the Dark side?” asked Harry blankly.

“Surely you are smart enough to realize there is no such thing as good magic,” sneered Barty irritated.

“I get that, but why is it worth being killed over?” Harry said to him. He wanted to know why they were willing to risk everything, see their side of it everything he knew was one sided.

“Only someone naïve could ask that,” Barty told Harry sardonically. “All other schools allow the practice of Dark Arts, teaches them how to perform the spells and stop yourself being dragged into the thrall of Dark magic. It’s only dangerous when you do not know how to control it, those too weak to master it. More and more magic is being classified as Dark, all this knowledge, this power…a way of life is being deemed illegal because of one old fool.”

“What does Dumbledore have to do with magic being made illegal?” asked Harry, cutting in surely his hold wasn’t so complete that he was able to fool everyone within the Ministry? Crouch was passionate about it, each word proved that without a shadow of a doubt.

“His word is basically law, has been since he defeated Grindelwald, anything he said goes, it’s just the way it is. There aren’t many that would stand against Dumbledore and risk being an outcast of society so they follow his example. Those that don’t want to come here and find other likeminded people, those that believe all magic is a gift and should be allowed to be practiced without scorn ridicule and being sent to Azkaban.” Barty told him, surprised the boy was still interested and willing to listen to his side. “Why do you think he made sure you remained in the Muggle world?”

“Wait…what do I have to do with this?” demanded Harry, trying to keep up with everything.

“That night you became a new hero, the new hero. If you had stayed…everyone would have clung on to your word…not Dumbledore’s. The interest started up again the second you returned to the magical world surely you noticed it? But he made sure you were secluded at Hogwarts, the press anyone from within the Ministry he made sure you were unavailable. He also made sure that your little escapades were kept under wraps, if you had grown up with a magical guardian you could have sued Hogwarts to its back teeth and Dumbledore for what happened.”

“Um…” Harry was blown away; he didn’t know what to say to that!

“It’s ironic that he shows his disgust at all things considered Dark magic when the spells he surrounded your home in were as dark as they come…its’ not called blood wards or blood magic for nothing.” sneered Barty, his total disgust for Dumbledore showing.

“They are?” commented Harry, surprised. They had gotten way off topic, maybe he should just ask Voldemort what his goals were…or what they had been when he first started.

“Since Dumbledore came to power…over a dozen classes at Hogwarts have been cut from the curriculum, the last one I heard he was trying to remove was Divination. All that magic lost…because of one mans opinion of what magic should be…meanwhile he doesn’t practice what he preaches.” said Barty.

“So this war isn’t with the Muggle-born’s then…it’s with Dumbledore?” Harry was blown away, all those deaths and for what? Because of one wizard who was determined to apparently squash all magical knowledge other than what he deemed ’proper’ he wondered if he could find out about the classes. Hogwarts: a history! That would be able to tell him about the classes surely?

“Dumbledore and the Order, essentially yes,” confirmed Barty.

He needed to read Hogwarts: A History and ask Voldemort a few questions…hopefully he would be in a revealing mood. If not then he would just continue to ask him until he got his answers. He guessed Pettigrew was safe for now; he had more important things to worry about.

Chapter Text

Embracing His True Self

Chapter 9

The Truth

 

"I did not call you," Voldemort stated, narrowing his eyes on Severus as he entered his office. He looked extremely irritated, a look he normally only sported after having to endure an endless Order meeting in the past, and even then it was never this obvious. Turning his chair around slightly, he observed the normally composed wizard, actually fascinated by the fact Severus had lost his composure so much that he was displaying it to him. It was as rare as Lucius Malfoy running around naked, that is to say not at all. He didn't seem to have the locket, so the possibility of it being due to an Order meeting was slim to none.

"Forgive my impudence, My Lord," Severus said quietly, walking towards Voldemort and bowing swiftly. This was the only warning Voldemort had to know this conversation was going to be long and gruelling. Severus did not have to bow; the only reason he would be doing so was because he was going to tell him something he would not like ― at all. "What are you doing with Harry Potter?"

"How did you come by this information?" Voldemort demanded, hissing out the words in anger. The bigger ―and more immediate― question was did Dumbledore know? Was his hideout compromised? It had better not be, he always had the junior Death Eaters meeting at various locations, mostly Malfoy Manor, to throw off anyone figuring it out if they were tempted to betray him. Only his closest and most trusted knew about this place; was his trust misplaced? There were only a few people who knew about this place so far, and the man in front of him was one of them. Quite frankly his desire to know was the only thing staying his twitching palm from cursing Severus into next week.

"On my own, My Lord," Severus rushed to answer, slightly surprised that he wasn't being tortured. While the Dark Lord he'd known back in the day had taken suggestions, he would never allow anyone, not even his second or third in command, to question his decisions no matter the occasion. "I've learned a lot of disconcerting information, especially regarding Harry Potter."

Voldemort narrowed his eyes further until they were nothing but slits. "Why would you be searching for Harry Potter so earnestly?" he demanded. And so urgently? He did not like where this was going; unbidden, the memory of a teenaged Severus kneeling before him wishing him to spare the life of Lily Evans flashed before his eyes. Yes, he was keeping up pretences, but to go to such great lengths? Something wasn't right there.

Severus tensed, knowing he would just have to be truthful and hope for the best…there was no alternative. "I swore a Vow to keep Harry Potter safe." Oh, there was something worse than curses…the silence, the long seething silences.

"So you did betray me, Severus," Voldemort stated with a feigned calmness.

"My Lord, all I asked when I joined was for Lily Evans' life to be spared; her son was all that was left of her. My allegiance has always been to you, never Dumbledore," Severus said quietly. "Upon your defeat, Dumbledore requested that I take a Vow and protect the child to my best ability."

"I see," Voldemort replied, his anger building into epic proportions. He was trying to lay the blame at his feet? He had tried to keep his word but the bloody woman hadn't moved aside. Not only that, she'd given her stubborn nature to her son.

"Ever since the Vow was created, I've been unknowingly breaking my word," Severus added, sweating slightly at the unbearable hotness in the room due to his Lord's magic. "I recently discovered that Potter was abused, and that isn't the worst of it… I believe Dumbledore has been manipulating the boy from the moment his parents died."

Voldemort's anger faded, as he arched an eyebrow; knowing Severus as he did… it probably involved mind reading. "You have proof?" Perhaps Lucius had been the wrong one to go to after all.

"Of his abuse?" Severus questioned, his tone cautious and surprised.

"The manipulation," Voldemort replied grimly.

"Only my word, and of course the memories should you wish to see them," Severus answered. He couldn't have been more surprised that he wasn't being cursed; he wasn't sure what on earth was going on. This wasn't how he had envisioned this conversation going, he had yet to be cursed to the floor.

"Put them in the pensieve, Severus," Voldemort directed, his tone dark, trying to stop himself from punishing the dark wizard for his actions. The only thing that stopped him was the sense of truth he could feel coming from Severus; he was loyal to him, and Dumbledore had forced him to make the Vow. Now that the boy was firmly within his grasp, it would ensure that Severus remained on his side; oh, he knew Severus would keep his word and protect the boy ― the perfect body guard. He summoned the pensieve and left it afloat for Severus to put the memories in. The question remained whether to trust Severus or not, he'd already hidden much from him and the thought of being betrayed made his blood turn to ice.

Severus was unable to help himself. He glanced at the Dark Lord, trying to gauge his mood but those red eyes seared into his own filled with raw fury. Calming himself, he began to remove the memories that he required. He was desperate to ask why he hadn't killed Harry, but he didn't dare; he had gotten away with questioning him earlier, he wasn't about to tip him over the edge. The Dark Lord wasn't exactly known for his patience. Once the memories were in, the silence continued.

"My Lord?" Severus questioned, his tone hesitant.

"Leave, Severus; if anyone finds out…" Voldemort trailed off purposely; he had no need to finish his sentence for the wizard to understand what he meant.

"My Lord… my Vow…" Severus added, swallowing thickly and wondering if he should just kill himself and be done with it now.

"The boy will not be harmed," Voldemort hissed in irritation, he did not like being questioned. Watching the wizard stand and turn towards the door, his hands twitched as he suppressed the urge to lash out. Instead he waited until Severus was at the edge of the door before speaking, finding amusement in the way he stiffened. "Do not return without the locket."

"My Lord," Severus nodded his agreement before sliding out, still feeling out of sorts; he hadn't been cursed and that thought kept rattling around in his mind. He would not think on anything else here, not until he got to the safety of Spinners End.

------0

After lunch Harry was just about to leave when instead he turned and spoke to Voldemort.

"Where's my trunk?" Harry asked, giving Voldemort a glare just for old time's sake; he didn't want the wizard under the impression he was just going to play along. He was stuck here, a prisoner, so he was going to make damn well sure he made every day torture. Hell, even his glasses ―not that he needed them― had been taken from him when he was put in the dungeons, and he knew that they had taken the trunk― it was the only explanation for why they would think he ran away. "And my owl?" If they'd hurt Hedwig, he would make sure Pettigrew didn't last another day. He would twist the head clean off the rat's bloody body, and relish every second of it.

Voldemort turned to look at Harry arching an eyebrow, clearing not about to grace him with an answer. The boy did not get to demand things from him, he was Lord Voldemort... he couldn't even be bothered finishing his own thoughts. Potter didn't care who he was, or how he threatened him, apparently; he would just do as he pleased. It irritated the hell out of him, yet at the same time he felt a smidgen of respect flaring in his body. Nobody other than Dumbledore and his Order dared to defy him, and even then the Order of the Phoenix wouldn't actually dare to rile him up the way this boy did. "Just what makes you think I have it?" Voldemort asked coldly, giving the boy one of his fiercest glares ― one, he might add, that would have his Death Eaters almost peeing themselves in fear.

"They think I ran away; the only reason they'd think that is if my stuff is gone, just like last time," Harry told him, his lips pursed as if to stop himself adding anything else.

"Let me guess, you didn't get far?" Voldemort smirked sardonically, "Someone you know showed up afterwards to keep an eye on you?"

Harry blinked, stiffening notably; he had a feeling he was missing something, and it was something big. How the hell would he know something like that? And he said it like it was a bad thing… part of him had thought at the time that they came because he was there; the Weasleys could barely get by without staying at the Leaky Cauldron when they had a perfectly usable house. He'd assumed it was to keep him safe from Sirius Black, who at the time was thought to be a traitor and had led Voldemort to his parents... resulting in their deaths.

"Let me guess, Order members?" Voldemort was sneering ferally now.

Harry shrugged indifferently; they kept saying that as if they expected him to understand everything about it. From what he could gather it seemed as if they were people Dumbledore had got together to fight against the Death Eaters and Voldemort. Like he knew who they were... the war had only just started up again. Although admittedly he could make a few good guesses as to who was in it. His parents had probably been members. Moody, the Weasleys, Sirius, Remus probably. Either way, they didn't give a shit about him. They knew about the abuse obviously, since Moody had threatened his uncle, yet they had done nothing... just made him go back to Privet Drive and endure it. Always listening to Dumbledore… maybe Crouch did have a point about his hold on the magical world.

He didn't know, Voldemort realized, quite shocked to be frank but he shouldn't be. Evidently Dumbledore had kept it from him, or he'd been able to at least get some information on them at least to make a guess. "Didn't you ever wonder how they found you, how they always managed to find you?" Voldemort enquired dangerously, standing up and circling the boy, trying to intimidate him.

"I wasn't exactly hiding," Harry pointed out simply; moving to make sure Voldemort was always within his sight.

"Tracking charms," hissed Voldemort, his red eyes gleaming. "On everything you hold most dear."

"Guess you and Dumbledore are alike then," Harry stated, calm as you please, his leg jerking where he currently had the band around his ankle that prevented him from leaving. No doubt there was a tracking charm in that as well, so Voldemort knew where he was; it certainly explained the doors getting closed closest to where he was, trapping him within.

Then suddenly Harry fell to the floor, a startled scream leaving his lips before he controlled it by biting down on his lips. Just as he had, the spell let up. Groaning, he looked up at the wizard. Oh boy, he'd found what pissed him off, it seemed: being compared to Dumbledore reduced Voldemort to a murderous rage. The spell hadn't even been on that long, just a few seconds, certainly not as long as it had been in the graveyard. It had been a warning, a powerful one at that since he'd done it without speaking or his wand. Grunting, Harry got to his feet, crudely wiping away the blood that had formed where he bit his lip, staring at him and refusing to let his fear rule him or let Voldemort think he was intimidating him. He was used to pain; it was all he knew, so he was using the wrong incentives to get him to do anything he wanted this way.

"That was just a taste, boy," Voldemort snarled, right in his ear, "Do not test me on this." He was already seething from Severus' visit.

"I'll say," muttered Harry, loud enough for Voldemort to hear. "How did you do that? You didn't even say the spell... you don't even have your wand." He couldn't help but be awed, although a slight whine could be heard as he spoke. Wandless, Wordless spells, and he could do whatever he wanted when he wanted. He'd thought you could only do that before Hogwarts and it was accidental magic.

"It's something that will no doubt come easy to you, Harry," Voldemort stated dangerously. "From what I've heard, you are exceedingly good at the Dark Arts at school. I can only imagine how much that must have irritated Dumbledore."

Even saying his name caused Voldemort to get furious. Being so close to him Harry could feel his magic spike as he said 'Dumbledore' with more consternation than when Snape said his name ― not something he'd ever thought possible.

"Actually, it's a class everyone expected me to be good at," Harry muttered bitterly. Merlin, his body hurt; he just wanted to sit, or preferably lie down, and rest his aching muscles. He would not show weakness, he absolutely refused to, not here, not now.

"Your classmates perhaps," Voldemort replied, nodded briefly, "Not Dumbledore." Of that he was one hundred percent certain. What normal thirteen-year-old could successfully cast a fully fledged patronus charm? Or what fourteen-year-old could beat the Imperius Curse cast on him by two powerful wizards, and yes, Barty was powerful ―he didn't take on mediocre wizards, only the best― unless of course they had a certain value or use to him, such as Pettigrew.

"Can't you just remove the tracking charms on my stuff and give it back to me?" Harry asked, irritated, getting back to his original purpose. He didn't want to talk about Dumbledore; he wasn't any more 'fond' of him than Voldemort was.

"Idiotic boy, I already removed them!" Voldemort hissed. As if he was stupid enough to leave tracking-charmed items on his property. He might as well shoot the Dark Mark into the sky and declare this was where he lived for all to see. No, he didn't want Dumbledore finding out about this property. He would let him assume he would be using his Death Eaters' residences as he had done in the past. No doubt he'd have people watching those areas hoping for signs of activity. What the hell was so special in the trunk that he had to have it back? He had ensured there was nothing in it that could be used as a weapon or aid in his escape.

He sounded like Snape, was Harry's first thought, or had Snape got it from Voldemort? He was curious, but enough to find out? No; he'd already antagonized Voldemort today, after a short rest he would focus his energies on Pettigrew. Unfortunately the git was just as good at hiding here as he had been at hiding out from the entire magical population. He belatedly realized that Voldemort hadn't told him how he was able to use magic without a wand and without words; in a weird way he'd even complimented him! Now wasn't that bloody weird?

"Amita!" Voldemort curtly stated. "Bring Potter's trunk to his room."

"Yes, Sir," said the House-elf who appeared, then promptly disappeared again.

Harry stared at the space where the House-elf had previously been, a calculating look on his face.

"Don't bother trying to get the House-elves to help you; you will not like the consequences if you do," Voldemort added as he reclaimed his seat. He'd had enough of the boy for today, hopefully he would have the sense not to antagonize him further; he was furious as it is.

'Suspicious much?' thought Harry, before turning and leaving, deciding against saying anything... he would wait until tomorrow. Although he definitely wouldn't be comparing Voldemort to Dumbledore again; as he'd told Voldemort in the graveyard, he wasn't a masochist. Plus he wanted to see if any of his things were missing. Only when he got to his room did he realize that he had not gotten an answer about Hedwig; Merlin, he hoped she was okay.

Harry made his way quickly to what had been evidently called his 'room' like he was a guest and not a prisoner. Although to be frank, he was more of a prisoner at Privet Drive or at Hogwarts where he was closely monitored. If he were to choose one out of the three, he would definitely pick Hogwarts. The ambient magic surrounding the school helped him, kept him as safe as it could and truthfully he would miss the school. Despite Dumbledore, his manipulations, and everything bad that had happened, the school in a way had been his home. Sighing softly, he sat down on the edge of the bed. His trunk had been brought just as instructed. It hadn't passed his notice that the House-elf looked well cared for. He found it ironic really, Dobby was a fine example of what the Dark side was capable of.

Nothing was what he expected it to be, he couldn't help but think as he looked through his trunk, making sure everything was there. The things he cherished most, the cloak, photo album… but there was one thing missing. Panic settled in; every single spell, charm, and potion he had created was written in a little black book he had stolen when he was eleven, just after the summer started after his first year at Hogwarts. "Please, no!" Harry thought, beginning to rummage through his trunk, until it was empty. "No! no, no, no, no!" Harry muttered, before forcefully calming himself down, and beginning to put the items back in the trunk one at a time, until everything was in it except his photo album; there was still no sign of his black book.

He froze momentarily; where had he put it? Had he managed to sneak it past his uncle? Or kept it in his trunk? If he hadn't put it in his trunk then there was a good bet that it was still at the Dursleys’. If they were looking for him… they might find his hiding place, they would find his book. All his work was in that thing, it was the one thing he was most proud of. It was solid, tangible proof that he wasn't Dumbledore's golden boy, not completely, that he was his own person with his own beliefs. He couldn't let it get into the wrong hands, especially after everything he'd learned about Dumbledore ― Harry wouldn't put it past him to use the spells and potions he'd created now. Damn it, he couldn't think clearly, the days at the Dursleys’ were always murky due to the fact he mostly always ended up with a head injury. Mostly from Vernon, but Dudley didn't help matters any either; honestly, he couldn't remember anything clearly as soon as he stepped foot in that house.

Groaning in despair, he realized he was going to have to ask Voldemort.

The thought left a thoroughly disgusting taste in his mouth.

Standing up, he moved out of the room, wondering why he was even doing this. There was no way he was going to let him out of this place… and he'd laugh himself silly if Voldemort went himself. Maybe he would send the House-elf; he really wanted that book, enough to ask Voldemort apparently, he thought with consternation as he began to search for him. Peering in the extremely large and extravagant dining room, he saw nothing, shrugging his shoulders he moved through the landing, wondering where he could be… the library? With a new destination in mind he quickly moved, remembering where it was and what he had learned the last time he had been there.

Opening the door he grunted in frustration, why the hell couldn't he use the damn scar to find him? It hadn't let him down before! Always tingling like an annoying reminder that he had survived an attack somehow that nobody else had been able to. Just then he felt dizzy, grasping a hold of the door only for it to slam shut on his fingers, but he felt nothing as his mind was… there was no other word for it, transported to another… the room was dark, in front of him was paperwork, Nagini was purring ― did snakes purr? In front of the fireplace. Just as abruptly as it started it stopped, making him jump and grimace in agony, cradling his hand as he fought to stop himself screaming. Fuck, that hurt; he used his shoulder to rub at his head. What the hell had happened? What had he just seen? It was like first year all over again, the time he'd seen Quirrell in his mind.

"Potter," Voldemort hissed staring at the boy, furious beyond all measures at the audacity of what he had just done. How dare he? It didn't help that he'd been unable to prevent the access to his mind. All the occlumency shields in the world had been useless against the attack, and it hadn't even been a vicious attack, just a probing, seeking reach. "Give me one good reason why I shouldn't just end your life right now?" He was seriously tempted to do it, he didn't care that Potter was his Horcrux; it was a violation of his privacy that he could not condone.

Harry stared at Voldemort, eyeing the wand in his hand. He wasn't known for his patience, so he was surprised he was still standing there and not under the Cruciatus. He'd never once bothered to keep his anger at bay, so why was he doing it now? And the other times he'd been in his company? Could it be because he was his Horcrux? He nixed that idea immediately, he'd cursed him earlier so why stow his twitching palm now? He hated being confused, which was admittedly his primary emotion since being brought here.

"Believe it or not… I didn't mean to; this isn't the first time it’s happened," Harry said deciding to be completely truthful ― maybe he would be willing to let him get his book if he did. "I heard you and Quirrell talking in what I thought was a dream. I didn't remember it when I woke up, didn't believe it. I put the pieces together after, and I just thought my scar acted as stupid early warning system. There's no need to snort; I was eleven and I had no idea how else to explain it! It hurt like blazes whenever you were near… well, until now." He scowled darkly at the wizard for being such a derisive arse. "It usually happens when I'm asleep. I saw you when you were this disgusting baby thing; you killed that Muggle when Nagini told him on like a tattler." He doubted he'd ever grow fond of Nagini, but being threatened as food wouldn’t help that.

Voldemort's lips disappeared at the comment about him and his familiar; fortunately he was more curious and cautious, if truth be known, about this connection between them. "Did it ever occur again?"

"I don't know, I think so; it might have been the same night but I saw Crouch as well," Harry admitted, his brow furrowing as he tried to remember exactly what happened last year and what he had seen. "There was talk about the Quidditch World Cup, and you feeding me to Nagini," he added, thinking back and finding it was probably the last time he'd seen anything. "I was just looking for you and then I felt myself falling, I must have grabbed for the door and it shut on my hands but I didn't even notice. All I saw was a room; it was dark with a few candles, documents spread out, and Nagini in front of the fireplace."

"What were you thinking about?" Voldemort snapped, speculation circling, as ideas began to thrum through him.

"Er…" Harry started, he under no circumstances wanted to admit he was thinking about him when it happened. "Just… you know, nothing… I was looking for you." Biting his tongue, he stared at Voldemort without emotion, cursing himself inwardly.

"Interesting," Voldemort muttered distractedly wondering how he could stop it from happening again.

"I don't think so," Harry said bitterly, still clutching at his hand which was thumping in agony.

"Give me your hand," Voldemort demanded imperiously.

Harry gave him the same look as he had when the dark wizard had asked for his blood.

"I do not have time for games, give me your hand or keep it that way," Voldemort's patience was gone, replaced with anger.

Well, when he put it that way… Merlin, he hated how smug Voldemort always was, then again when it came to magical abilities, he had every right to be. Moving his wrist he held it out his mask crumbing only slightly, as Voldemort took a hold of his wrist and began to mutter under his breath. Almost immediately the pain abated and the swelling went down.

"Now why did you wish to see me?" Voldemort was admittedly curious about that.

"I need your help," Harry grumbled, looking as if he would rather eat horse manure than actually go through with this… asking him for help.

"Well?" Voldemort stated, arching an eyebrow, impatiently, things weren't going well with the creatures; as of now they seemed to wish to remain neutral, and he couldn't have that.

"Did you take any books from my trunk?" Harry asked, already suspecting the answer.

"No, Potter, I did not," Voldemort sniped, indignantly, but he quickly remembered that nobody knew about his past… well, this boy didn’t at any rate, he thought, thinking about Dumbledore with distaste.

"There's something I want from the Dursleys’; it’s hidden… would you let me go for it? Or send someone?" Harry asked, not showing just how precious the item was to him ― that would be guaranteed to raise a lot of questions he didn't want to answer. They were still standing outside the library; the house was quiet, so quiet in fact you wouldn't believe that there were two other people here. Well, one and a disgusting rat he had oddly enough not come across since he'd attacked him… if it could be called attack. The look on Voldemort's face was the only answer he needed. Desperate now, he quietly spoke, "I'll owe you a boon as long as it’s not to kill or harm someone." The only exception he'd make to that is if it was Dumbledore or the Dursleys.

"That is a dangerous proposition to make Potter," Voldemort warned, his lips twitching. The boy certainly was snake in sheep's clothing if he knew about the Slytherin house system and how the house was run.

"I want it," Harry replied strongly, he wasn't about to back down. If he had to find a way to leave on his own then so be it, he would get his damn book back if it was the last thing he did. He wasn't about to sit around until the Order found it and realized just how far his deception went. He wasn't exactly sure why he cared whether they found out or not, he had just gone so long that it was instinctive for him now to be this way. For his own survival people had to underestimate him; even Voldemort still did. Plus it was his; nobody else should get their grubby hands on it.

"It must be of greatest importance to you," Voldemort said speculatively.

"Yes," Harry stated eye twitching slightly, but nothing else gave him away - or so he thought he had no idea Voldemort could sense his emotions due to the band across his ankle.

"If we go, the Muggles die," Voldemort spat, he had seen the boy's memories, or rather his Aunt's and Uncle’s, if they had a right to be called as such; he had seen what they’d put the boy through thanks to Severus' use of Legilimency when confronting them.

"Is that your idea of collecting the boon?" Harry asked, almost hopeful that was all he wanted.

Voldemort stiffened. Oh, there was nothing Gryffindor about this boy at all, and he revelled in it really. If and when this got out, he hoped to see the look on the old fool’s face. He had done it again; with his manipulation he had caused another powerful wizard to crave nothing but vengeance in his heart. He had no doubt the boy wasn't completely evil; he had a problem with needless death. He did wonder if the manipulation went deep or if it was how he honestly felt on his own. Would that be his boon? He wondered; perhaps it could build trust, but he suspected the boy would accept his terms whether it was the boon or not… and he was an ultimate Slytherin himself. "No," he told him.

Harry's lips pursed, before he reluctantly nodded. He had known as much even as he asked. "Alright." Could he even leave? Or was Voldemort going on his own? "If you're going, how will you get passed the wards?"

Voldemort smirked, "There are no wards." He failed to tell him they had; in fact the blood sacrificial magic had settled around his hideout ― probably due to the fact he wanted to protect the boy and keep him alive; it sensed that. It would keep his place safer than any ward he could place. The Order would never find it ― Dumbledore would never find it.

"What do you mean?" Harry's voice went low in anger, green eyes blazing with righteous fury. His magic reacted to his anger much like the time when Marge had said his mother was 'bad blood', with Petunia agreeing with her like a simpleton, not realising it was her blood too.

Voldemort just arched an eyebrow, not bothered in the least by the powerful magical display… alright, maybe he was, just a little. He was used to it; he used to do it when he was a young boy in that disgusting Muggle orphanage. Used it to scare the hell out of the other children and make them so terrified of him that they would never tell ― they would do his bidding. This boy was supposed to be his equal, magical equal; he could see that being the case. This was another proverbial nail in Dumbledore's coffin he thought entirely too smugly. By the time he was finished with the boy, he would be wishing, no, begging to be allowed to participate in Dumbledore's death. "Exactly what I said," he replied just as darkly. Admittedly he didn't have the whole story, but he would soon acquire it from the fifthly Muggles.

"It's under my bed, there's a loose floorboard," Harry revealed, hoping he wasn't making the biggest mistake of his life.

"There is no need to tell me," Voldemort stated, looking out of the window. "We shall depart under the cover of darkness,"

Harry stared at him for the longest time, judging him, seeing if he was serious… or if he was playing with him. Unfortunately he couldn't get a read on the older wizard. Despite his youngish looks, he gave nothing away; he had an inscrutable mask perfected to a T. Harry nodded his head, only time would tell if he was serious or not. Either way, he had feeling this would teach him a valuable lesson: whether he could trust him. With that he walked away without so much as a thank you. It was his fault it had been left there in the first place, he didn't deserve a thanks. Yet he was allowing him to get it… turning around just before he exited the corridor he turned back and grudgingly said "Thanks," albeit even if it was grudgingly before he was gone, cursing himself for being an idiot.

A smug smirk twitched at Voldemort's lips. The boy didn't have much of a defence in his mind; he could clearly see what he was thinking. So this was a test, was it? It was a good job he was going along with it. A boon from Harry Potter? Well, of course he would, just for that alone. It was too bad he had stipulations on it, but it should go well in the end, he was confident. He always got what he wanted; the boy would be his, at his side willingly before the end. He wouldn't need to manipulate him either, just showing him the manipulation that the so-called light side had heaped upon him would do it for him. He wanted to laugh at the absurdity of it; they were giving him Harry Potter on a silver platter. Chuckling to himself, he turned swiftly and went back to his study and revaluated his plans.

Things were getting good ― very quickly.

----------0

Later that night

"I assume you have your cloak with you?" Voldemort stated standing in the doorway of Potter's room, finding him spread out on the bed reading a book, wholly unconcerned about being with him, if the laxness of his body and location of his wand at the beside table were anything to go by.

"What?" Harry said looking up. The book was so good he'd lost himself in it for… three hours, he realised as he looked at his watch.

"The proper way to address someone when you did not hear them is excuse me or pardon," Voldemort commented, irritated by his manners.

Harry laughed; he couldn't help himself, he just burst out laughing at the hilarity of this situation. "All things considered, I'm surprised I turned out the way I did; you'll see for yourself." The Dursleys liked to act all uppity but they weren't.

"Indeed," Voldemort drawled quite bemused and not showing it. Most people cowered at the sight of him, for good reason admittedly. Yet this boy had no problem speaking to him as though he was not an evil wizard who had the dark side under his thumb… dare he say, as an equal? He wasn't used to it, and quite frankly he had no idea how to react to it. Sarcasm he was fine with, but actually taking without sarcasm… well, it was decidedly odd. When it became apparent that the boy would say nothing more― never mind excuse his manners― he repeated himself. "Invisibility cloak, now."

"Aren't you worried I'll run away?" Harry remarked as he stood up with grace that wasn't normally present due to his injuries.

"No," Voldemort stated sharply. He would punish him severely if he tried, but even if he did he would not succeed, the ankle bracelet he had put on the boy would prevent it.

As if sharing his thoughts, Harry looked down gazing at the green band, his lip unconsciously curling.

"Move," Voldemort reminded him curtly, they couldn't wait any longer.

"Alright," Harry said, without grumbling. He wanted the book too much to risk annoying the hell out of Voldemort; he could do that later. Maybe even test his spells out on Pettigrew… the thought brought a wicked smirk to his face as he grabbed his cloak from his trunk. It fell back down with a thump but neither took any notice of it ― too used to the sound since they were eleven. "Why right now?" He sensed that it wasn't just because it was dark.

Voldemort just gave him a steely look. Right now there was only one wizard at Privet Drive guarding the place, the rest were out 'looking' for the boy. Not that they would ever find him of course, but this was the best time to get to the Dursleys’ and make them regret the day they'd lifted a hand to a wizarding child. He honestly didn't understand why the boy wasn't darker than him; he'd had a worse childhood than him and that was saying something. The wizard on guard happened to Mundungus Fletcher… he wasn't even worth killing; he was a waste of magic.

Harry shrugged his shoulders, impervious to Voldemort's glare as he moved out of his bedroom. Boy, that was really strange saying that still. At Privet Drive he always thought of it as Dudley's second bedroom; his only bedrooms had been here and his cupboard. One second they were moving through the manor, the next second he was grabbed and Apparated; it was tough enough being warned but when you weren't it was ten times worse. "This isn't Privet Drive," Harry said his tone guarded.

Voldemort refrained just slightly from rolling his eyes at the obvious statement. After a few seconds, he grabbed the boy again before Apparating once more. This time it was just at the entrance to Privet Drive. "Cloak on," Voldemort stated warningly.

"Why aren't your Death Eaters here? You don't normally go somewhere alone." Harry was feeling very perturbed by this turn of events, it contradicted everything he thought he knew about him.

"No? Evidently you do not know me very well, Potter," Voldemort insisted, disillusioning himself so he couldn't be seen. "Go. Be careful once we get to your house, there is an Order member on duty just in case you return." His tone for that single one was utterly patronising.

"You're actually acting concerned," Harry muttered knowing that he wasn't.

"Whether you believe it or not, nobody magical should be left with filthy Muggles; not even you, my young nemesis, should be left to be abused… you would think Dumbledore would learn his lesson after the first time, not repeat it an additional two times," Voldemort admitted, as they walked, Voldemort just slightly behind the boy, sensing where he was and every step he took.

"Three times?" Harry rasped, stopping moving as he digested what he had learned.

"Move," he hissed irately; he had a timeframe and did not wish to remain longer than necessary.

Harry started walking without another word. He knew the way to number four blindfolded. Three times? Voldemort was obviously one of them, and he must know of the other person he had done it to also. Dumbledore was old, why didn't he ever learn from his mistakes? Unless it was a calculated move? A risky move to be sure… how quick would the wizarding world turn on Dumbledore if they learned the truth? What if he could convince Voldemort that destroying Dumbledore's reputation was the way to go? To get him out of the picture and take over without killing people? Hopefully he would put his distaste aside for Muggle-borns when he realizes the truth that they were from a magical line… a squib line, but magical nonetheless. His mind calculated all the possible ways to succeed in his new found mission.

He was so deep in thought that he almost missed the house, but he made it seem as though he hadn't, thankfully not needing to backtrack. Unfortunately he backed into someone, they were invisible too so either they were concealed or were using an invisibility cloak as well. Cursing quietly under his breath, he froze, then the person did remove a cloak, looking around suspiciously. "Potter, is that you?" Mundungus asked, cautiously, knowing about the boy's invisibility cloak.

Harry rolled his eyes; he was a bloody idiot, whoever he was. Just then a red curse barrelled into the now visible wizard; now that did surprise him, why a stunning curse?

Voldemort ambled over to the unconscious wizard, pressing his wand to his temple, murmuring, "Obliviate!" and manipulating his memories to make him think he had simply fallen asleep on the job. "Remove the cloak." They were safe for now.

"Who is he?" Harry asked actually curious as he peered at him. He was filthy and smelled absolutely foul. "He smells worse than the Leaky Cauldron," he admitted, his nose screwed up slightly at the smell of alcohol and stale smoke. He hadn't met a wizard or witch yet who smoked, or even smelt like that. He gasped in shock when he heard a quiet chuckle, Voldemort had laughed? A genuine laugh but still a laugh! Not that evil sarcastic one.

"This waste of space is Mundungus Fletcher," Voldemort sneered, his voice filled with distain. "A member of Dumbledore's precious Order."

"Err… why do you consider them a threat?" Harry murmured in confusion, even he could have taken him down. He was actually quite disappointed in Dumbledore if this was the best he could get. Maybe it wasn't, perhaps he thought it unlikely he would come here again, using his better resources elsewhere.

"I do not," Voldemort replied calmly, sounding slightly insulted.

Harry bit down the, 'no, just Dumbledore,' but refrained; he didn't want to be cursed, thank you very much… nor did he want to be dragged back without his book. Keeping his cloak tightly held beside him, he crept closer to the house and opened the door as lightly as he could. He knew from experience that they were more than likely watching TV which was always loud. Harry's gaze went straight to the cupboard his eyes hardening slightly before he began to walk up the stairs.

Voldemort had seen the boy's reaction, but it was nothing he didn't already know. Ten years of being kept under the stairs in a cupboard; he may have killed the boy's parents but he wasn't in any way responsible for what Dumbledore had done. There was bound to have been plenty of wizards and witches salivating at the possibility of raising the last Potter heir. Dumbledore's need for constant control over everyone had led to this. Curiosity got the better of him and he walked over to the cupboard and opened it. His eyes were drawn to the childish scribbling; 'Harry's room,' written in crayons if he wasn't very much mistaken. His red eyes flashed in fury. This boy might have been his nemesis―he should have revelled in it―but truth was he didn't condone abuse. It was no laughing matter, and in this he could safely say he was better than Dumbledore.

Hearing booming laughter coming from the living room caused him to close the cupboard door and make his way to the bedroom where Potter was. He would deal with the Dursleys soon, but death was too good for the likes of them, perhaps a few weeks under his property would be good for them. Oh, how he would love to let Bella have at them, there was no other more inventive, perhaps except Severus. He just arrived at a door filled with padlocks when the boy exited the room with a book.

"All this for a book?" Voldemort said dryly.

"It's not just any book," Harry said defensively.

"Clearly," Voldemort replied, before a sadistic glint came to his eyes and he made his way downstairs.

"Are you going to do it here?" Harry whispered as they both went down the stairs once more.

Was that excitement he heard in Potters' voice? Surely it couldn't be? Perhaps he had imagined it. "I thought you said no killing or hurting anyone?" He voiced his thoughts with rancor; the boy was a hypocrite it seemed.

Harry paused for a moment before he admitted, "Some exceptions deserve to be made."

Voldemort had to nod curtly at that, he had killed many but none had been better than those who’d abandoned him: his father and grandparents. "To answer your question, no, not here,"

"Why?" Harry asked.

"Because there is an Order member stationed here to keep an eye on you, Potter, and has been since you arrived here." Voldemort internally smirked knowing this was another strike against the light side.

"Who?" Harry growled, and a little too loudly as the TV volume went down as if someone in there had heard them.

"Nothing, must have been a stray outside," boomed Vernon, before the volume increased.

"Arabella Figg," Voldemort revealed, sneering as he thought of her, "A squib."

Harry sat on the step shocked to the core as he tried to come to terms with this new piece of information. Figg? The batty cat woman? Was that even her real personality or was she just playing the part? She had babysat him so many times, saw the bruises, gave him food knowing he wasn't getting enough… showing him pictures of all the cats she'd owned… and all this time… all this time she'd known… had she told Dumbledore? He wanted answers, so much so he was tempted to go and get them. A shriek of surprise broke him out of his thoughts before he jumped up and ran down the remaining stairs. Peering into the living room, he found them all stunned.

"I want Figg taken too," Harry stated, green eyes cold as ice. "She lives in Wisteria Walk."

"Are you offering another boon, Potter?" Voldemort was impressed despite himself. He hadn't planned on revealing that nugget of information yet… but it had evidently struck a chord in the boy, one that drove home his vengeance with brutality.

Harry narrowed his eyes, "I've already gave you one." He didn't want to offer up any more.

"I'll take that as a no then," Voldemort stated, just to see how much Harry wanted it. Any hit to the Order was good in his book, but the boy didn't need to know that. "Amita?" he called, gazing at the Dursleys, his lip curled slightly. He didn't even want to touch them, let alone move them, hence his idea to use his House-elf.

"Yes Master? How can Amita help?" she spoke clearly, it was obvious to Harry that Voldemort couldn't stand ill manners.

"Take them to the lower dungeon," Voldemort demanded. If Potter thought his abode had been bad… well, it was nothing on the lower dungeons. Those were for his true enemies, those that would not come out of it alive; they never did. Anyone he wanted dead always ended up dead, with one obvious annoying exception.

"It's an Order member, are you really going to pass that up?" Harry asked shrewdly. His hands still clutching the book close to his chest. "Dumbledore obviously trusts her, or she wouldn't have been sent here." Bitterness coated each word. "He'd probably be furious," Harry added, playing to his need to see Dumbledore suffering to get him to do it.

Voldemort just smirked sadistically, finding himself genuinely amused. Either it was due to his mental state being more stable or just how the boy could make him actually want to take the woman without collecting on a boon. He knew the right thing to say, although everyone knew of his hatred of Dumbledore. Everyone liked to think Dumbledore was the only wizard he was scared of, which did annoy him to no end.

--------0

"I do believe I upheld my end of the bargain, Harry," Voldemort purred, his hand extended, red eyes gleaming with wicked amusement. He shouldn't enjoy this so much, but it was fun, and he didn't do fun. A verbal sparring partner that wasn't afraid of him… it was a new experience. Both infuriating and liberating, in equal measures, he was unsure of how to feel about it but as always he put it down to his returned sanity and Potter stubbornness. Or should he say the Evans stubbornness in the boy? Lily Evans might have thought she was just a Muggle-born but she wasn't, she was a Lestrange― a light Lestrange, as laughable as that sounded. Between the Potter and the Lestrange blood running through his veins, along with the Black and distant Malfoy, it was little wonder he had such a hot-headed yet stubborn creature. He did not even touch upon the fact they were related, that was just too annoying to contemplate.

With a long suffering sigh, Harry thrust his hand out, his fingers unconsciously tightening around the book. He would get it back, he knew that. Yet the fact Voldemort was going to be looking at everything he'd ever written was worrisome. Nobody had seen inside that book, absolutely nobody and Voldemort was really smart; a genius really, he outdid Dumbledore's scores while at Hogwarts. Part of Harry worried about being laughed at; what was worse was he shouldn't care what Voldemort did or said. He should have expected something like this to happen when he asked to go to Privet Drive to get the book. It was better than owing him another boon; he was surprised that Voldemort didn't enquire where he got his knowledge of Slytherins though.

Voldemort grasped a hold of the book, amused by the boy’s reluctance; he had agreed to it after all: Figg captured with the stipulation he got to see the contents of the book. He was very curious as to what the boy could place so close to his heart to give him a boon, considering he'd already been through his trunk―and yes, every single item had been touched and inspected thoroughly for charms; those found were swiftly removed… helped by the ward that dampened the pinpoint accuracy of tracking charms. After all, he had been unaware of how quickly Dumbledore might realize his precious saviour was missing. Not quickly enough, he thought with savage amusement. This book wasn't something of sentimental value; he had seen the boy's photo album. He honestly couldn't see it being anything worthy of his attention but he was unable to curb his own curiosity. Then, one finger at a time, Potter finally let it go, looking extremely disgruntled and possessive. That he understood all too well, he didn't like anyone touching his things either. His private books stayed in his study; the library was filled with the others books he wasn't too possessive of.

"You may read any book that strikes your fancy; if you find it in here, it remains in here, is that understood?" Voldemort said feeling generous. He doubted the boy would be able to understand many of them, at least not for a few years yet; they were extremely advanced texts.

Harry stared at the side of Voldemort’s head, wishing that he still looked like snakeface; he didn't know why but having him look like Tom from the chamber, only older, was very unnerving, he couldn't quite figure out why yet. He couldn't help but wonder why he was allowing him to do this; he had a feeling that people rarely got in here. Most meetings were held in the hall they ate their food in, at least he assumed so; he didn't know for certain since he was always shut away whenever someone else entered the Manor. He just had a feeling not many people were afforded this courtesy. Only time would tell.

"Do you have anything on Occlumens?" Harry enquired, gazing around. The books were old; Granger would have loved it in here.

"Occlumency," Voldemort corrected, all the while silently summoning a book to him. "Here," he gestured for the boy to collect it without even looking up.

Harry took it, giving Voldemort an irritated look, although he wasn't sure why. After all, he couldn't see it. Huffing silently, he was determined that he wasn't leaving this room without his book back, so he moved over to the couch that was in the middle of the room. Sitting down cross legged he placed the book in the middle and opened it. He wouldn't have been able to do that before, he idly realized, as he began to read the introductory page that explained what Occlumency was. He couldn't believe Voldemort of all people had been the one to correct his eyesight; if there was a potion, why hadn't anyone told him? Hermione? Madam Pomfrey? He just didn't understand; why not just tell him?

Voldemort couldn't have been more surprised when Potter actually sat down in his office and began reading. Everyone went out of their way to avoid him as much as possible, with good reason: he had always had trouble controlling his temper. He couldn't tolerate fools; thankfully his Death Eaters weren't all insipid idiots, just a select few he though with derision, Pettigrew being the primary one. He had his uses; he'd brought him back, and he awarded loyalty with loyalty. The rat would get no better than that from him. Until he did something to screw that protection up, and this was Pettigrew he was thinking about; he always ended up doing something idiotic. Turning back to the book, he flipped to the second page since the first 'index' page was empty.

He froze, staring at the page and writing ―Muggle pen; this wasn't done with a quill and ink― these were spells. "You started your own Grimoire?" he asked, feeling speechless. How was this boy just fourteen? Going by the writing, he suspected the boy had begun even earlier than that.

"A Grim what?" Harry asked distractedly, this book was very informative; he wanted to continue reading it.

"A Grimoire," Voldemort repeated, very patiently continuing, "A Book of Spells; they're usually handed down from family members, the ancient families have a family Grimoire, or they did. Not all of them have one anymore. Many were either lost in time or destroyed by vengeful or paranoid relatives that didn't want their descendants to have their knowledge, or felt they were unworthy. There is also the case where families publish their findings, and making the Grimoire essentially useless."

"Oh," Harry muttered; well, that made sense. "I guess." He hadn't done it for anyone else… just himself. He had nearly three months of boredom every summer, stuck in a room unable to do anything, so it was only natural that he wanted to take his mind off it, and that was what he had done.

Voldemort was quietly amazed. Very few families had the knack for spell-crafting; the Princes were the ones well known for that, hence why Severus found it very easy to create his own. That wasn't the only reason; Severus was brilliant, even if he would never tell the wizard that. He picked his favourites and trained them. While Bellatrix was… attentive, and sought praise for her work, which was rightfully earned, Severus had been able to learn much faster.

Now these spells, the ones that Potter had created, were very Dark in nature, extremely so. They were spells that had one single objective in mind: torture, in every manner possible; they made the Cruciatus Curse pale in comparison. Perhaps that was because the results would actually BE physically there, only to be healed once the curse ended. And this was only two pages of them; the book looked well worn and thumbed through, so he was assuming there were a lot more of them. His red eyes gleamed wickedly; he honestly wanted to use them.

"Have you ever thought about destroying Dumbledore's reputation rather than killing him?" Harry asked, bringing Voldemort out of the perusal of his book.

"Oh? How do you propose I do that?" Voldemort replied dryly.

"By revealing the truth," Harry told him confidently. "Spin it the right way and they'll be threatening to pull out their children from Hogwarts. The Ministry would rather have Dumbledore removed than allow that to happen. Hell, even go so far as to say he was indirectly responsible for Myrtle’s death by allowing you to continue your quest. If the papers anything to go on, it will be really easy right now. They're already calling him all the names under the sun." And him as well. "Away from the protection of Hogwarts and the teachers… well, he would be vulnerable."

"And you think I care for playing games?" Voldemort sneered, despite the fact he actually thought the idea was a rather ingenious one. He'd always wanted to destroy Dumbledore… he hadn't once thought about removing him from the protection of Hogwarts ― he would be, as Harry said, vulnerable, easy to kill.

"Really?" Harry scoffed, "What was last year? Instead of just getting Crouch to kidnap me at the start of the year you put me in a bloody tournament that could have killed me before you got your precious blood." Harry sneered at Voldemort, watching his hand clench from the effort of controlling his fury. "You take unnecessary risks, needless risks." It was stupid, but he definitely wasn't going to say that out loud. "You also put your Death Eaters in harm’s way for no reason. Crouch wasn't even fit for something like this, either; I'm surprised he pulled it off without revealing who he really was."

"Until you figured it out and outed him to everyone?" Voldemort argued; his argument was weak at best, and he didn’t like that. He didn't care for an argument on what could have been anyway; the boy obviously still didn't know just how closely he was monitored, but that would come out in time and the squib would help with that. The last thing he wanted to do was argue with the boy, he honestly found it difficult to keep his eyes off that Grimoire of Potter’s. He would never have expected this of Potter, he thought he'd been too busy playing Dumbledore's golden boy. He'd only said he hadn't cast anything while at Hogwarts… he should have seen the omission for what it was.

"I suspected something was going on for months, I just didn't understand what was happening. Not until after I was kidnapped did I put the pieces together," Harry hissed, which was the truth. "If I had just figured out how the damn map worked sooner…" He wouldn't be here, Moody-Crouch would have been caught, and he would have probably endured another endless summer at Privet Drive. He didn't know which he preferred in all honesty. He was locked up here as he was at Privet Drive… he wouldn't be able to go back to Hogwarts… he honestly had no idea what his future looked like at the moment. But he wasn't treated too badly here, in fact it was the best he'd been treated all his life. He'd take Voldemort's Cruciatus curse to being in agony from being beaten by a Muggle. Speaking of his dearest uncle, he took savage pleasure in knowing he would suffer.

"Just how small is the lower dungeon?" Harry asked distractedly, forgetting his earlier argument with the Dark Wizard. Unbeknown to him his face was reflecting his dark desires.

Voldemort arched an eyebrow. Honestly the boy baffled him to the core; one minute he had the nerve to argue with him, the next he was asking him questions. One minute he wanted to curse him, the next laugh uproariously at the fact Dumbledore had actually been deceived. Even he hadn't been able to fool or manipulate Dumbledore, the old wizard had seen through everything he’d tried. Admittedly he had been less than tight lipped about what he could do when Dumbledore first appeared―his first mistake. Still, the boy insisted he didn't want to kill or harm anyone, yet this Grimoire declared otherwise. Obviously his earlier Cruciatus hadn't gotten through to the blasted boy that he wasn't going to allow himself to be disrespected.

"Small enough," Voldemort stated, gazing shrewdly at the dark look on Harry's face, "Tell me, Potter, why is it that you are so reluctant to kill anyone when this book is a compilation of spells that claim you do?"

"I couldn't show it," Harry confessed, shrugging his shoulders, "Not at Hogwarts, nor at the Dursleys’. I had two different masks I used to survive; I never got to be me unless I was in my room…"

"It was your way of letting off steam," Voldemort deduced; imagining his spells doing what they should was his only way of remaining sane. "You do realise how dangerous that was? You could have cracked under the strain and ended up with multiple personalities." He didn’t care, he just enjoyed reprimanding Potter, or so he tried to convince himself.

"What does it matter? I did what I had to, to survive and that’s that," Harry commented. "Where are the lower dungeons? I didn't see a way down."

"You have not seen the property in its entirely," Voldemort said dismissively, facing away from the teen, no longer interested in their conversation. Potter’s book was much more interesting, for the moment at least. A few pages in he began to notice a deviation; not only was the writing becoming more legible, but neater and tidy. More importantly it wasn't just curses, but also charms and potions. One in particular seemed created to bulk someone up… interesting. It would do exactly as it said, he realized, reading the instructions. Potter must have planned on using it at some point; he wasn't by any meals skeletal, though, probably due to his Quidditch training, if the Gryffindors trained like the Slytherins did in his day. So yes, he would say his form wasn’t too bad. He had seen the memories from the Tri-Wizard tournament, which of course included the second underwater task. Severus would actually find these recipes very interesting; from what he'd been told, the boy was useless at Potions. Evidently they had been misled in that respect as well.

He could say with certainty that he actually looked forward to getting to know the real boy under the masks.

"It says here you'll know when you find your centre so that you can begin erecting your rudimentary occlumency barriers; it doesn't explain how. Does that mean it’s different for everyone, or so noticeable that you can't miss it?" Harry asked, unaware that over half an hour had passed as they lost themselves in their current reading materials.

"Both; finding your centre is extremely easy, finding what holds your barriers is uniquely individual," Voldemort replied, surprised the boy had understood that. The book didn't make it easy; it was a difficult art to master. He himself was one of the best; he would say Severus was next to him in terms of impenetrable barriers.

"So it’s not just a matter of magic holding it then," Harry deduced.

"It could be; do not dismiss the idea. Magic is the most primary defence in keeping your mind secure, Think of the elements when you meditate, or somewhere that you feel safe," Voldemort stated, irony seeping into his voice. He didn't think Potter had been safe anywhere; he doubted the boy considered here safe, despite the fact he actually was. He wouldn't allow anything to happen to him, he was far too important for that.

Harry nodded his head in contemplation, before going back to the book, ignoring the niggling feeling of rightfulness that he felt at this situation. This was not right, he had been kidnapped. It didn't matter that someone actually wanted him to learn magic for once in his life… that they were helping him… no, he didn't want to think on it. He'd never been able to read a book in peace; if he picked anything up, Ron would complain and whine, wanting to do 'something'. Not that it had been any decent book either, just his school book for the year. That and making sure he didn't do too well with his homework, with the exception of DADA. He also liked the fact he could ask questions without getting talked down to, as if he was a stupid idiot.

Why did he have to have friends that listened to Dumbledore? Harry thought with despair. Was it so wrong to want someone loyal to him? He would give anything to find out what they had been discussing in the old fool’s office; the chances of finding out were slim to nothing unless he made some Veritaserum and Obliviated them afterwards once he knew what was going on. He hadn't used the spell, but he'd read about it sneakily while looking at books to help him with the Tri-Wizard tournament. Sneakily… what the hat had said to him came back to bite him in the arse: he would find his true friends in Slytherin… yeah, he didn't want to think on this anymore, he thought before concentrating on the book in front of him.

----------0

"How did you keep this hidden so successfully, Potter? Did you take it to Hogwarts with you?" Voldemort enquired. He could feel magic on the book, he just couldn't figure out what spell it was. If he couldn't, the chances were it had been spelled that way using one the boy had invented.

"Yes; I didn't bring it out often, though, I rarely got to be left alone," Harry admitted. Sometimes his mind couldn't help but come up with something and he just had to figure it out and write it down. "Last year at Hogwarts was good for a while, mostly because nobody was talking to me because they thought I’d put my name in the cup," Harry sent a glare at the older wizard for doing it in the first place.

"What spell did you put on the book?" Voldemort demanded, and why the hell could he read it? He had a feeling nobody else would be able to… perhaps unless they had permission, and in a way he did.

"Blood magic," Harry grudgingly told him, "Only someone with my blood can read it, unless I add them to the ward that prevents the written words from being visible… it’s in Parseltongue so nobody can just add themselves in a bid to circumvent the spell."

Voldemort just smirked once more. The boy had the potential to be a prodigy but instead of flourishing, his talents had been suppressed. It was wrong on so many levels, it actually disgusted him. He would teach the boy everything he would ever need to know. He had never taken on someone to train quite so young; Harry was two years younger than Regulus had been when he began training. It was also a first since the boy was not one of his followers, and he doubted the boy would willingly allow himself to be marked. Why should he? He was better than any of the others, Potter was his equal after all… and if he tried to think of him as lesser then he was only insulting himself.

"Do you plan on using some of the potions you created?" Voldemort enquired closing the Grimoire.

Harry looked up suspiciously, "Yes…" he replied cautiously.

"And if I found a suitable teacher for you, will you behave?" Voldemort asked, glaring at Harry in warning; he didn't want a cheeky reply.

"You want me to play nice with Snape?" Harry gaped, "I thought you didn't want anyone to see me here?" If Voldemort trusted Snape to be with him then there was no doubt about it… he was definitely on the dark side. He must have proof of Snape's true loyalties; Voldemort wouldn't risk him getting away… then again, he couldn't escape due to the band around his ankle. Would Snape be the same in a private setting? Or would he treat him how he usually did?

"Yes," Voldemort replied, ignoring the second part of his statement, he didn't have to tell Harry anything.

"If he doesn't start, then fine," Harry answered seeing that Voldemort's intense look wasn't going to let up until he gave him his reply. "I don't care what you do, but I won’t let him treat me the way he does at Hogwarts; I won’t hold back ― I have no reason to now." He had nothing to hide here; it was strangely liberating. Damn it, he wasn't supposed to like being here. Seeing the wizard holding his book out, he stepped forward to accept it. Then he saw the large scroll across the Dark Lord’s desk. "Is that Azkaban?"

Voldemort rose an eyebrow, silently impressed, "Indeed; how did you figure that one?" There was no name, and he very much doubted the boy had seen the prison.

"It's surrounded by water, it's a single building, there's a boat out on the other end," Harry said, gesturing to the areas to demonstrate. "Sirius told me he had to swim to shore, those blobs I'd say were Dementors and those I'd guess were Aurors, probably at their stations…" he added pointing to the red dots, symbolic since the Aurors were always dressed in red. "Let me guess: you're going to try and get your followers out by bursting in?"

"And what would you suggest, Potter?" Voldemort commented, actually genuinely curious to see what he would come up with… probably something that didn't involve people dying.

"Well, how did Barty get out?" Harry asked, "Nobody seems to have thought anything of it when he died… so?" he prompted.

"Polyjuice potion," Voldemort replied curtly, already seeing new possibilities beginning to emerge.

"They've been in prison for what? Thirteen years? Why not use Polyjuice potion and have a mass accident that kills them before they turn back… although it would look suspicious if all of them did die at the same time… I don't suppose you have anyone working in Azkaban on your side?" Harry suggested, "It would make it easier to make it all look like natural causes if they died at different times, but they'd need the polyjuice potion continuously until they did die. Or a potion or something that makes it look like there was an outbreak of wizarding flu that killed them all? They wouldn't look too much into that, wizarding flu pandemic has happened before… or dragon pox. It would give you the time to get them better before the magical world realised you were back and they'd have a chance to recover without having to watch their backs so much; the Auror force would be out in masses trying to protect everyone."

"I thought you didn't like playing 'games'," Voldemort pointed out his lips twitching slightly in pride.

"I also said you take unnecessary risks with your followers. If you attempt something of this magnitude you'll lose at least a few…" Harry bit out; the Aurors were no slouches, look at Moody. He had brought down dozens upon dozens of Death Eaters. "Sometimes the best path is the one with least resistance, like not going in half cocked and making your presence known… that was your purpose right? To remain 'dead' while you slowly rebuilt your ranks?"

"Just where do you expect me to get thirty-five people? This isn't including anyone else who wishes to join without arousing suspicion?" Voldemort asked, leaning back his face impassive, his eyes gazing at Harry's with a hint of shrewdness in those red depths. After being dumped in Azkaban there was no doubt quite a few others would willingly join him to be free. They would have to prove their loyalty to him, but that would come afterwards, once they’d recovered from the exposure to Dementors.

"I'm guessing Polyjuice potion works on Muggles? Just collect the worst sort of Muggles and put them down in the dungeons until you need them. Not the Dursleys; I want them to suffer more for what they've done," Harry suggested, shrugging his shoulders.

"Just what is the worst sort of Muggle to you, Potter, that you would allow them to be killed in such a manner?" Voldemort enquired his voice deceptively mild. The boy really didn't stop surprising him.

Harry's lip curled, "Abusers," his voice cold and harsh as he uttered that single word. "Just think about it: Dumbledore and the Order are the only ones that believe you're back. The longer you can keep it hidden, the more it will frustrate Dumbledore to no end. Your problem is you want too much too soon, and you fight for it instead of doing it subtly."

After a few more minutes of silence, Harry spoke again, "When have you seen the Dark winning while battling it outright? There is always someone out there willing to be a hero, and powerful enough to do it too. Do something different from them and you might succeed." Life wasn't a story book; he knew not everyone wanted to be a hero, and the damsel didn't always want to be rescued... but the story was always the same… changing that changes the rules, and just maybe the ending might be different too.

With that Harry ended the conversation, took his book back and sat back down and immersed himself in the Occlumency book; he couldn't take it out of here and he desperately wanted to read it, so he had no choice but to remain here.

He again refused to dwell on how nice it felt: no pain, no masks, just peace. He couldn't believe he had found it with Voldemort of all people… but he couldn't be too picky.

Chapter Text

Embracing His True Self

Chapter 10

One Week Later

 

Albus Dumbledore was beyond furious; he had been searching high and low for Potter now for a week and three days. Nobody had even so much as caught a glimpse of him. The only meager consolation he had was that Voldemort was just as much in the dark as the rest of them, he knew that due to Severus' spying for them. That wasn’t to say Voldemort didn't know about it, unfortunately he did; the Ministry had found out and were also searching for Harry, splashing that fact across the newspapers. Between the Aurors and Death Eaters, the Order was being stretched to the max to try and find the boy first. The Ministry had found out due to the disappearance of the Dursleys; thankfully they hadn't known about Arabella.

Their disappearance did worry him. Why take them at all? Why Arabella? He feared something more was at work here. What if someone had found out? What if they were telling Potter everything? No, nobody had found out; he always made sure that he had all his bases covered. Yet it was the one thing that made all this make sense. Potter had simply run away, and in that time Voldemort had taken the Dursleys in his anger and possibly killed them, or tried to get the information out of them. Not that there would be anything useful, they didn't know where Potter was.

Harry had been secluded in the Muggle world; he had made sure of that. Other than school, the boy went nowhere. He'd be more lost in the Muggle world than the magical world; perhaps he should step up his searches in Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade. All it would take was for the boy to be within the vicinity of the spell, and he would get him back. This would not happen again; he was through playing with kid gloves… two years in a row of pulling a disappearing act. Idiot of a boy, he was all that stood between a free world or world domination at Voldemort's hands. No, he was far too important to be allowed free rein; this had to be done, for the greater good.

The old schemer sighed in contemplation; he would need to find the boy first before he could employ the measures to secure him. Perhaps it was time to tighten his hold on his friends, Granger and of course the Weasleys.

Plucking out a lemon drop, he untwisted the wrapper and plopped the sour sweet into his mouth, already feeling the calming affects that came courtesy of the potion they'd been dipped into. There was a special selection doctored with Veritaserum, charmed to make the person seeing them want one, so he didn't have to force the sweet on them and cause suspicion.

He had the entire Order looking for the boy right now, spread out too thin, and scouring every inch of the country repeatedly. He wasn't about to give in, he couldn't; the whole world depended on him. He hated that it was Potter, not him, but he believed in the prophecy completely. It was why he had ensured it came to pass. Then dropped the boy of with people he knew would despise every breath he took; his parents had seen to that one themselves.

"Albus, you asked to see me?" Severus enquired, entering the Headmaster's office dressed entirely in black, his face made of stone.

"Ah, Severus, come in, have a seat," Albus said, sitting up straighter.

"You wished to see me?" Snape repeated, strengthening his mental barriers. Nobody had gotten past them since he had perfected them, and nobody was going to now either. Especially not Albus Dumbledore; he might think he was stronger but he was nothing on the Dark Lord, who had taught Severus secretly before he had pretended to repent ― showing the headmaster only what he wanted him to see while the old man 'taught' him how to hide his thoughts. He hadn't even suspected for a moment that Severus already knew everything there was to know. That plan had been put in motion before Lily had been targeted.

"Tell me, Severus: is there a way to track Harry down?" Albus asked his gaze shrewd.

Severus arched en eyebrow, "There are many ways to track a wizard down, as you well know, Headmaster, and as far as I am aware you have tried each one only to be met with constant failure."

"Any other means?" Albus corrected.

"I hope you are not implying what I think you are, Albus," Severus warned, narrowing his eyes in displeasure.

"You know how important Harry is to us. Only he can end the war; only he has the chance of stopping Voldemort." Albus said, not even blinking as Severus winced at the pain. "You swore to protect him; we need to find him so we can do just that before he is found by the Death Eaters and taken to Voldemort."

Severus bit his tongue to stop the words he so wanted to spout at Dumbledore. The old coot knew damn well the mark hurt whenever anyone was stupid enough to say the Dark Lord’s name; it didn't matter that it wasn't him, it just reacted. He was being asked to brew a potion that Dumbledore had fought against, stopped, and made illegal; his hypocrisy knew no bounds. "It's not that simple, to create it I would need fresh blood, or hair," Severus eventually ground out through gritted teeth.

"How fresh?" Albus frowned, disappointed and irate. He needed to find the boy and he didn't care how he went about accomplishing it.

"A week," Severus lied bare-faced, and Dumbledore would never find out; the books weren't specific. He had a good idea now, since he had found Harry using saliva and blood that was over a decade old. It was true the house in Godric's Hollow had been made into a shrine and sort of preserved, that might have had a bit to do with it, but he wasn't one hundred percent sure on that. No, the boy would remain safe where he was, and he never thought he would hear himself saying that.

The world was turning on its axis and he was just going with the flow, trying to stay sane.

"I see," Albus muttered. He had neither blood nor hair of the boy anyway, so that wouldn't have worked. He wished he had taken the time to gather some now. It would have made this infinity easer.

"The boy will show up," Severus scowled, "You know how he is, he likes attention. He's a spoiled, selfish brat, and I've been telling you that for years, Albus. You continued to let him off with things that would have seen an ordinary student expelled. You've spoiled him and allowed him to think he's above the rules; it's little wonder he thinks he can pull stunts like this and come back whenever he pleases." He took perverse pleasure in the way Albus paled and his lips disappeared; the old man knew that he was right, that was the biggest satisfaction of all. Unfortunately he also knew he was wrong, Harry hadn't been spoiled but Dumbledore wasn't aware he had looked into the minds of the Muggles Harry had lived with.

"Perhaps you are correct, but after this latest stunt, no more," Albus replied in a clipped tone, "He will learn the consequences of his actions one way or another." Starting with no more Quidditch, or Hogsmeade outings; all extracurricular activity will be banned.

"It's about time, Albus," Severus stated. In a way Albus was being blindsided, he had no idea the Dark Lord had Harry, and that he hadn't come on his own violation. He trusted him, such a fool; he believed in him saying that the Dark Lord didn't have the boy… where else did he seriously think the boy would go? The leash had been kept too tightly wound for Harry to contemplate the idea of leaving.

"Yes, yes it is," Albus said, his eyes darkening slightly as he thought of Potter and all the plans he had derailed and the time he was having to waste to find him. He had to get the Order ready; Voldemort would be making his move soon. Add in the mess with the Ministry and he just found it difficult to keep himself calm. To make matters worse, he had just received word that the Minister was appointing a teacher at his school, and there was nothing he could do about it, since he couldn't get anyone to fill the position. Nobody wanted to risk being his DADA teacher anymore, due to the things that continued happening. Unfortunately the word had spread despite how hard he tried to keep it contained for the last few decades.

Severus couldn't help but think Albus was really losing it; his real nature was beginning to show through cracks in his otherwise perfect façade. He truly didn't do well when he couldn't see all outcomes, where not all his chess pieces were where he wanted them to be. A startled hiss left his lips as his mark heated up; it wasn't a full meeting, he was being requested specifically. It hurt worse when everyone was called, due to the fact it took more power to call them all and the Dark Lord couldn't prevent it from doing so. He doubted he actually cared; this was nothing compared to the Cruciatus curse he delivered if you failed him.

"Go," Albus said, his eyes wide; was this it? Would he learn that Voldemort had Harry now? "Return as soon as you are able." He had to know; he wouldn't stand for being in the dark a second longer than necessary.

Severus stood up with a grimace, not even bothering to reply to the old fool's words. It wasn't as if he could just interrupt the Dark Lord and ask to leave. What did Dumbledore think he was? A newbie at being a spy? At working for the Dark Lord? He didn't think so. No, Dumbledore could sweat for all he cared, he'd rather live to see his next birthday… which was, ironically, in four months’ time, less than that if you went by the dates since it was very early January, the ninth to be exact.

The mark didn't burn continuously until you went to him when he only required your presence alone. He still didn't dawdle, though, he had no idea what kind of mood the Dark Lord was in, and so far he had been… different, a lot different than what he remembered, even in the beginning before the prophecy. Nott senior had said it was like having 'his old friend' back. He was unsure if he meant in looks or temperament, but it had caused excitement within the ranks, hope rekindled.

Ten minutes later he was out of the school and beyond the wards; he looked around ensuring that he was unobserved, flicking a ward up just to be sure. Then he pulled up his sleeve and pressed a finger on the Dark Mark, pushing his magic into it, and the immediate sensation of side-long Apparation caught him. The scenery in Scotland disappeared and he reappeared outside the Dark Lord's hideout.

The wards tingled as he bypassed them. Right now the Dark Lord would know he was here, before he even stepped foot in the manor. He had yet to see Harry, despite the fact he had been here a few times already, mostly on his own, although sometimes with Lucius. As always Malfoy was up to something and not in a sharing mood.

"My Lord," Severus said nodding respectfully as he entered the hall used for meeting purposes and of course eating.

"Severus," Voldemort said, "I have a task for you, if you're up for it. Sit." He wondered what Severus would make of the potions Harry had made as he gestured to the seat opposite him, so he could keep an eye on the wizard.

"Of course, My Lord," Severus said, taking a seat as instructed. Anything that kept him away from Dumbledore… the longer the better. He honestly couldn't stand the sight of the old fool, and he was keeping an annoyingly close eye on him lately. Wanting to know everything that happened and if he'd found anything out. Merlin, he hated the way his eyes brightened up every time the mark hurt. So yes, he wanted to be away as long as possible, make him sweat.

"But first, what do you think of these potion recipes?" Voldemort asked, handing over the parchment. He had an eidetic memory, and he had merely written down three of the more impressive ones. Not that they weren't all impressive, and he was dying to try out some of the spells himself. Everyone thought he was bloodthirsty; well, they'd obviously not met the real Harry Potter locked up in the golden boy yet.

Severus took the parchment completely baffled, which was occurring more and more often these days. While he was glad for the change, it was just so weird seeing it occurring. He began to read, as the Dark Lord sat languidly in the chair, waiting for his opinion.

"Do you wish for me to brew these?" Severus questioned, not surprised that the Dark Lord could create something like these; he was a genius even at Potions.

"I asked your opinion," Voldemort corrected him, his tone deceptively soft.

Severus blinked; he felt as though he was being tricked and so as always he fell back on his instincts ― he trusted them. "They're perfect, ingenious really," Severus admitted, waiting for the other shoe to drop, or rather himself under the Cruciatus curse; he was tense waiting for it, yet it did not happen.

"And if I told you a student at Hogwarts had created them… what would you say?" Voldemort smirked, oh he enjoyed getting a rise out of his followers, and he always had done. Maybe not in this way, but he was beginning to like it nonetheless.

Severus snorted before he could help himself, "I would find it very difficult to believe, My Lord, no student there has shown this capacity for Potions."

Voldemort narrowed his eyes, "These recipes are from a fourteen-year-old boy." His anger leaking out at the way Severus had spoken to him. But if he wanted him brewing potions today, then he couldn't curse him. Regretfully, brewing required a steady hand, otherwise there would be nothing saving him from cursing the wizard for his doubt of his character.

Severus' eyes widened, understanding Voldemort's omission. He couldn't mean… could he? "Potter?" he muttered incredulously, this he didn't believe.

"Indeed," Voldemort stated, "Everything you thought you knew about the boy… he wanted you to see. He has created more spells than you did in your youth, ones that make your Sectumsempra pale by comparison. All this time we thought he was a golden boy, following Dumbledore around like a lost puppy. We were so wrong, it's entirely laudable." His red eyes were gleaming wickedly as he spoke, enjoying each reaction Severus had to his news. "You and I, as well as everyone that has come into contact with that boy have been duped."

Severus bit down the urge to ask the Dark Lord if he was sure, and it certainly wasn't a joke― he wasn't known for them. He couldn't be mistaken, the boy had no occlumency shields, and he knew that much for sure since he knew when the boy was lying, albeit only when he actually looked him in the eye. Which wasn't too often, due to the fact he hadn't treated him well, despite the fact he was sworn to protect him. "I… do not know what to say, My Lord," Severus confessed; he wasn't sure about anything anymore. Did that mean Harry wanted to be here? If he was dark, then this was the side for him… and nothing Dumbledore did could change that. "The prophecy?" he ventured cautiously.

"I must confess I acted rashly," Voldemort admitted, finding it distasteful. "It is no longer applicable. I have deciphered it, and I believe Dumbledore has incorrectly interpreted it to suit his needs."

"You have it?" Severus didn't dare look up, "I was under the impression that it was being guarded… My Lord,"

"And it is. No one will ever be any the wiser; Dumbledore is not to know. Now tell me what is going on with the Order?" Voldemort asked, changing the subject completely.

"They're stretched thin looking for Potter, although there's always one spared to guard the prophecy in the Department of Mysteries; all other plans are on hold. I believe the old fool is losing it, the longer Potter is out of his control. He all but instructed me to brew an outlawed locating potion that he hasn't tried yet; I told him you needed hair or other fluids no more than a week old… something he doesn't have," Severus told him, his black eyes flashing in fury at the old man's duplicity.

"I didn't think otherwise," Voldemort sneered, warming up to the idea of destroying Dumbledore completely. Murder was too good, he wanted everyone to see the pretence that was their leader of the light. Perhaps Potter might have a few other good ideas up his sleeves. "Harry would like to learn to make his potions; you will tutor him… and fairly, Severus… as you would your own godson. His magic is as dark as our own; he is family. Do not disappoint me."

Harry? thought Severus his eyes widening slightly before he regained control, struck dumb by what he had just heard. He never called anyone by their first names, at least nobody new; only the inner circle got called by their first names and that wasn't all the time either… usually the last name when he was very displeased. First name when he was moderately happy when his plans were all going accordingly. "I won't, My Lord," Severus promised, successfully managing to get the words out.

"Good. He will be down momentarily," Voldemort said dismissing him.

Severus stood up and nodded once, laying the parchment on the table before leaving. Yep, the world was spinning out of control. Yet why did he feel a sense of elation and excitement coursing through him? There was one thing he did know: he couldn't wait to see for himself.

-----------0

Severus Snape waited anxiously in the Dark Lord's potions lab, not sure whether he dreaded seeing Potter or excited at the prospect seeing the boy who had Dumbledore hoodwinked. Merlin, it made him want to chuckle in disbelief: Dumbledore duped by his very own golden boy for four years. There was no doubt it was true, the Dark Lord wouldn't have made such a glaring error. No, he would have gotten this from the boy's own mind, Severus thought as he paced restlessly. His face was impassive as he waited; nothing other than his strides gave his agitation away. The Dark Lord had called him Harry! The turn of the tide was currently upon him… no, them, the dark sect. To call the boy Harry? He would like to have seen them interact, to see how the Dark Lord reacted; he was not positive but if Potter did join, he would be placed at the highest standing. There would be no other place for him. If he joined, he would be giving the Dark Lord the war; without Potter on the light side they would lose. So yes, the only place conceivable was at his right hand.

His excellent hearing picked up the sound of footsteps; straightening up, he stiffened his spine and waited for the boy to appear. There was nothing on the workbench beside him yet, since he hadn’t currently been brewing. There was so much he wanted to know, but if Potter was as good as he was believed to be, the chances of getting anything out of him were slim to nothing.

Then the boy stepped in, opening the door further to allow himself access. He was still the same boy Snape remembered from the leaving feast, minus the large round glasses that made him look like his father; without those glasses he saw straight into Potter’s eyes, so very much like Lily's. He belatedly realized who had received the potion the Dark Lord had requested him to make. He had thoroughly enjoyed making it; the challenge of brewing such an intricate, exacting potion always was exhilarating. He realized there wasn't an ounce of emotion on the boy's face; was this one a mask? he couldn't help but ponder. He wasn't sure how to approach this boy, who was a Slytherin with a Gryffindor veneer. He had a book in his hand, and Severus wondered if it was where the Dark Lord had obtained the potion recipes from.

"Mr. Potter," Severus finally settled for, his black eyes gazing shrewdly.

"Sir," Harry replied, nodding curtly.

Severus arched an eyebrow, feeling distinctively put out for reasons he didn't quite understand himself. "Since I am not your professor at the moment, you may call me Severus," he told the teenager, extended an olive branch, a truce of sorts… and if Potter was a Slytherin as he suspected, he would understand that.

Harry smirked, giving a short nod, before stepping into the room properly and moving to stand across from Severus with only the workbench in the way. "If you can set aside your feelings for my dead father, whom I don't know, then you may call me Harry." He had no difficulty understanding what Snape was attempting and deciding to go with the flow for now; he would rather brew a potion without Snape breathing down his neck. Plus he would actually like to learn from him; regardless of his character, he was the youngest Potions Master in Britain as well as the best. Voldemort wouldn't have anything less than the best, he'd surmised. Harry knew he was good at theory, but when it came to actually brewing potions, he had no idea how good he was.

"Indeed," Severus replied in answer, "Very well. I am told you've created a few potions of your own, how would you like to see your creations turned into something more?" He crossed his arms over his chest as he gazed pensively at Harry. Evidently the boy was much better at Potions than he knew, but how much better remained to be seen.

A challenge? Harry thought; the question remained, should he trust him though? He didn't have much to lose either way… or did he? "I need your blood― I'm going to key you into the wards on my book so you can read it; otherwise I'll just copy them… your choice?" Harry stated, shrugging his shoulders. He had no doubt Voldemort had shown him some of his potion recipes; otherwise Snape wouldn't be this calm about him being in his precious potions lab. At least he didn't think so; he could be wrong, but the response Snape gave would probably give him his answer. If he said yes, then he knew for sure; if it was a no, then perhaps Voldemort had just ordered Snape to teach him.

Severus paused briefly, thinking on the recipes he had seen that the Dark Lord had written down. There was little doubt Potter had an astonishing grasp on theoretical potions… he very well could be a prodigy in the making. With firm guidance he may even be quite the potions brewer, and who was he to turn such a thing down? He was a Slytherin after all. "Very well," Severus gave his answer. Opening the drawer he removed a scalpel and absently sterilised it Wandlessly and Non-verbally. As Harry placed the book on the table top, he sliced his palm and placed it on top of the book; he could feel the tingling immediately afterwards. He withheld the gasp of astonishment at the feel of Potter’s magic; it was strong and powerful, more so than he had ever detected on the boy. His magic at this point in time was neutral, presumably due to the fact he hadn't actually been able to cast any dark magic.

Then Potter began to hiss in Parseltongue; the magic he could feel at that point turned dark. He was able to conceal his magical affinity? How long had he been able to do that? He truly had covered all angles when it came to this enormous 'Gryffindor, golden boy, light wizard' disguise. Then again, he had no idea how Parseltongue actually worked; perhaps speaking the spell had made the magic being used right then lean towards the dark and his actual magic was still neutral? As far as he understood it, Parselmagic was something else entirely. He was rather envious of it really, all Slytherins and dark wizards were.

"I'm impressed," Severus stated wryly, watching him flip through the book containing spells which the Dark Lord told him made his 'Sectumsempra' look mild in comparison. That spell was a favourite of his, unfortunately he'd had to quit using it due to the fact Dumbledore knew the spell was his. To use it again he would need to imply someone else was using it, then bemoan at the fact it was his fault. It would need to be one of his old classmates, or someone who had known him at school when he’d invented that particular spell. It was something to figure out later; right now he was laying low, there would be no battles as of yet.

"This one," Harry said, holding the pages apart. He wanted to use it himself, on himself.

"Very well, gather the ingredients, two sets," Severus answered, pointing towards the cupboard where the potion ingredients were stored. "Everything you need is there," he added, his eyes roaming over the list of ingredients before nodding in affirmative that his thoughts had been correct. The potion Harry had created was almost like an advanced nutrition potion, but it didn't just give you the nutrients you'd missed out on, it smoothed over the damage, makes it like you'd never missed out on them and helped you bulk up both in height and weight.

Harry wandered through his eyes widening at the impressiveness of it. It was double… no, triple the size of Hogwarts’ potions cupboard. With ingredients you sure as hell wouldn't find at the school, he thought as his gaze caught some of the names as he passed them. It was quite the impressive layout, labelled alphabetically by potion ingredient and herbs, both on different sides. Then there were the ones at the bottom in complete darkness… thankfully he was used to the layout; obviously Snape had either done it here first, or had it rearranged when he was called back into the fold. Grabbing a tray he began to put the ingredients he needed in, doubling the amounts as he had been told. He couldn't believe he was actually with Snape ― going to brew a potion! He was excited! Who wouldn't be? He had created this potion and had been dying to brew it for so long. By the time he had all the ingredients they were tipping precariously on the tray. He carefully made his way through, he should really be making two trips, if the ingredients fell, it would be a potential catastrophe.

Evidently Snape agreed with him, because the vials began to float onto the table, two at a time. The look on his face spoke volumes, but he wasn't saying anything and wasn't that just weird? Why would he hold his tongue? It went against everything Harry thought he knew about the Potions Master.

"Next time do not take foolish risks," Severus berated, unable to curb his tongue seeing the look on Potter's face; he was just waiting for it and wondering why it wasn't happening. "Some of those ingredients are extremely volatile."

"I know," Harry said, "It won't happen again," he conceded knowing it had been foolish in the first place.

Severus stared, was the boy deliberately trying to wind him up? By acting so… out of character? He had all but apologised! Harry was either trying to see how far he could push him before he snapped back, or he actually wanted to brew enough to keep his head down and do as he was told. To be quite frank he wasn't sure which one comforted him the most. Perhaps he just wasn't easy to wind up as he had believed over the course of Harry's education. "Begin the preparation stage," Severus directed; there was no way the boy felt anything but loathing for him surely? Masks or not, he had made Harry's potion classes harder than they needed to be.

Severus moved and began to prepare the ingredients, deviating quite a few times despite the instructions saying otherwise. Wisely Harry made no comment, but Severus could see he was extremely curious by his actions. One glare for him had Harry concentrating on his own ingredients.

Harry itched to write down the changes Snape was making to his set of ingredients. He would just have to try and remember everything and write down the readjustments, although that might not be the wisest course of action; he could end up getting them wrong and things would go boom.

They worked in silence, pouring the requested amount of water into the cauldron and allowing it to heat before the first stage began. This particular potion required an hour non-stop brewing cycle, and then it had to be left to cool for thirty minutes before adding the Hemp.

"I know how the Dursleys treat you, Potter," Severus informed the boy, as soon as the first cycle ended. Almost at once, the boy closed up; there was absolutely no emotion, positive or otherwise, there to see. "Did you ever inform anyone?" He already suspected (knew really) the answer to his question but wanted to be sure.

"Why do I get the feeling you already know?" Harry couldn't help but spit out, seething inwardly.

"I want confirmation," Severus stated, confirming Harry's thoughts… or not denying them at any rate.

"I've lost count of the people I've told," Harry snorted bitterly. Why was he even discussing this with Snape? The man hated his guts! Yet he had sort of suspected the wizard was like him, wore masks… which nobody got to see the real wizard beneath. Still, that hatred hadn't been faked… but he had been nothing but respectful since he stepped through that door just little over an hour ago. Then he realized he'd answered his own question; Snape knew about the abuse. It made his lip curl that Snape of all people pitted him. "I don't need or want your pity!" he added sharply, cutting the hemp a little harder than he should.

"Good, because you shan't get it," Severus sneered.

Harry smirked, actually rather pleased to see some of his old Potions Master shining through.

"Who?" Severus hissed, getting back to the subject at hand, not allowing Harry to change the subject on him, which skill he must have mastered fully by this point, if he had gone as long as he had without anyone suspecting anything off about him.

"What does it matter?" Harry asked, eyeing Snape suspiciously. He seemed awfully concerned; he was acting as if he had to know who he had told… but why? For what purpose could it serve? Unless there was something he didn't know, which wouldn't surprise him in the least. Still, the only ones he wanted revenge on were down in the dungeons, which he still hadn't found yet… but he'd made it his life's mission to find it.

"Tell me," Severus demanded, without his usual bite but no less firm.

"No," Harry answered, "Not until you tell me why you want to know. You hate me, don't pretend you don't, really; that is just pathetic. Therefore this conversation makes no logical sense whatsoever." And Harry didn't like when things made no sense.

"I used to hate you, Potter," Severus sighed, "Not anymore.

"So it is pity!" Harry snapped, green eyes glaring defiantly at Snape.

Severus pinched the bridge of his nose, "No, Potter, it is not," he told him honestly.

"So, why the hell do you want to know?" Harry blurted out, his eyes never wavering from Snape.

"I swore a Vow to protect you, Potter, and I failed," Severus hissed out in his frustration.

Harry stared his mouth agape, wondering if he had somehow stumbled into an alternative reality. Why on earth would Snape swear a Vow to protect him? He was actually angry that he had failed in the Vow? You would think he would be all too happy about figuring out a way around it. Then he began to realize a few other things, "You Vowed to protect me, and it went against everything you are. You're a dark wizard aren't you? You don't spy for Dumbledore; you're really on Voldemort's side. It didn't help that I was the son to a man you hated, but why swear a Vow in the first place? Was Dumbledore testing your allegiance?" it sort of made sense that Dumbledore would make sure there were plenty of people to ensure that 'the-Boy-Who-Lived' survived. He had been forced to serve the light side because of him, thus betraying all which he held dear.

"Do you want the truth, Potter?" Severus asked pensively, perhaps the boy did understand and would be able to understand everything else.

"Do I?" Harry asked in turn.

"Who knows?" Severus murmured, how would Potter take the knowledge that his disgusting Potions Master loved his mother? A ding alerted them to the fact it was time to start brewing the second cycle. Automatically he moved towards the Hemp and added it, stirring twenty times anticlockwise, then added the Bistort when required.

There were only two cycles for this particular potion, second one not as long as the first, half an hour then the potion would be left to cool down. Adding the crushed Marjoram, he stirred it, surprised by the fact Potter wasn't demanding answers left, right, and centre. He was quickly realising he would take a while, despite knowing, for it to sink in that Harry wasn't who he’d thought he was. "I notice you haven't named it," Severus said once he had stirred it for the last time. Removing the stirring rod, he immediately wandered over to the sink and cleansed it properly and sterilized it. He opened the drawer after he had wandered back and placed it in its position.

"No, I've not," Harry answered slightly bemused, not expecting the comment; he had assumed they would start talking about their paused conversation. Maybe Snape had changed his mind; he hoped not, he actually did want to know. Bringing it up made that too obvious so he remained silent on the subject, cleaning up now that his potion was done.

Shaking his head in bemusement, he saw that the potions were noticeably two different shades of purple; he was under no illusions whose would be the best. He stared at the cauldron, he had actually brewed it. For the past two years he'd constantly thought of brewing them himself, ordering the ingredients over owl order. Unfortunately he hadn't wanted to risk it; he was watched too closely, on all sides. Even if he did it during the night, he wasn't about to risk Snape having some sort of ward on the potion cupboards and labs.

"You wanted to know why I swore to protect you?" Severus started, deciding to be honest with him, a way of apologising for his actions over the years.

"I guess," Harry said, plopping himself on the stool, in a casual display of nonchalance, but the look on Snape's face made him realize he wasn't fooling anyone, let alone him. Was he losing his ability to act or was it just because Snape's eyes had been opened to the real him?

"What do you know of your mother's side of the family?" Severus enquired noticing Harry going completely bewildered at his question for a mere second before his masks snapped into place. Oh, that was very well done; he suspected his parents were the only real way to get to the boy under the mask. He was vividly reminded of last summer, where the boy had blown up his cousin's aunt.

"Nothing, she never speaks of them," Harry said in distaste. "Well, once, when Hagrid came for me; apparently they were proud that she was a witch, to have one in the family. Other than that she liked to pretend they didn't exist."

"That is true. Petunia was always jealous of Lily's ability. In fact she wanted to join her at Hogwarts, wrote to the headmaster begging to be allowed to go," Severus informed him, a sneer on his face just thinking about the wretched woman.

"How do you know that?" Harry didn't know whether to be shocked or in denial.

"I met your mother when we were young children, eight years old; we lived in Spinners End. It was I who told her she was a witch, and I who taught her everything I knew about the magical world in turn. We became the best of friends, and remained so even after we were sorted into different houses at Hogwarts. Unfortunately it all ended very badly; I called your mother by a foul name, after I had been humiliated by your father and his three friends during our fifth year. You see, she did not like my… affinity to dark magic. When the Dark Lord targeted your family I went to him and begged that he spare her; it was all for naught as she still died."

"He did try," Harry told him, albeit very grudgingly. "He told her to move aside a few times when he came that night… it never made sense to me," he admitted his brow furrowed. "He killed everyone that stood in his way, even my dad, yet decided that my mum was to move aside? It's nice to have a full picture." To actually understand.

Swallowing thickly, "Wh… how do you know that?" Severus managed to get out without making too much of a fool of himself.

"Dementors," Harry stated, after a few seconds of indecisiveness. Snape was smart; he'd probably figure it out himself anyway.

Severus merely nodded, he couldn't even begin to imagine how that had been for the boy last year if that was what he saw and heard. He hadn't acted all that differently either; he must be quite the accomplished actor and he was proud of him despite himself. The Dark Lord had kept his word; he had tried to save Lily, but he also knew she would never in a million years have stepped aside and let the Dark Lord hurt her child.

"Potter… why are you being honest with me?" Severus questioned, finally asking what had been on his mind.

"Why not?" Harry shrugged staring at him; it wasn't like he was getting out of here, so he had nothing to lose.

Severus narrowed his eyes, having gleaned his thoughts, what had the Dark Lord done? Reaching under the bench he picked up a crate of brand new vials and placed them on the worktop, and began to fill them with the potion, he would need to speak to his Lord and do something before this went pear shaped.

-------0

"My Lord," Severus said dipping his head as he waited at the door.

"Enter," Voldemort stated, turning to face the wizard after placing the book that had been in his hand on the table on top of the other books. He had research to do, and he was busy as it was, without constant interruptions… but Severus was an inner circle member; he brought back information that wouldn't be otherwise obtained.

"Permission to speak freely, My Lord?" Severus asked; he had to know why Potter had been thinking what he had.

"Very well but be quick," Voldemort replied his red eyes narrowed in contemplation. He couldn't deny he was curious about what his spy and Harry had been up to… other than brewing potions. He knew his spy well enough to know he wouldn't rest until he had answers.

"Potter cannot leave, how?" Severus questioned.

Voldemort smirked, "I tied an item to the wards and in turn placed it on Potter," and it worked like a charm.

"Do you not realise the risk in this?" Severus said, "The boy has the potential to come to you on his own; forcing him to remain will cause him to rebel. Let Dumbledore finish what you have started, and believe me, it isn't going to take much for him to come here on his own."

"It's a risk I cannot take," Voldemort denied vehemently.

"Why? The boy is hardly going to tell anyone that he spent the summer here. He's a consummate actor, and he will have everyone around him believing what he says. Trust me, my Lord, let him come to you on his own, it's the only way you will gain his true allegiance. Sooner or later he will find a way to remove what you have placed on him, and there won't be a second chance… his hatred for Dumbledore and those Muggles will make him see there is only one place for him," Severus argued. He didn't want to risk Potter going back to the old fool and actually staying on the light side. He had his chance to uphold his Vow and stay on the side he actually believed in. The Dark Lord had the Dursleys, so he wouldn't be forced to go back into an abusive home. To keep him here against his will… it wasn't a good idea.

"And if he does not come?" Voldemort replied with deceptive softness.

"He will," Severus answered assuredly, "Here his talents will flourish, he already sees this. They won't be accepted by the general population, and IF he didn't come, you would have nothing to fear, the boy obviously doesn't care about the war. Come to think of it, I don't think anyone has asked Potter what he wants, or about his beliefs. Each encounter he’s had, he's only done what he had to in order to survive."

"I will think about it. Return to the old fool, say nothing of what has occurred," Voldemort reminded him.

"Yes, My Lord," Severus answered, bowing once more before he turned and swiftly made his way out past the edge of the wards in order to Apparate.

Levitating the books Voldemort swiftly made his way through the manor, holding his thoughts until he got to the safety of his office before making sure nobody could disturb him. He couldn't help but dwell on what Severus had said. There was some truth to it, and Potter did have the annoying ability to slip through the cracks with ease. The boy was as dark as they came; the light certainly would never understand him. But letting the boy go? Was it a risk he was prepared to take? Reverse psychology… there was no doubt the boy wanted to return to Hogwarts. If Harry was anything like him, he would consider Hogwarts home. Narrowing his eyes, his fingers trailing back and forth across his chin, he distractedly continued to think on what Severus had suggested.

Chapter Text

Embracing His True Self

Chapter 11

Offer of lessons

 

Harry stood in Voldemort's study, having been summoned there five minutes ago at the least. Voldemort had then studied him for a few minutes before speaking, causing Harry to stare at him in disbelief, wondering if he was still dreaming or had perhaps heard incorrectly. His disbelief narrowed into suspicion, why on earth would he want to do such a thing? It made no logical sense to him, and he was quite frankly baffled. "Er…what?" he managed to rasp out, experimentally pinching his leg to see if it hurt ― which it did. He certainly wasn't dreaming, it seemed.

"I do not like repeating myself, Potter," Voldemort stated smoothly, leaning causally against his desk, regarding Harry with curiosity and just a hint of anger in his red eyes.

"But, why?" Harry asked stiffly, not trusting that the offer was genuine. The offer seemed sincere, but anything spoken from that face did! Voldemort himself had said he was very good at charming people around him when he needed to. This was something that Harry couldn't deny; Tom was charismatic, very much so. Harry couldn't see the bigger picture here; with Dumbledore, everything was entirely obvious.

"You know, anyone else would have been salivating at the idea of learning from me, Potter," Voldemort said, his lips twitching as he thought of the faces of those who had been informed of that in the past. The revered, awed looks… it never got old. Yet here was Potter glaring at him in suspicion. Perhaps the boy was right to do so; he rarely did anything out of the 'goodness of his heart', he did things that would benefit himself as well.

"Yes, well, I'm not everyone," Harry replied, contemplating the prospect of learning. He couldn't deny that he was excited at the prospect, and getting more so when it seemed another shoe wasn't about to drop. To learn one of the most ancient magicks in the magical world? He would be a fool not to be, and despite what everyone thought, he wasn't a fool. Which was why he knew there had be a reason behind this.

"No, no you most certainly are not," Voldemort stated calmly, taking his normal seat in his office. "I demand an answer by the end of tonight; the subject will not be broached again," he said in clear dismissal, his quill already working fast and furious against parchment.

Harry stared, it was rather quite disconcerting, really. He looked like a normal scholar right now, not a Dark Lord planning on taking over the magical population. He could only hope that Voldemort had listened to him, that he wouldn't go around killing Muggle-borns. They were just as magical as the rest of them; they had been born special and they deserved more than death just because the purebloods had thrown their children out upon finding out they were a squib. If anyone was to blame, it was them. If they'd just allowed their kids to stay… there would be no 'Muggle-borns’, technically speaking. It was the one thing he was surer of than anything else in the world. He wasn't sure why, though, since he didn't have definitive proof… but yes, he believed it with the whole of his being. It was instinctive, almost as if he had picked up the information somewhere but not knowing where.

Turning around he left, hesitating at the door for a second before leaving completely. He had wanted to remain and read the book on Occlumency; he had been reading it for an hour or so each day. Since he was only allowed to read it here, well, he was constantly interrupted and asked to leave in no uncertain terms; obviously Voldemort didn't want the Death Eaters to know he was there. The book was a large tome, so to read it all was taking him a while. What he had read so far was definitely intriguing to say the least.

Did that mean he wanted to take Voldemort up on his offer to learn Occlumency and Legilimency from him? Admittedly he couldn't see Voldemort ever allowing him entrance to his mind! The book said once you had perfected Occlumency, then he would find the other art extremely easy. That Occlumency was actually the most difficult to master out of both of them. This made sense, since Occlumency was a defensive spell while Legilimency was an offensive spell.

Shaking off these thoughts, he gazed around shrewdly; he still wanted to find the lower dungeons, but everything else he had tried so far had failed. He doubted anyone else could tell him ― even if they wanted to, since this place was probably new to them. When he’d had his visions, it was Riddle Mansion they had been staying in, and this certainly wasn't it. No this place was steeped in magic, and not just in the wards, so there was no way this was the place. Added to that fact, it was very different structurally.

He had looked in nearly every nook and cranny of the place, trying to find an area magically concealed or anything that led to a dungeon… other than the one he had been kept in, but so far all his thoughts and efforts had failed. Huffing in contemplation, an idea dawned on him, if he had been in the dungeons… and the prisoners were in the lower dungeons, then could it be possible that they were underneath where he had been kept? Why hadn't he thought of that sooner?

A small grin made its way onto his face. Glancing back at the study, he swiftly made his way down the corridor, excitement thrumming through him. There was nothing like a mystery being solved, it always made him feel undeniably smug. It wasn't solved yet, but he had a feeling he was right this time. Opening the heavy door he wandered into the cells, already feeling the draught. He was gazing around, now able to see perfectly, when he noticed it. He couldn't help but chuckle deviously. Harry moved towards the back where the statue was. The only problem was, the statue looked as though it was attached to the wall… but it wasn't. No, it was merely hiding an entrance. If not for the subtle breeze causing the torch to flicker, he wouldn't have realized that. Sliding around the statue, and through the entrance―which didn't have a door― he moved along the wall, having to be careful since it was mostly pitch black along the way.

His heart leapt painfully when his foot found only empty air, and Harry's hands fought to keep himself steady against the wall. He regained his equilibrium; there must be steps, he realized as he tried to move only to have gravity shift beneath him as he had nothing to stand on. Breathing evenly, he shifted slightly and realized yes, there were steps. He concentrated on keeping himself pressed against the wall, wondering if he should go back and fetch the torch. Perhaps that was the reason it was there to begin with? Nixing the idea immediately, he continued going down the steps, taking his time to make sure he didn't fall and embarrass himself completely.

Then just as he stepped down on what he realized was the dungeon floor light flared to life, so he could actually see. A sadistic grin twisted his features as he looked at his so called family. They were cold, starving, and wishing to be anywhere but there… oh, it was poetic justice at its greatest. Chuckling darkly, he strolled over to them just enjoying their suffering as they had made him suffer over the years. "My, my, how normal you must feel now," he told them, watching their first stirrings.

"You?" Petunia spat, somewhat confused, "You did to this to us, boy! I should have listened to Vernon and had you drowned the second you landed on our doorstep, you FREAK!" She was glaring at him as if he was the most foul abomination on the earth.

"Get us out of here, boy, now!" Vernon barked, glaring at him in a way that had always had the boy cringing and backing away from him. It succeeded in doing nothing this time, the brat just looked amused. Fear began to flow through him, he had always feared the day Potter realized his power; it was why he had always beaten it into him that he was a freak, to make sure he didn't, so the boy was always scared of him… too scared to even use his freakish powers against him. He would have shuddered if his body hadn't been so cold that it couldn't move ― quite literally.

"Oh, you have no idea just how much I did this to you," Harry chuckled; the names and looks they were giving him slid off him like water did a rock. He had stopped caring what they thought a very long time ago, but the reverse of power did make him feel exceedingly giddy. "I had a choice: stay here or go to Privet Drive… knowing you'd be brought here… and its pretty self-evident which course I took, don't you think?" His green eyes were gleaming in vindication. "I'm rather pleased I did, this place is rather suitable for trash like you."

"We should never have taken you in, death follows you everywhere boy!" Petunia spat, her voice full of vitriol. "Should have killed you when we had the chance." She gazed at him menacingly.

Vernon and Dudley were too terrified to even speak; they just sat there huddled in their corner, unlike Petunia who had actually been around magic. She might be petrified of it but she put on a pathetically brave front and refused to give in to her fear. They had no idea where they were, or if they would even be rescued. The crackpot old fool had sworn they would be safe; Vernon knew he shouldn't have listened to the old man, but part of him had believed him. At least the boy couldn't perform magic, so they wouldn't be hurt. They were beginning to realize, though, that there were other ways to be hurt… but they were in denial.

"So you've said," Harry replied casually, staring at his fingernails, his boredom evident in every line of his face. "A million times, I'd guess." He turned to stare, his eyes gleaming wickedly. "It's just really too bad I can't help you feel more… welcome," he sighed dramatically. "No magic outside of school, it really is a buzz kill, you know?" he added conversationally.

They three Dursleys squeaked, yes even Petunia; that word was forbidden in the Dursley household; they were terrified of the word.

Harry rolled his eyes. "Well it's been fun, and I'll see you later," Harry said, moving away from them then adding, "Maybe… but I wouldn't expect your life span to be quite long here." Chortling madly at the looks on their faces, his eyes then zoned in on Figg in a cell at the other end of the room. There were thick grey walls on either side of the cells, preventing anyone from seeing another person, or touching them; the area was inundated in some variation of a silencing charm. Maybe preventing the other prisoners hearing each other? He would need to ask. He stepped closer to Figg’s cell, feeling the magic wash over him, confirming his thoughts about some sort of silencing magic.

"H-h-harry?" stuttered the woman, her eyes going wide with fear. "W-wh-how did you get here?" She was clearly horrified, unable to believe the saviour of the magical world was also here. Relief also spread through her, causing her to relax. Albus wouldn't leave Harry here, he would come for her, and she was saved at last. "He took you too?" She would need to tread carefully now. Harry was unaware of who she was.

"Took me?" Harry asked, his face blank, purposely being vague. He hadn't been in the room, he had been told to wait at the door. Just Voldemort had gone in; a quick stunning spell had brought her down, and the House-elf had gotten her out of the house. "What are you on about?"

"You-Know-Who," she whispered the word as if terrified of the mere mention of it. "He's different, changed somehow, but it's him, Harry, you must run! Run as fast as you can, call the Knight Bus and get to Dumbledore; stay safe." The boy was more important than her.

"How do you know who that is?" Harry said suspiciously. She was thick; couldn't she see that he wasn't exactly a prisoner? He was on the outside of her cell! For Merlin's sake, it couldn't have been any more obvious. "And what do you mean, he's different?" This question was an actual, genuine one.

"Crucio!" Voldemort hissed, revealing himself, his eyes flashing dangerously. His magic dimmed the room with its intensity so that even Harry felt as if he had been submerged in pure magic. The hatred he could taste in the air was quite thick; he wondered why. She was after all only a squib.

"Run! Harry! Run! Get out of here!" Figg shouted after the spell ended and while the tremors coursed through her.

Harry scowled at the bars, wondering what the hell she was thinking; maybe knowing Legilimency would be a good thing. "Couldn't you have waited a few more minutes?"

"No," Voldemort stated, giving Harry a long considering look. "You knew I was there?" He had sensed absolutely no surprise from the boy.

"Of course I did," Harry snorted in amusement, "I always do." Albeit without the pain anymore, he realized, chuckling in amusement at the look of dawning horror on Figg's face. It looked as though she was beginning to understand what was happening here; good. Maybe he should come down with Veritaserum next time and get the answers he wanted. "What's wrong?" he said gazing at her in mock confusion.

"She thinks I have deceived you," sneered Voldemort, a twinkle of sadistic bemusement in his eyes. "That you do not know who I am, just that I took you in when you 'ran away', and I am just bidding my time before I kill you." His tone was slightly teasing ― which of course Dark Lords did not do, so he would naturally deny it under any circumstances.

"Hmm, if you looked different during the war, how did she recognize you?" Harry questioned.

"Yes, a very good question, isn't it?" Voldemort pondered thoughtfully.

Harry glanced at him surprised; it was obvious that he didn't know the answer to the question. Voldemort wasn't looking at him, though, he was looking at Figg. The woman had gone pale, but was staring back at him, her eyes slightly glazed. Harry stared at her intently, watching as her body twitched now and again. Was he using Legilimency? The urge to try the connection to Voldemort was strong; he wanted to see what it was like for himself. He didn't dare do that, though, he'd rather not end up cursed and after the first time it had happened… he looked ready to do just that. Figg passed out once Voldemort was done raiding her memories.

"Of all the coincidences," Voldemort replied slightly amazed despite himself.

"What is it?" Harry asked, looking at him, although he was honestly not expecting an answer.

"She is the younger sister of the girl I killed whilst still at Hogwarts," Voldemort replied offhandedly, certainly not feeling guilty about her murder.

"Whaaat?" Harry's face had turned comical.

"And if you did indeed find the Chamber entrance, you'll already know," he pointed out wryly, remembering the last few days at Hogwarts after the incident, how Myrtle had gone around wreaking havoc on Hornby. The year afterwards had been just as hilarious ― not that anyone was ever let on to the fact. He couldn't be seen laughing, now could he? Not in public with the teachers watching so closely ― especially Dumbledore.

"Myrtle?" Harry grappled mentally trying to accept that. "How can she be a squib then? Wasn't Myrtle a Muggle-born? You said it yourself, you were trying to purge the school of people you thought were unworthy…" his sarcasm was obvious for both to hear.

"Actually, she was a half-blood, a descendant of the Warren line, and I hadn't intended on her being killed," Voldemort admitted ruefully. She had been in the wrong place at the wrong time when the Basilisk emerged from its chamber. "Dumbledore used that to get her to work for him; she alone knows my true appearance and name."

"Well, that makes sense," Harry replied, "Did she tell him?" he growled, realizing Voldemort held the answer to his questions and not her.

"I think that it is best you see the memories for yourself," Voldemort replied thoughtfully, coming to a decision. What better way to turn him further to the Dark than by showing him? Letting him see for himself just how little regard Dumbledore had for his safety? Although, he was enraged by the blatant discarding of a magical child, to despicable Muggles no less. He may have killed the boy's parents but he would not have wished that upon him. Death was a mercy to what Harry had endured as a child. If he was to let the boy go, then he had to take every precaution necessary to ensure the boy wouldn't fight him. "Follow me."

Voldemort had known the second the boy stepped foot in the lower dungeons that he had found it at long last. He hadn't been surprised; if he had found the entrance to the chamber of secrets in less than a year…well, he knew the boy would find it sooner or later. He'd realized he was looking for it the day after he had enquired about where the lower dungeons were. It wasn't easy to find, in fact it wasn't supposed to be found at all, least of all by those who didn't know where it was. He had Apparated directly down there, and observed the boy; the urge to kill the Dursleys was greater than ever. The boy had known he was there the whole time; he wasn't sure what to think of that. This connection between them was bothersome to say the least, the boy obviously having more of the connection than he felt, since without the wards he wouldn't know where Potter was.

It was disconcerting; he would need to question him about it. Either that, or he could dig into those memories if the boy conceded to Occlumency lessons. He didn't want Dumbledore in the know after all, and doing Merlin only knows what to him. He alone knew just how desperate Dumbledore was to win the war, at any and all cost. He would keep an annoyingly close watch on Harry if he chose to return. Perhaps teaching him how to Apparate would be in his best interests as well.

-------0

Harry lay on the floor breathing heavily, calling Voldemort all the names under the sun, bloody bastard that he was, his lessons were brutal. Although he couldn’t deny the effectiveness of them, since his mental shields were like muscles, the more he practiced the stronger they got. Although Voldemort was ruthless anyway, he smashed through his shields like it was bloody butter and into his memories all over again. Although to be fair he seemed to just concentrate on the ones from his second year, his experiences with the diary and everything he and Dumbledore had spoke about at the end of the year. Voldemort snorted in disgust when he got wind of the ‘services to the school’ award but he had stopped despite the fact he didn’t usually, a thoughtful look on his face.

“Why are you teaching me this?” Harry enquired as he shakily got to his feet and sat down on the chair, he didn’t want to continue right now his head was bloody pounding something awful.

“Would you rather I stop?,” Voldemort questioned but Harry immedately shook his head, the boy was truly an enigma.

“Huh,” Harry murmured quietly when the pain stopped suddenly.

“You do realize Dumbledore knew where the entrance was don’t you, Potter? He sent his prized bird down to you, and it was not your loyalty to him that drove it down there.” Voldemort revealed honestly, “Phoenixes are smart yes, but they don’t do anything for anyone unless it’s the one they’re bound to. That and I suspected since Myrtle died that he has known the location - just unable to get down.” he was somewhat embarrassed by the seventeen year old part of his soul and his actions, it went to show just how quickly he could become obsessed with things even back then.

“I did wonder about it, I sort of assumed maybe my words were enough, whether I felt them or not,” Harry shrugged, he wouldn’t be surprised if it were true, he already knew he was being played. Why did it matter if he had been edged towards the second year confrontation as well as his first year? No, nothing much surprised him these days, with the obvious exception of being kept alive, but he knew why now. He was a Horcrux, a living Horcrux, and of course Voldemort wouldn’t want to destroy his own soul. He supposed he should be grateful for that, at least he knew he wasn’t going to be killed…at least here at any rate.

“Stand,” Voldemort demanded, his wand held loosely in his hand, waiting for the boy to do as he was told. Which he did in the lessons surprisingly enough, all of them in fact. He was very eager to learn, but did not expect praise, the first time he had said anything to the boy he had been stunned enough to show it. Whether it was because he had said something or if he wasn’t used to being commended on his magical powers he had no idea. Just because he had been in his mind it didn’t mean he understood everything about the boy. Which was a good thing really, he was being constantly surprised by him, and it would make the day to day training rather…interesting.

Harry groaned but stood as he had been instructed. Grant had been to see him three days ago, the healer, who he had to admit he sort of liked; he always got these comical looks on his face. Although he wasn’t impressed he still had so many potions to take, especially the way Voldemort lorded over them - still threatening him if he didn’t take them.

The best thing about agreeing to the lessons was Voldemort had performed a ritual to remove the trace on his person, which meant obviously he could use magic. It had been done earlier, apparently there was a waiting time before he could use magic though, so he didn't do anything yet.

“Legilimens!” Voldemort cast with snake like reflexes - even if he no longer looked like one. As always Harry as distracted as he had been lost in thought did give quite a challenge, but he’d always known he would. He had sensed his resistance the first time he had entered his mind and looked through his memories when he got impatient with the brat. Now that he knew what occlumency was and had obviously understood it the resistance was becoming more insistent each time he tried and it was only their first lesson. All it took was one shove of his powers and he was in, watching memory after memory.

As abruptly as he was viewing the memories, he was back in his office and as always the boy was on his knees utterly exhausted. Perhaps if he actually felt what it was like to cast Legilimens he would have greater success? To feel how it was cast, how it felt to be on the other end of the wand, he was doing exceptionally well even now, but considering his power he wasn’t surprised. Perhaps it was time for Potter to see within the Squibs mind, truly know just how much he had been manipulated? Oh he wasn’t going to give up on having the boy on his side. He was using all means at his disposal. The boy had seen the memories that Severus had provided, to his credit he hadn’t once shown anything while viewing the memories, and if it wasn’t for the band around his ankle Voldemort wouldn’t have even known his real feelings on the matter. “Come,” Voldemort once again demanded. Moving towards the door yet waiting patiently for Harry to regain his bearings. He himself had never learned Occlumency of Legilimency this way, he had been self taught, capable of it since he was a very young boy. He had perfected the art as a teenager, receiving books from Abraxas Malfoy while at Hogwarts. He was very good at everything he did, and he wasn’t ashamed to admit that, in fact he was superior and smug about that fact - he had every right to be.

“Where are we going?” Harry asked, as he managed to get up on shaky legs, his head was pounding and he felt shaky and weak. Although it wasn’t as bad as it had been when he first started so that was something at least.

“Move,” Voldemort ordered, irritated by the constant questions, he was letting the boy off with more than he let even any of his inner circle. Even cursing him hadn’t worked, although admittedly he hadn’t done it after that one time when he had mentioned him and Dumbledore being alike. He would never be compared to that manipulative old fool. He might be manipulative, but he never manipulated to the extent to force people to do his bidding for him, no he did his own dirty work thank you, he wasn’t afraid to get his hands dirty. Although he did expect everyone on his side to get their own hands just as dirty if the situation called for it.

Harry curiously moved towards the elder wizard, using all his control to stop himself rolling his eyes, he was so used to getting his way, that if he demands something the other would just automatically do it without question ‘jump and how high’ rattled around in his mind as he thought that. It made his lip curl that he was doing it as well, but at least he tried to annoy Voldemort in subtle ways - he didn’t want to push him too far. He was too exhausted as it was without a Crucio being thrown on top of it. His curiosity heightened further when he realized they were heading towards the dungeons. Not just the top ones either, they were going to the lower dungeons.

They didn't stop until they were in front of Figg.

“Cast Legilimens on her,” Voldemort commanded, putting Harry directly in front of the squibs cell.

“No…Harry…please…don’t…he will kill you, he’ll kill you,” she whispered, moving herself to the side of the cell as if it could somehow protect her from what was coming.

“What and Dumbledore didn’t plan on me dying anyway?” Harry scoffed at her, glaring darkly, how he hated the woman - worse than he even hated the Dursley’s. She had babysat him, and made him feel like shit the entire time. All those years she had been working for Dumbledore, doing what he asked without question - not caring about the obvious abuse he suffered. Well she would suffer now, why should he care about her when she had refused to aid him when he needed it? There was no way she would get out of here alive and it gave him a sense of feral satisfaction. Almost as much satisfaction he had gotten out of creating his spells, the thought of using them did not compare to this. No, her fate had been sealed the second Voldemort had shown him all the relivant memories he had ripped from Figgs head.

“What? No! No! No! Harry, he’s lying, that’s what he does,” Figg rasped out between her dry lips. Terror written across every inch of her face, as she began to realize there was no hope for Harry he was too far gone - he believed everything Tom Riddle was saying. He had fallen into the trap so many others had, she prayed he realized what was going on before too long. “Albus loves you like a grandson, he cares for you.” she added, praying that it would somehow knock him out of whatever manipulations Voldemort was seeding within him.

Voldemort leaned against the cell, looking thoroughly bored, but his eyes, his red eyes were sparkling slightly as if he was getting a great deal of amusement out of this. It always did amuse him to see people panicking, scared, and the words that came out of their mouths when they felt cornered, the lies were truly hilarious. Dumbledore love anyone? Other than himself? He needn’t have worried about Potter accepting the words as truth; all he could feel through the bond was contempt and hatred, on par with his own hatred of the old fool. He never thought he would have seen the day were precious Potter would hate Dumbledore, especially the way he had acted during his first year. The way he looked up to the old man, it was nauseating, yes, he had been thoroughly duped.

“Legilimens!” Harry spat out, aiming his wand straight at her, using the spell for the first time. He found it extremely disconcerting immediately, as the room faded out of view and all he could see was memory after memory flying past him. He dug for specific ones, wishing to see if he could find any of her contacting Dumbledore after babysitting him. Instead what he found infuriated him beyond any measure he had ever felt, and she could sense it as he ripped into her mind causing her to cry out at the agony of having Harry’s angry magic invade her mind so harshly. He ripped himself from her mind when he had everything he wanted from her.

“Cutem nudaveris!” hissed Harry, without thinking. Using one of his darker spells, watching her, his green eyes gleaming in satisfaction as her screams turned into high pitched wails as her skin felt as though it was being shed from her skin with a blunt rusty knife and being reattached absolutely everywhere.

Voldemort perked up slightly, turning to face the squib, watching her with fascination, a vindictive sneer on his face, like the Cruciatus Curse, you didn’t see the damage, it was all internal. In fact judging by the screams she was letting off, it was even worse than his favourite spell, he couldn’t have that now could he? Perhaps he should invest some time in a new spell; he couldn’t be outdone by a fourteen year old after all. Although he didn’t necessary want to cause too much harm to his followers, just let them know when they’d disappointed him. The Cruciatus damage could be healed with a single potion, so it wasn’t as if they were incapacitated for days. It seemed to last longer as well, since Harry had already lowered his wand, fascinating. It took three minutes (yes he counted) for her screams to die down and her body spasm in relief as the curse finally ceased.

Turning to face the boy, he wondered what he had seen to raise his hackles so to speak, he hadn’t seen him so angry before. As if Harry understood his questioning gaze, despite the fact he knew he had no emotion showing on his face - he spoke or rather spat the offending words. “There was another spy!” grasping a hold of the cell door, trying to stop the anger consuming him. Last time it had he’d let out one hell of a bout of accidental magic and inflated Marge. He had figured out the spell, it was hard to master, and if done wrong could kill whoever was on the receiving end quite quickly. He had found it while ‘searching’ for spells he could use during the tournament.

“Are you truly surprised, Potter? He left nothing to chance, he doesn’t do well in dealing with chance - he discards them. He couldn’t risk you being anything other than what he wanted, what he needed. Any sign of rebellion even before Hogwarts would have been nipped in the bud.” Voldemort sneered; “With abuse there is always the risk of going too far and he has plenty of experience in that area.” was there even a chance Potter would want to return to Hogwarts after all this? Quite possibly, it had been his home for seven years; no doubt Potter felt the same. He hadn't seen any sign of another spy, but he hadn't specifically been looking for that just ones with interactions with Dumbledore.

“I shouldn’t have been,” Harry hissed, his wand twitching as if he had a desire to curse her again.

“Go ahead, I know you want to,” Voldemort whispered seductively in the teens ear. “One little word, the rush is like no other.” Potters magic could no longer be light or even neutral, the spells he was casting…his inclinations were definitely in the dark arts. He hated to admit it but the boy was absolutely a natural at Parselmagic, he found it easier than anything else - but Parselmagic was a part of him, just like the snake language was. They would never know if it was the Horcrux that gave him the ability or if he had it before the attack, it was possible seen as they were cousins. It was ironic, he was related to the Peverells though both parents, Ignotus and Camdus.

“I wont be manipulated by you,” Harry said firmly, but it was reluctant at best, he wanted to cast it but not because he had said anything.

Voldemort laughed sardonically, “You weren’t by Dumbledore, and you allowed it to happen, Potter that’s the difference. He might think he was successfully in turning you into his little puppet, and I cannot wait for the day where his hopes and dreams for you come crashing down around his ears.” he informed him gleefully. “I am only giving you a push in the right direction; do you think I cannot feel your urge to punish her further? To make her feel even an ounce of what you did growing up with the disgusting Muggles?” Shrewd green eyes turned to face him, before he cocked his head slightly as if to concede his point without saying anything. It made Voldemort laugh again, yes having Potter around was turning into so much fun - his kind of fun.

“To cast that spell you must feel hatred, desire to cause pain, to make them suffer,” Voldemort revealed still standing behind him, whispering to him, egging him on - he was just dying to turn Harry as dark as he could. Oh the look on Dumbledore’s face when (not if) he learned the truth, it was euphoric just thinking about it. Nobody cast it successfully the first time; it took a few tries, same with all the Unforgivables. The only way to truly master them is willingness, to cause pain, to kill, to control and Voldemort desired all those things above all else.

Harry shivered; he convinced himself it was just at Voldemort’s words, nothing else, absolutely nothing else. He refused to even contemplate the feeling, instead shoving it as far at the back of his mind as he could, locking it away completely.

Gripping his wand, he pointed it at her, he wanted it to work more than anything else, he wasn’t quite sure why but he wanted to impress Voldemort. Although he honestly didn’t think anything could, he was a genius at school apparently, beating most of Dumbledore’s scores…the ritual he had created to return to human form, well…it couldn’t really be considered human form when he first returned. He wasn’t sure if something had gone wrong or something since a few days later Voldemort then appeared human, an older version of Tom Riddle in the diary. The only thing he seemed to have kept was his red ruby eyes, and they suited him, crap his mind was wandering into dangerous territory. “Crucio!” Harry snapped every nerve in his body stiffening as he let himself fuel all the hatred he felt for the woman in front of him. A delighted euphoric feeling rushed through him, bloody hell, no wonder he liked using the spell so much, he thought as Figg began scream and scratching at herself like one of her demented cats.

Voldemort arched an eyebrow, surprised that the spell had worked its first time, even his Death Eaters had struggled at first. They’d assumed it was like all spells; just say the words and the curse would magically work. No, those spells required intent behind them, he couldn’t help but wonder if the boy had cast it before, but he knew he had not. He had said himself that his biggest concern was to stay under Dumbledore’s radar doing only small innocuous things that he could talk himself out of. He was truly going to enjoy teaching him all he knew, it wasn’t as if he had to fear the boy using it against him since the band would prevent it - it was truly one of his best pieces of work as of late. He belatedly realized that Potter still had his wand aimed at her, and if he didn’t release it soon - she would be utterly insane. The question was did he care? Did he stop him? With a much put up on sigh, he lowered the boys arm, stopping the curse immediately.

“Any longer and she would have been driven insane, that isn’t a spell you want to play about with,” Voldemort said with great reluctance, “There are limits one must observe, especially with that curse.”

Harry shrugged, he didn’t really care if he was honest, and he had to stop himself from casting it again, that feeling had been…immensely pleasurable. “Why doesn’t normal magic react like that?” ignoring the snivelling and crying of the woman in the cell.

“Because it requires power, your power to achieve its full potential, all dark arts do to an extent, that is why its addictive, and that is why weak willed wizards succumb to the allure and lose themselves. Not being taught this at Hogwarts, when people curiously delve and lose themselves, they end up in Azkaban for something beyond their control. All other magic schools teach the Dark Arts, to prevent such an occurrence from happening.” Voldemort lectured, sounding as if he had given that speech a million times. “The Unforgivables are the worst for self destruction, and the so called light wizards approved for Aurors to use the spells without consequences. Again you’d be surprised by how many of them have been quietly shipped of to Azkaban for one reason or another without the Ministry attaching itself any blame whatsoever.” Voldemort realized that he couldn’t sense any surprise from the bond, just derision, and disgust for the ministry he assumed.

“So it’s my magic I’m feeling?” Harry mused thoughtfully.

“It’s similar to the feeling one feels when meditating to find your magical core.” Voldemort revealed idly. “Just not as…thrilling.” he finally settled on a word he felt best described it.

“I met him before, once,” Harry said gazing at nothing in particular his mind a million miles away.

Voldemort moved from behind the teen, and returned to his place beside the cell, leaning against it as he gazed at the boy curiously. How it is that he could be very easy to deal with one moment and making him wishing to kill him the next? Nobody else could wind him up like Potter, but he would deal with that in time. “Indeed?” it was a question not a statement, but he wasn’t sure whether the teen would elaborate, he hadn’t seen everything in her head, he had only gotten a few of the more important details then left.

“He bowed to me in a shop, acting all excited, I though he was nuts, Petunia wasn’t impressed, she hissed something at him and yanked on my arm as she pulled me out of the shop, it’s actually one of the few times she’s managed to hurt me using her hands.” Harry revealed, she had actually dislocated his shoulder, of course Dudley had pushed it right back in by jumping on his back - suffocating him with his bulk. Without meaning to actually help him, he had just wanted to cause further pain. Which the idiot he was he thought he had, but in reality he’d only cried out due to his shoulder being forcefully resorted. “I have no idea who he is.”

“My best bet is that he is someone from the Order, I have no doubt Severus can identify him for you, should you wish to know.” Voldemort suggested. He too wanted to know who else had been ‘in on the know’ about a wizarding child being abused - not just anyone either, their precious saviour.

Harry nodded grimly.

“Harry…please, he’ll kill you,” she croaked terror written across every line of her body still.

“I don’t care, as long as I get my revenge first he can do whatever he likes,” Harry barked at her, grimacing in disgust. He was under no illusions that if Voldemort decided he wanted to kill him that he would just go ahead and do it. His life had never meant much, sure he had a Slytherin thirst for survival and the cunning to pull it off, but Voldemort was the ultimate Slytherin that made him look like a Hufflepuff compared to him. He could only hope that he could somehow come out of the war intact, but the likelihood was very small.

Voldemort arched an eyebrow, saying nothing, the boy was telling the truth, he didn’t care but that wasn’t news. Harry seemed to have a death wish, he still couldn’t comprehend that, he would never admit it to anyone, but he was terrified of death, had been since he was a young boy during the muggle war which he should never have been part of (or so he felt). No magical child should be left behind, not with Muggles who would never understand them. The magical world should look after its own and when he finally won he would ensure that was the case.

Although if the boy was right, and that Muggle-born’s were descendants from lines long thought gone, he would need to rectify some of his beliefs and let his followers know. They may just have families out there, and family was important to the pureblood’s who never seemed to drop out a child or two at a time - with the exception of the Prewitts and Weasley’s. During his schooling there had been three Prewitts and three Weasley’s only, this generation of Weasley’s was twice as large - sickening since they couldn’t afford two never mind the seven they had. Narcissa Malfoy was a prime example of that, she had wanted another child but was unable to have another. He believed she had wanted another male heir to continue the Black legacy, along with a daughter.

Seeing the boy grimace in distaste at the still crying squib, he turned and walked away, expecting the boy would follow - he did unsurprisingly.

“Tomorrow you will learn the beginnings of Apparation; you never know when it might come in handy.” Voldemort said in his usual demanding tone.

“Really? I thought you needed a licence cant they track it if you don’t?” Harry didn’t even bother to grumble about it; in fact he was rather excited about it. “I mean the book certainly implied that anyway.” he shrugged dismissively. He had come across a book on Apparation or at least a chapter on it at least, while searching for ways to help him during the third task. Even if he had learned he wouldn’t have been able to, as he had been told a million times you couldn’t Apparate or Disapparate inside Hogwarts.

Just wait until he learned he would be able to as an heir to the founders - his blood had created the very school wards that stood proud over the generations.

“That is just to deter insipid people who cannot think for themselves,” Voldemort sneered, “They read it so it must be true.”

Harry just snorted, “Not always stupid people, but people who like books tend to believe everything they read…and believe hard.”

“Personal experience, Potter?” Voldemort muttered sardonically, as he finally entered his office once more. Rolling his eyes at how comfortable Potter was in his domain, just slouching over to a seat he’d claimed as his and opened the book he had put there when they began occlumency lessons. He didn’t normally remain here, he usually went to his room to sulk or rest whichever one it was that the boy did.

Of course as he was reading his book - he didn’t grace him with a reply.

---------0

Meanwhile at the Order headquarters...

Albus Dumbledore was beyond pissed off now; he honestly had to refrain from having a fit like a spoiled five year old. He just didn’t understand how Harry was able to stay off his radar and for so long with people all over looking for him. He had thought he could predict the boys every move, the only consolation was that Voldemort did not know of Harry’s disappearance (or Merlin forbid behind it). He truly feared that the wizard would figure out the connection they two shared and somehow abduct him before he could get him back under his control. So he had made it very clear to his spy that he wasn’t under any circumstances to find out. Although if that happened he knew Severus would rescue him, the thought of having his spy ousted so soon riled him up. He had to have someone in on the inside, had to know what Voldemort was planning at all times. Damn the boy to hell; just wait until he got his hands on him. With the Dursley’s missing and probably dead, he couldn’t return the boy to their care, which was annoying also, the boy needed put in his place every year, he became too wild too independent by the end of the term. Then again, he had a few people that could take the boy in that would treat him with the same distain. Severus was one of them, but it had its risks, he just had to find the boy first.

“I think its time to bring Miss. Granger and Mr. Weasley in; perhaps they might have an idea on what is going on better than we do.” Albus said calmly. None of the owls flew when they put a letter on for Harry, they didn’t even attempt to fly in any direction, and it was as if he was completely off the map like under the Fidelius Charm which wasn’t possible. He couldn’t have another wizard helping him, he didn’t know anyone other than his close friends and himself as well as the teachers (and they would never go against him). He had kept the boy as secluded as possible, and Granger and Weasley had helped with that.

Severus sat up just a little bit straighter when he heard Albus’ words, his face never betrayed any emotion, but he wanted to know just how bad the betrayal went when it came to those two so called friends. He did notice immediately that neither Black nor Lupin was in sight, interesting. Nobody else seemed even the slightest bit alarmed by his words, or confused. Did they all know about the abuse? Was every single person in this room jus using Harry for their own ends?

“Not to join,” Molly said quietly, merely seeking reassurances of such a thing NOT happening.

“No, Molly, they aren’t off-age yet, if they desire it when they’ve finished Hogwarts then they may,” Albus soothed her immediately, smirking inwardly when she relaxed. He doubted the war would last that long, no; he had to have the war over with while the boy was truly under his complete control. He would have to rely on someone else to control Harry once he left, a partner, in all likelihood it would be Miss. Weasley, she had set her sights quite high and wished to become Lady Potter. “Would you please retrieve them for me?” he gestured with his hands.

“Of course,” Molly said, simpering at the Headmaster before she stood up and quickly ran off to find her son and his girlfriend. Of course, they liked to pretend they were still ‘just’ friends, for Harry’s sake with him going through so much without the added pressure of feeling like a third wheel. They knew how important it was to keep Harry within their circle, away from those who would use them for their own gain - poor boy was rather innocent in the ways of the world and how people truly were on the inside.

If only they knew.
“Ron? Hermione?” Molly called, knocking sharply, waiting a few moments until she was given the go ahead and allowed to enter. Both teens were reading books, Hermione one about Ancient Runes and Ron of course, was busy with his ancient copy of Quidditch through the ages. How he still found it interesting was a mystery to both Molly and Hermione since he had read it so many times in the past, surely it should be memorised by now.

“What is it?” Ron asked curiously, lowering the book, they’d given up trying to hear anything that the Order was talking about. Fred and George weren’t as quick to giving up though - he was surprised his mum hadn’t spotted them and given them what for. He wasn’t about to tell on them, he’d rather not have their focus on him he was pranked enough without actually deserving it. Plus they had just bought him new robes, which he loved.

“Headmaster Dumbledore would like a word with you both, so come on down, lets not keep him waiting,” Molly demanded, trying to usher them out of the room as quickly as possible.

Ron and Hermione turned to stare at each other in surprise before Ron closed his book with a thump and stood up. Hermione placed a bookmark in hers before she stood with less enthusiasm as Ron. Ron was dying to know what they spoke about at Order members and be part of it, she wasn’t that excited. Although she understood Ron’s point of view, since he was so sheltered that everything new was exciting and he was also extremely gullible, and believed everything he heard - fighting trolls anyone, was a prime example, who on earth would believe the twins?

Both of them followed behind Mrs. Weasley at a slow pace, not rushing around like Molly always did. They were in one of the second floor bedrooms, so it didn’t take them long to walk down one flight of stairs and into the kitchen. Both of them slightly intimidated by the full room of adult wizards, although Hermione less so having spent more time with adults and less time with children her own age due to bullying because she wanted to do well in school and prove herself.

“Sit, sit,” Molly said in her usual no nonsense voice before she closed the door and the wards were quickly put back into place so nobody could hear anything. She was quickly distracted by Dumbledore talking again, so much so that she failed to notice the little piece of almost translucent string attached to the bottom of the door.

“I assume you’ve heard about Harry’s disappearance?” Albus informed both of them, looking old and weary, catching both their eyes and gleaming surface thoughts, just to make sure they knew nothing of anything Harry had planned - like running away to Merlin only knows where. All he got was concern, worry and fears from both of them; it seems they were just as much in the dark as the rest of them, he wasn’t surprised but disgruntled all the same.

“Yes, Sir,” Hermione said solemnly while Ron just nodded his head.

“Did he mention any of his plans this summer? Anything at all that might help us?” Albus said, gazing at them hopefully, it was so easy to manipulate those around him.

“No, sir,” Hermione said staring down at the tabletop feeling guilty that she couldn’t help the most powerful wizard in the magical world. She was terrified for Harry, Voldemort was back and he could be anywhere, he could be hurt for all they knew...the worst she couldn’t bear thinking about.

“Does he ever mention anyone he knows that isn’t at Hogwarts?” Albus asked, already knowing the answer, he had left nothing to chance when it came to Harry, not after he had defeated Voldemort as the prophecy dictated however temporarily he had known it to be. He had kept him watched very closely without knowing it all his life, all the while making sure the Dursley’s did their job without going overboard. A little hit here and there was fine, but he had ensured Vernon knew never to go too far with the boy. He wanted him desperate for love and affection not broken and beaten down so badly by the world that he didn’t care for anyone. He’d relaxed the reigns after his first year, content in the knowledge that the boy wouldn’t defy him. So there was a small chance that he did know someone.

“Harry doesn’t have friends in the Muggle world,” Ron said giving the Headmaster a strange look, “His family starve him and keep him locked up, and when you said not to send him letters we couldn’t even put some food in so he can at least get something to eat like we argued with you, Sir…maybe that’s why he left?”

“RON!” Hermione hissed shocked, if Harry found out what he said he was going to be furious. They’d tried for years to get him to tell their Head of House, but he refuses to do it. She would have told Professor McGonagall herself if she thought that it would change anything. If Professor Dumbledore couldn’t do anything about it when Harry spoke about it what could Professor McGonagall accomplish? The Ministry of Magic mustn’t have the ability to take him from that house - he wasn’t abused in a way that would suggest his life was in danger and he needed removed. Or so she believed, but her belief in adult figures was absolute - for now.

“That’s why you asked for the food?” Arthur said surprised grasping a hold of his wife’s hand, so she didn’t explode - something she was very close to doing. She was slowly getting redder in the face, but Arthur was beginning to feel pain as Molly started squeezing at his hand in return - reminding him vividly of the times she had given birth - not that they were forgettable by any stretch of imagination. They’d thought Ron was beginning to have problems, since he usually asked just after dinner or lunch! And it was generous helpings they always had if nothing he and his wife always made sure there was more than enough to eat in their home. Harry had always been on the thin side, but considering he’d ate so well during his stay before his second year he assumed he was just one of those boys who could eat and never gain weight. Hearing what his son said alarmed him…had he gotten it so spectacularly wrong?

Severus arched an eyebrow surprised by the youngest male Weasley’s words; perhaps his head wasn’t so far up Dumbledore’s backside that he couldn’t see the reality in front of him. Severus had always viewed him as the dimmest Weasley; especially considering all his other brothers actually put forth an effort into their school work whereas he did not. The look he gave the Headmaster spoke volumes, but unfortunately he wasn’t surprised that Dumbledore knew since he’d long ago found that out. Regretfully the boy wouldn’t meet his eye so he couldn’t see if he was knowingly a part of the manipulation against Harry or if he was unwittingly a part of it. Not that it mattered; they would soon be on different sides, hopefully, that’s if the Dark Lord listened to him and didn’t alienate Harry. It was becoming glaringly obvious that nobody could control him, he pretended to adapt like a chameleon and changed colours whenever it suited him. The only thing that was definite was the fact his magic wasn’t as pure, he was a dark wizard or well on his way to being so.

In fact he prayed it was the case, he loathed working for Dumbledore, and the vow had put him into a very difficult position these past few months. If he could get out of this with his vow intact then he was all for it, the dark side was his home, or had been until his lord had went back on his word…or he thought he had.

“Yes, why do you think me and the twins told you about the bars in the shed?” Ron said he had hoped his parents would at least help him more…ask him to come again or send more food than he was able to get after asking for it. Instead they spent the last few months of the holidays last year in the Leaky Cauldron. It wasn’t as if he could actually buy food to send to Harry. If anything he didn’t understand why Harry didn’t buy enough sweets to last him all summer - he had the money to do it. He would have done that if he could, in fact he was still slightly put out that he hadn’t gotten any sweets during the ride home! But a smaller part piped in that he had just seen a school mate die, that wouldn’t put anyone in the mood to eat sugary sweets. Scowling at his mature thoughts that were cropping up more and more often as he aged…especially after the whole thinking Harry entered the tournament thing.

Albus felt an argument coming on; perhaps bringing them into it hadn’t been the best idea. The fact he had dared to speak out infuriated him, perhaps he would need to ensure his loyalty along with Mr. Potters when they found him. Which he was determined to do no matter the cost or time. “No, you have nothing to fear on that front, I made sure that they wouldn’t do such a thing as soon as I learned about it.” he told them firmly. “I ensured Harry’s survival and safety first and foremost.” at least Hermione Granger had a sense that he was doing what was for the good of the magical world.

Only he could mistake Grangers blind faith for him against the good of the magical world.

“We will be speaking about this further,” Molly said giving Ron, Hermione and Dumbledore pointed looks. She couldn’t believe she had been so stupid, poor Harry, starved by his family, thank Merlin she’d given the food to Ron when he asked. She only wished she’d given him more, it was horrifying to know what she knew.

Albus’ heart sank, that was just fantastic, and he would have to deal with an overprotective mother hounding him. It didn’t change anything, Harry would be going back to his relatives, he didn’t care that the blood wards he’d harnessed himself all those years ago using Lily’s blood as anchor were down. He would just put other wards up, and keep the Order members around the house should the worst happen. Honestly the boy was becoming more troublesome than he was worth, it was a good thing he was the only thing standing in the way of Voldemort or he would have done something about him the second he found him.

“I want you both to write to him to see if the owl can find him, see if you can convince him to return to the magical world, the Leaky Cauldron say. If he cannot get there, convince him to tell you both were he is, he is in danger the long he’s out and he probably doesn’t understand the gravity of the situation.” Albus said gravely. “If the Death Eaters find him, I’m afraid all we will find is a body.” he had to place the direness of the situation on the children.

“Albus!” Molly shouted angrily, how could he say something like that to them? They were fourteen years old for Merlin’s sake.

“I agree, that is going too far,” Arthur said grimly.

“They need to know the seriousness of this situation, especially if they get through to Harry, them being his friends there’s a chance that they will,” Doge said seriously, “Albus is right.” as always sticking up with his old friend who had befriended him when nobody else would go near him as a child.

Hermione frowned, she wondered what was going on with her best friend right now, was he honestly safe? What if he was happy where he was? Getting food and being happy? Or was it what the adults feared? That he had been caught by Death Eaters? She wished she knew so she could feel better, especially about the fact she hadn’t written to him. The headmaster knew best, they had to keep Harry safe, and owls could be tracked.

“Why should we write to him now? What makes it so safe to write now?” Ron asked petulantly, scowling at the table.

“Because nothing could put him in future danger, stupid boy!” Doge barked impatiently, seeing Albus looking stricken by the questions.

“Don’t you dare speak to my son like that!” Molly snapped her eyes narrowed daring the elder wizard to say anything further. Nobody got to speak to her kids that way except her when she was angry at them. Even the rest of the Weasley’s were glaring in warning, especially Bill and Charlie, they were very protective of their younger brothers and especially their sister.

“I was under the impression that the wards around Potters home kept him safe, that no Death Eater could get near them so why would it matter if they did happen to track a letter?” Severus drawled smoothly in his usual sneering tone, planting the first seed of doubt in their minds. All the while playing his part to perfection, spitting out the name as if it disgusted him to the core. He almost smirked at the shock that played across Grangers face, seed planted.

“Just an added precaution I felt necessary to keep him safe,” Albus said placating, irritated by Severus’ timing. At least Severus didn’t care about the boy, but many others did. Neither Black nor Lupin was here, thank Merlin for that, he was also sick of their whining, and that Harry wasn’t getting to stay at Grimmauld Place where it was safe. He would admit it was safer than anywhere else, but he needed the boy to die when the time was right, getting to know his godfather wasn’t the way to go about that. “I think it’s time to start our search again before it gets too dark,” quickly getting this meeting over with before Molly could hound him. “Do you all know your locations?”

A murmur of agreements circulated the dirty rundown room they currently sat in.

“Very well, let’s get to it, hopefully tonight we might just get lucky,” Albus said, but even he was beginning to lose hope.

Everyone immediately stood up and began to vacate the premises, half going through the Floo one at a time or using the door and disappearing with a crack when they felt it was safe. Soon it was only a few people left and Severus deliberately winced as if in pain, his hand going to his left forearm as if he had just been called - which he had not but he did have an appointment to keep with the Dark Lord or rather Harry Potter.

“Go on,” Albus said, the twinkle leaving his eyes, always feeling this way when Severus was called these days, due to the fact Harry was out there and away from his grasp and could easily have been caught.

Severus nodded grimly, getting perverse pleasure out of Dumbledore’s fear; one had to wonder why he was even bothering to convince the Dark Lord to let Harry choose his side. If this kept up Dumbledore would soon have a heart attack and the light sides defences would all but crumble. Oh he knew Dumbledore was the only reason the order was really there, the rest of them weren’t exactly leader material, especially without Harry on their side.

Severus stalked out of Grimmauld Place in his usual fashion and Apparated away once it was safe to do so.

He reappeared before the Dark Lord’s manor, it truly was a sight to behold, nothing as extravagant as Malfoy Manor but there wasn’t many places that were unless you counted Hogwarts and of course Gringotts. It certainly made his home look like a sorry miserable state, if he had been able, Severus would have chosen to live in the Dark Lord’s library, and it was much grander than his with a lot more books that he was just dying to read.

As he walked passed the wards he felt it tingle over his skin, the Dark Mark allowing him entrance without needing specific permission to be there. Of course, someone could Apparate with another person who didn’t have the mark and be granted entrance too. Sighing softly, he absolutely hated the Order meetings, they were more tedious than full Death Eater meetings, which only occurred when something big was about to go down.

As he made his way, he came across Nagini making her way through the grass hissing only what the Dark Lord and Harry Potter would understand. He just smirked at the female snake, not at all intimidated - unlike a few other Death Eaters he could name - mainly Lucius - he had heard the wizard squeak, actually squeak when coming into contact with the large snake. It had afforded him a great deal of amusement, if the Dark Lord’s blanking expression was read right the same could have been said for him too.

Nagini it seemed was actually entering the manor, perhaps she had already caught whatever it was that she wanted? There was no bulge to indicate she had though, but he followed her nonetheless, it would be much quicker in finding the Dark Lord himself. But there were only ever a few places he had to check, since the Dark Lord knew when people entered his manor he was always available in his study, the grand hall or library if he was busy researching something. He was glad some things hadn’t changed in this chaotic world he lived in.

Although in the later years of the war he would never have approached the manor unless he was called…that was how bad it had grown, he did wonder what the others were thinking of this version of their Lord. Were they as excited as he was? He couldn’t help but ponder wryly to himself, things had been changing for a while and he had been oblivious to begin with…now that he knew his excitement continued to grow. He would need to be careful though, the last thing he wanted was to be caught and put in Azkaban.

Just then he heard a voice speaking just outside the hall. Both his eyebrows rose in shock, the boy truly didn’t know what was good for him - nobody said no to the Dark Lord and went unpunished.

“No,” Harry said simply, “I’m not using the killing curse,”

“And why not? You’ve used the other two, it might help you in sticky situations,” Voldemort stated persuasively.

“I don’t need the killing curse to get out of sticky situations!” Harry argued right back, “I’ve not needed them this far have I?” the taunt was evident in his voice, enough so that Severus felt his eyes widen expecting a ‘Crucio’ thrown at the teen any second now.

“You just might,” Voldemort warned Severus didn’t need to be in the room to be aware that the glare was enough to make the lower level Death Eaters pee their pants in fear. He moved closer watching the pair of them through the crack in the door, the power they could wield together would truly be breathtaking.

“I’ll tell you what, I’ll do the spell if you make it a certain rat,” Harry said rather vindictive.

Voldemort smirked, the boy got too much amusement out of tormenting Wormtail, “What would you do every day instead?” he said wryly.

“Then I guess I’m not doing the spell,” Harry said firmly, he knew he wouldn’t be allowed to kill Pettigrew so he’d had no fear that Voldemort would have agreed. He didn’t want to use the spell, it had been bad enough when Crouch disguised as Moody had used it. “I would rather use my own anyway, I’ve wanted to see them in action for years.” he admitted changing the subject completely to get Voldemort off the subject of him using the bloody killing curse. He was fine with the Cruciatus Curse and the Imperius Curse but he wasn’t about to ever cast ‘Avada Kedavra’.

“Enter Severus,” Voldemort snapped out as if he was furious, but he wasn’t really, he had known the wizard was there the entire time - it was his manor after all. No, he had allowed it for one reason only to pacify the wizard without losing face and outright saying anything. He didn’t want him running back to Dumbledore after all, he would have killed anyone else if it had been them, but he had wronged him, did something stupid and there wasn’t a better Potions Master - he couldn’t brew all the time he had other more important things to do.

“My Lord,” Severus said cautiously, as he entered, still reeling from the conversation he’d heard. His face showed none of his inner turmoil or any guilt at having been found out eavesdropping, he wasn’t a stupid wizard, Voldemort must have known he was there and allowed it for some reason. There was a reason to everything he did, he would figure out why he did sooner or later and could guess a few ideas.

“I want a few potions brewed, the list is waiting for you,” Voldemort demanded.

“Of course,” Severus murmured quietly.

“Potter, go with him,” Voldemort added turning away from both of them, and sitting down no longer interested in either of their presences. “I wish to speak to you after you are done, Severus.” it was a demand not a request.

Harry shrugged and pocketed his wand before leaving Severus of course right next to him. The walk to the dungeons was quiet but it wasn’t an oppressive one. Once they were inside, he glanced at the list the Dark Lord had left, nodding briefly before moving to the store cupboard with a box and began to place all the ingredient jars he’d need into it. Potter he realized had followed him, and he quickly dumped the full tray in his arms before hefting out another one and also filling that up - but it didn’t require every slot being used.

“What exactly have you been doing to Pettigrew?” Severus asked as he exited the cupboard and began to remove the first set of ingredients idly noticing that Potter was doing the same but for a different potion, the one to help exposure to Dementors specifically. Considering he had been able to successfully create and brew his own, he said nothing to him. Merely moved over and plucked a book from the small bookshelf that he housed his own books in and opened it at the appropriate page and handed it over. Half expecting him to reply but he didn’t.

Harry accepted it, reading over the edits that had been made to the potion, “Will you edit mine?” he asked curiously.

“Perhaps,” Severus replied, “If we have time.”

Harry nodded happy enough with the statement. “As for what I’ve done to Pettigrew…not as much as I want to,” he scowled, “He keeps stopping me from having fun.”

Severus’ lips pursed finding himself undeniably amused.

“Who would have thought Lockhart’s crap spell casting would come in handy?” Harry said absently, grinning almost ferally as he began to further grind the unicorn horn pieces.

Severus frowned not understanding, until Harry began to mock hold his arm out his hand flapping as if it was useless. It brought the incident to mind rather quickly. He had removed the bones in Pettigrew’s arm? It was just a shame that the bones could be re-grown so quickly. “Perhaps I should ensure there isn’t Skele-Gro potion lying around.” he said, causing Harry to laugh out in vicious delight, he didn’t think he’d ever seen Harry truly laugh before…it was slightly alarming to acknowledge it couldn’t be good for him with all this pretence. Did his friends even know the real boy behind the masks?

Chapter Text

Embracing His True Self

Chapter 12

Surprises

Harry was jolted awake by a knocking on his door, nobody usually did that, he’d always been awake early. Had he slept in? blearily looking around, before remembering he didn’t have a clock here, so a quick ‘Tempus’ revealed it was only seven o’clock. Yawning tiredly, he slid out of the bed and opened the door cautiously, blinking in surprise when Voldemort was standing at the other side. Usually he just had the House-elves come fetch him.

“Here,” Voldemort stated sharply shoving a large bundle into his arms.

Harry curiously ripped it open, both eyebrows rose in surprise, clothes? And was that a wand holster? What the hell was going on? Voldemort hadn’t seriously just bought him clothes? He’d been using his school uniform which admittedly was becoming increasingly tight due to the fact he’d put so much weight on with the consumption of his new potion and the others Voldemort made him take, as well as the food he was eating here. It had gotten to the extent he was actually having to use his cousins cast offs again, just shrunk slightly to fit his frame, thanks to a handy spell he’d found. Honestly, he was turning into Hermione being surrounded by so many books, and actually able to read them without a single judgement being made. In fact Voldemort seemed to get amusement out of him reading books Dumbledore would consider ‘dark’.

“Um…why did you buy me clothes?” Harry was too stunned (not to mention tired too) to even put his sarcastic retorts into action, instead he’d just asked the question on his mind.

“I don’t want a wizard dressed in filthy muggle clothes in my manor,” Voldemort sneered, he did not even want to examine too closely why he had as well. Seeing the boy dressed in those disgusting second hand clothes infuriated him, set him on edge, it was hard enough not to just go down there and end the Dursley’s lives, but no, death was too good for the likes of them. He wanted them to suffer endlessly for harming a wizard - he wanted to make an example of them. Plus if any of his Death Eaters were to see him dressed like that…well they might think the wrong idea - that it’s perfectly alright to torture the boy. No, if he wanted them to play nice, Potter would need to dress the part and play it as well.

“Well I’m not going to argue with that,” Harry said smirking wryly, “I’ve wanted to buy some clothes for years,”

“Then why didn’t you?” Voldemort asked condescendingly, the boy knew he had the money so it couldn’t be that.

“To start with?” Harry said thoughtfully as he put the bundle on his bed, “I was under the impression that I only had a single vault to see me through my Hogwarts years. The trust fund they set up, it wasn’t until I did some reading for the tournament that I realized what it was and that when I became of age I would have more money to spend than I anticipated. That and I didn’t want to risk my relatives finding out I had money, their distaste for all things magical probably wouldn’t count my money.”

“Reading? You mean a goblin hasn’t explained all this to you?” Voldemort frowned, was nothing simple when it came to Potter?

“I’ve only been to Gringotts once,” Harry shrugged, “The rest of the time someone else has gone for me. In fact I don’t even have my key.”

“And that doesn’t bother you?” Voldemort narrowed his eyes, he would need to find a way to check someone wasn’t milking the Potter accounts dry. At least nobody would be able to touch the main vaults, just the trust fund, no you had to be a Potter by blood or marriage to get near those and the current heir had to be seventeen. The Goblins didn’t bow to no-one, so there was definitely no way they would bend the rules not for a wizard or witch at any rate. They hated thievery, and their safety measures were something he admired, if he’d had a body he knew there wouldn’t have been any way he would have gotten in and out of Gringotts safely after going for the stone. If he had…he could imagine it would be the straw that broke the camels back and Harry would well and truly be his. Yes, he would have to add it to his to do list, which was becoming increasingly longer, but things were looking up so he wasn’t too vexed.

“Of course it does,” Harry stated scowling darkly, his green eyes so dark they didn’t look like emeralds but rather Russian diopsides.

“Let me guess, playing the part?” Voldemort stated, a sadistic grin on his face once more just imagining Dumbledore’s face when he found out.

“Yes,” Harry replied.

“Breakfast will be ready soon, be there.” Voldemort reminded him curtly before he began to stalk away, and only when he was far enough away did he add, “Oh and Potter?”

Harry turned back around staring at the wizard in confusion, “Yes?”

“Happy Birthday,” he smirked at the shocked look that appeared on the boys face, it was definitely worth saying those infernal words.

It was his birthday? And Voldemort had given him a present? It was official the world was going to hell, he was sure of it. He had forgotten, it was the first time he’d ever fallen asleep before midnight, usually he stayed up, wishing himself a happy birthday as was his tradition whenever he’d found out his birth date at school. He hadn’t received any owls, he always got owls from his friends, either they weren’t sending him anything due to him ‘running away’ OR the owls couldn’t find the place, it was probably a bit of both. Closing the door he wandered back over to the pile, was it just a coincidence that they’d came today or had Voldemort actually gotten him something for his birthday?

Harry picked up the wand holster, he’d seen Voldemort wearing one, in fact Barty had one as well, he absently strapped it to his wrist, flexing it curiously it was lightweight, he couldn’t even tell it was there overly much, didn’t feel too tight or annoyingly restrictive. Grinning wryly, he slid his wand which he still had in his hand, into the holster. He laughed a little seeing that the clothes were mostly black and green, he was surprised really, he didn’t think Voldemort knew of any colour other than black itself - it was all he ever wore. Removing his nightwear, he slid on the brand new clothes, which to his delight fitted him perfectly, he actually had clothes that were brand new and meant for him…and he got them from Voldemort, it was ironic really.

Once dressed he left his room, after making sure the door was shut, he’d warded it so he would know if anyone entered. He didn’t like the thought of anyone being in there. Voldemort hadn’t said anything when he saw him looking up wards or actually casting them so it was probably safe to say he didn’t care. Sliding into the room and claimed his usual seat, Voldemort as usual gave him a pointed look at the potions, daring him to argue - but Harry didn’t not anymore. He liked the results of the potions too much to care, and he was able to fight better during his lessons with Voldemort too.

“Lessons start at the normal time,” Voldemort stated, folding the Daily Prophet before standing and vacating his chair (not even waiting for a reply from Harry) once he was sure Harry had drank his potions, having already eaten his own breakfast he headed to the only likely location - his study. He spent nearly all his time in there, who would have guessed there was so much paperwork involved by trying to take over the world?

Harry quickly ate his breakfast, knowing Pettigrew would be around for scraps any time soon, he couldn’t and being anywhere near the disgusting wizard. He’d spent too much time in his company as it was, if he wasn’t learning Legilimency on Figg he was learning it on Pettigrew. It was getting to the stage whenever the wizard was near he could hear his thoughts as if he was shouting at him. Just as he thought this he heard it, the usual inane annoying questions. Wondering why the Death Eaters were getting away with not looking for him, why he wasn’t killing ‘Potter’ (he was causing the rat a lot of pain, at least as much as he could without annoying Voldemort too much) why he wasn’t being revered after all he had brought his lord back.

He stood up and quickly walked away, if he happened to stand on his tail well…it wasn’t his fault he should have really stopped wandering around in his Animagus form a long time ago. He smirked ferally at the squeaking thing before leaving the room altogether not caring when the wizard turned back and glared at him with his disgusting beady eyes.

----0

Harry came back to himself, panting dangerously, on his knees feeling as though he’d ran the entire length of the Quidditch pitch ten times. His wand was on Voldemort’s desk, the arse had decided that ‘it was time to see if his natural magic would hold against the might of anyone’ well that and adding ‘not that anyone was as good as he’ in that smug tone of his, so if he succeeded then no more training was required. So for the past two hours he’d been enduring “Legilimens” being continuously cast on him, as Voldemort relentlessly tried or actually invaded his mind. It didn’t half take it out of him, who would have thought using magic could be so physically draining when you didn’t actually move? He couldn’t deny though that Voldemort was quite thorough when teaching him anything.

“It seems you won’t require much more tutoring,” Voldemort replied in a deceptive smooth tone as he stepped back from the exhausted teenager. For a fifteen year old he did have a thirst for knowledge that he’d only seen in himself. Everyone he had taught was usually eighteen years of age and up, and even then they had trouble keeping up with the rigorous pace he set. It was times like this where he was vividly reminded this boy was his equal, not something a wizard such as he liked to tolerate, he had always been better than everyone else, more powerful, more important.

“Can I ask you a question?” Harry asked, as he continued kneeling there trying to regain his equilibrium.

“You just did,” Voldemort stated in amusement, sitting down staring at the teenager curiously, since when did Harry Potter feel the need to ask permission to ask something?

“You used Pettigrew as a spy, why didn’t you teach him how to shield his mind? Dumbledore has no problem gleaning my own mind…I’m sure he has no problem doing the same to the others in his precious order…especially if their minds are completely undefended.” Harry asked, grunting as he forced himself to his feet, his knees throbbed painfully, after a few wobbly steps he regained his footing and sat down on the only other seat in Voldemort’s office, where the book he was currently reading sat on the table next to it. He didn’t pick it up though; he was genuinely curious why Voldemort would risk a spy being found out.

“What makes you think he cannot?” Voldemort asked in mild surprise.

“Other than the fact I can now tell whenever he’s around since his mind won’t stop blubbering?” Harry muttered in annoyance as he rubbed at his head where a migraine had been building slowly for the past hour or so. To begin with it had been so much fun since Pettigrew could never understand how he always ‘snuck up on him’ even while as an Animagus, but now? Now he was tired of his constant and incessant whining. He didn’t know how the hell Voldemort put up with it, it was no wonder he was angry and frustrated all the time.

Voldemort sat up straighter at that pronouncement, an eyebrow arched; barely concealing his surprise and that said a lot since Voldemort had a lot of practice hiding his true feelings as a young boy. By the time he entered Hogwarts he’d never once shown his true feelings, exception of when he was angry of course. “You can hear him all the time?” Voldemort didn’t know what the hell to think, it was astonishing really.

“Whenever he’s near enough, yeah,” Harry said giving Voldemort a strange look, not understanding his current look. “What is it?”

“When you familiarize yourself with someone else’s mind, you tend to find you can hear them in the vicinity of you, especially if they have no mind defences whatsoever.” Voldemort replied thoughtfully. Smirking inwardly at the face Harry made when he said ‘familiarize’ Harry did not want to be anywhere near Pettigrew never mind listening to him no doubt. “Only extremely powerful Legilimens and Occlumens are able to do such a thing, and that usually requires an extremely long build up, years of digging into someone’s mind for such a connection to occur.”

“I’ve always been weird,” Harry just shrugged at the knowledge, he was past caring. Most adults had a difficult time casting a Patronus yet he was able to at the age of thirteen. “Is there a way to shut it off?” he was liable to actually kill Pettigrew if this continued, and he really didn’t want to end up back in the cell again, which he knew he would be if he did go so blatantly against Voldemort’s wishes - he wasn’t known to be tolerant when things didn’t go his way after all. Harry only pushed him so far just to see how he would react; he didn’t want to outright actually piss him off.

“You’re broadcasting,” Voldemort stated curiously, obviously the boy didn’t even realize he was doing it. “You’re the one mentally seeking his mind out, you’ve obviously been concentrating more on Legilimency than closing your mind.” yet he couldn’t find any flaws in his ability in keeping his mind secure from external penetration. Dumbledore wouldn’t try to penetrate Harry’s mind, not unless he was prepared to lose his puppets trust, and he wasn’t sure Dumbledore would risk it. Although to be on the safe side he had ensured the boy’s mind was secured. It wouldn’t be the first time he’d been proven wrong as of late, everything he’d assumed about the boy was wrong. For the first time he truly didn’t mind being wrong, in fact it was quite exhilarating to bring out the darker side of the boy. It might already have been there but he had brought it out, helped him harness it in a way that was productive and prevented him from being drawn into it like so many others before him who had become enthralled with the Dark Arts.

“Oh,” Harry murmured thoughtfully, well he guessed that made sense. What didn’t make sense was why Voldemort was even teaching him in the first place. He naturally came to the conclusion that he didn’t want his ‘Horcrux’ to have an unprotected mind, he wouldn’t want Dumbledore to find out at any rate - if the wizard somehow found him and rescued him - was it called a rescue when he felt more at home here than he had anywhere else? Even Hogwarts? Hogwarts was a gilded cage after all, where he was watched closely, monitored, judged, hated, adored and expected to kill a wizard with sixty years of magical experience. It wasn’t even just that either, Voldemort had travelled all over the world; he had books in dozens of languages. He’d never been anywhere; he could name the places he’d been with one hand. He was watched here, sort of, but he had more freedom here than anywhere else. He often wondered if he was suffering from Stockholm syndrome, but that required an emotional attachment to his captor, which he did not. Although he respected Voldemort, but that was solely due to his abilities, he was a bloody brilliant dueller, and he couldn’t help but wonder how Dumbledore or anyone else for that matter could expect him to defeat him! The parasite he’d faced…was nothing compared to Voldemort at full power, even at the graveyard he’d been fast but nothing on him now, he’d obviously been weak still upon his resurrection.

“Occluding your mind will stop it,” Voldemort assured him, without any sort of reassuring note in his voice, he was a Dark Lord he had a reputation to keep up after all. Which wasn’t easy when this boy did his best to see him losing it.

“Great,” Harry said a little more cheerful with that knowledge, at least he wouldn’t have to put up with Pettigrew all the time, just when he wanted to have some fun.

“Indeed,” Voldemort replied sardonically, turning from the teenager he began to deal with his usual correspondence he had to delay to teach the boy.

The door opening caught both their attentions, Voldemort turned around a curse ready to leave his lips, he didn’t want to deal with Wormtail any more than he had to. Cursing him made the rat avoid him for a few days, the curse never left his lips, it wasn’t Wormtail it was Barty.

“My Lord,” Barty said bowing just slightly, not able to go as low as he usually would.

“Barty,” Voldemort intoned, without saying a word asking what he was doing there.

“My Lord.” Barty nodded once more before going on to explain. “Grant has said I am at full health; is there anything I can do for you, My Lord?” Barty enquired, his gaze never wavering from the Dark Lord’s as he spoke. Showing nothing but a deep longing to be useful to him, to aid him in his quest, he would lay down his very life for him if need be. He would do all those things, he had sworn his eternal loyalty, and he had meant it even to this day. The Dark Lord had been there for him more than his own father, gave him more attention than his father had during his entire life. It was hardly a surprise that he felt loyal to him.

Voldemort stared at the emaciated wizard before him, he knew if he spoke to Grant he wouldn’t say that he’d given Barty the all clear, but he’d obviously been given permission to get up out of bed now. A trickle of emotion distracted him just slightly, jealousy? Now that was interesting, he had to stop himself turning to face Potter just to see if his emotions were displayed on his face. “There is nothing that requires doing at the moment,” at least nothing Barty could do. Everyone who had their orders, had them for a reason, he needed no other things doing. “There will come a time when I do need you Barty, and you must be physically fit otherwise you will be left behind.” he did not want any liabilities coming with him when he went to let his followers out of Azkaban after gaining the Dementors allegiance. Which shouldn’t be too difficult, they had given it the last time, this time there would be nothing that could defeat him. The so called prophecy boy was his; he literally couldn’t harm him, just as he couldn’t harm Harry.

Barty stiffened up straighter, determination radiating from him; he would do whatever it took so he didn’t let his Lord down. He would go and speak to Grant about how best to get himself back to optimal health. “I will, My Lord.” he declared seriously, bowing low again he left the room, closing the door behind him already on his way to owl Grant for the best workout for his health without compromising it.

Voldemort turned to face Harry, curious about the feelings the boy was currently going through. “Now why would the Boy-Who-Lived feel jealous?” Voldemort taunted, knowing it was the best way to get the truth from the boy by riling him up. Well sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t, he never could tell with him.

“I really hate when you call me that,” Harry gritted his teeth, he knew what the wizard was trying to do and he wouldn’t fall for it, nor would he admit what he was really feeling. Seeing the look Barty’s face had made him feel so very jealous. The reverence, the willingness to do whatever that was asked of him, the loyalty…it wasn’t just to the Dark side, or the cause but it was to Voldemort himself. He had never once seen that sort of look directed at him, not really. They stared at his forehead, the symbol of light and all things good, they weren’t loyal to him, they were loyal to the cause, to Dumbledore, never him not even when he so called ‘proved himself’ when in reality he was just surviving and playing a part at the same time. Even his so called best friends cared more about Dumbledore than they did him.

He wanted people to admire him for him, not the damn cause, the lightening bolt or Dumbledore. It might have been a childish thing to do but Harry picked up his book, opened it at the page he’d marked it at and began reading, he was not going to deal with Voldemort right now - he had bad enough bitter taste in his mouth as it was. The revelation of his had quite frankly come out of nowhere stunning even him.

Voldemort cocked his head to the side just slightly, he didn’t need Harry to say anything, and his feelings were giving him away for him. He could sense his desire to be respected, to be admired, the jealousy he realized must have stemmed from Barty’s own unwavering loyalty. That was interesting; he hadn’t expected that at all. He also understood the desire, since he himself had desired nothing more and had gone on to achieve just that and more.

The wards once again shifted, it seemed he had company, Severus was once again here.

“Take the book and go to your room,” Voldemort demanded.

“I don’t see why you bother squirreling me away; it’s not as if I can stop any of your plans anyway!” Harry grumbled, but did as he was told, he didn’t fancy going flying through the halls again. As fun as it had been the landing had been painful and humiliating, so he was reluctantly being a good boy without antagonising Voldemort too much.

Voldemort just stared blankly at the teens back until he was gone, shaking his head, sometimes he wondered if he should have just stayed insane, at least he wouldn’t have to put up with Potter and his dramatics and backchat. He would have probably killed him and saved himself a lot of hassle.

“My Lord,” Severus said as he cleared his throat loudly, it seemed he was catching the Dark Lord out of sorts more and more these days.

“Severus,” Voldemort stated, staring at him expectantly.

“I did as you asked and retrieved the locket, I swapped it out for the copy not even the House-elf knows,” Severus informed him, removing the large ornate locket from his secure pocket where he’d kept it. He had been able to sense the darkness in it, which was why he had immediately came here, he didn’t want it in his presence for too long. How Dumbledore hadn’t sensed it he had no idea, it had called to him at the meeting.

Voldemort had to stop himself snatching the locket from Severus’ hands now that was out of the question; he did not want the wizard to know what it was. He could sense no spell residue on it, nobody had tried to tamper with it, or spell it open. Instead he merely put his hand out and accepted the locket when Severus dropped it into his hands. “You have done well, Severus,” Voldemort said, placing the locket in his cloak pocket.

Severus just nodded, dipping his head in acknowledgement of the praise.

“As for your…suggestions, I have decided they have merits,” Voldemort said smoothly, letting him know that Potter would be back with his ‘adoring’ fans and ‘concerned’ teachers soon enough. It wouldn’t be long before the boy was actually wishing to be back here he’d bet. He loathed the public, Dumbledore, the students at Hogwarts; in fact he wasn’t sure there was anything the boy actually did like.

Surprise flickered over Severus’ face, “I see,” he replied, he hadn’t honestly expected the Dark Lord to agree with him. He’d just put forth the idea out of desperation. Sooner or later Harry would have gotten away on his own, or he would have loathed being there with every iota of his being, this way he had a real chance of actually choosing the dark side willingly. Something Severus wanted to happen dearly, it would make life much easier for him. “What is the best way for him to return?” especially without any suspicion.

“I will let Potter come up with that, since he is apparently all too good at playing the hero,” Voldemort smirked sadistically, and he was definitely getting the memory from Severus if he was there to witness it. He actually wanted to see the boy in action, he might get lucky if not there would be other times he was sure. He had never once been able to fool Dumbledore, and Harry had been doing it for years…he honestly wondered how he did it. He was good, that’s all he had to say on the matter, he had to be. Perhaps he should ensure that Severus was the one who ‘found him’ that would guarantee he received a play by play of the event.

Severus couldn’t help the chuckle that slipped past his throat, agreeing with his Lord one hundred percent. Even he had been fully duped by the child since he was eleven, damn straight he could play the hero. “Indeed,” he stated, his face impassive as if he’d never actually just chuckled - he didn’t chuckle, laugh or giggle full stop. “Dumbledore has become even more desperate and angry as time passes, the letters he has tried to get his friends to send to him have returned unopened, including the gifts everyone in the Order decided to sent to him last night.” the owls had circled outside before returning not even a few moments later unable to pinpoint Harry’s location - none of them should have been surprised but they were - he’d been forced to remind himself that he was dealing with idiots. As if giving him birthday gifts could make up for the fact they didn’t care, and they didn’t, not about him but what Harry could do for the cause that much was obvious, especially when it came to Moody, Doge and Dumbledore, since they all seem to know the truth about Harry’s home life. He had been asked to identify a wizard in a memory belonging to Arabella Figg, it seemed Harry had yet another wizard he loathed with all his being. He had been there and seen he look on the teens face.
He was honestly quite surprised by how fierce he had looked, if he was Doge he would have run for the hills.

“Hardly surprising,” Voldemort stated wryly, Dumbledore knew he couldn’t win the war without his little puppet.

Chapter Text

Embracing His True Self

Chapter 13

I bet you're all wondering why chapter 13 has been posted again, you're all probably going to get annoyed to learn that I've edited the story, BUT before you worry absolutely nothing has changed, I just gave it a quick edit and made it less choppy it was all over the place, and of course sorted the timeline which was all timey whimy even Dr. Who would get dizzy trying to make sense of it :P lol. Oh and added Harry getting clothes and his wand holster instead of it just merely being mentioned in the last chapter. (chapter 12 instead of 23 now). I really am sorry guys but the way it was - was an utter mess I mean a real mess, much like My Dark Hunter. Now you've not lost anything, and you wont have to put up with waiting for the chapters to be posted since they're all still there, everything you've read is still within these chapters and anything you're seeing now IS brand new.

Suggestions and training

Harry wandered around the manor, wondering about trying to leave the compound just to see what would happen, but he nixed the idea. He didn’t want to disturb the status quo. He still couldn’t believe Voldemort had actually given him a gift so to speak, he’d never mentioned it but had given him an approving nod when he saw him dressed in a ‘proper wizarding attire’ although Harry had to admit he did look good in them. He wasn’t by any means vain, he didn’t care about his looks, but it was nice being in clothes that fitted him and it helped by the fact he didn’t look like an idiot in clothes five or six sizes too big. Voldemort wasn’t here anyway, he was slightly surprised he hadn’t been confined to one room but that happened when someone came, not when he left at least to his knowledge.

Opening the door to the dining hall, he froze when he saw Grant and Barty sitting there, by the look of things they were discussing something heavily, parchment littered the table. He was still annoyed at Grant for spelling that potion into his stomach without his consent, although it had probably saved himself from being cursed with a Crucio.

“Harry,” Grant said, nodding his head respectfully, “You look considerably better,” especially for only three weeks of proper nutrition and the potions, they shouldn’t have worked so quickly. Perhaps it was something to do with him being in actual fitting clothes? But no, it wasn’t possible he could see Harry actually had meat on his bones now, he wasn’t just skin and bone. Perhaps having Harry in on this conversation would benefit Bartemius.

“For a prisoner you mean?” Harry stated with a wry smirk on his face, finding amusement in the stricken look on his face, it was hard to tell what emotion it was though.

Grant cleared his throat awkwardly, while Barty just chuckled in amusement, the boy knew damn well he wasn’t a prisoner, the real prisoners were under this very manor he did like his attitude. The Dark Lord had obviously decided to turn Harry Potter to their side, he had seen them duelling and actually sitting having conversations of all things it was surreal really.

“How have you recovered so quickly?” Grant enquired, “Please sit, I’m going to run a diagnosis over you.”

“I don’t think so,” Harry said narrowing his eyes, still smarting from the first time they met.

“Our Lord demands it,” Grant added seriously, he obviously wanted to make sure Harry was recovering fully.

“Your Lord,” Harry amended, Voldemort wasn’t his Lord, he had no master and he didn’t want one, it had been bad enough dealing with Dumbledore for years he wouldn’t allow anyone else to manipulate him or tell him what to do. Nonetheless he wandered over and sat down, he was bored and that was the only reason he thought resolutely to himself.

“Very well, My Lord,” Grant conceded, still waiting expectantly for permission.

“What happens if you don’t get a diagnosis?” Harry asked shrewdly, green eyes gleaming eerily, he already knew the answer to that but got enjoyment out of making Grant pale.

“Ease up,” Barty said shaking his head, Grant was one of the most decent wizards around, wouldn’t hurt a fly, well except if his family was threatened but they could all say they were the same in that regard. “He doesn’t deserve your attitude, nor does he really do well with sarcasm.”

“Fine,” Harry muttered pouting just slightly at having his fun taken away, “Only if you help me have some fun later,” he didn’t know if Crouch would help, after all it was thanks to Pettigrew that he got out of his fathers hold and back to Voldemort. He might feel some sort of loyalty to him, just like Voldemort did since the rat had brought him back - he was sure it was the only reason Pettigrew was still alive - he was useful.

Barty startled at that pronouncement, giving him a curious look, “Fine,” it wasn’t as if he was going to be anywhere else, he was homeless, nowhere to go and wanted. He also wanted to see what his Lord saw in him, surely he must see something to consider him worthy? There was no denying he was very good with magic, and if he applied himself he would have been a prodigy, he’d heard the boy had cast a fully fledged patronus last year. He wondered if it was true, and made a mental note to ask him.

“You can do the spell, if you answer a couple of questions,” Harry decided, turning his attention back to Grant.

“Ask away,” Grant said, tensing in his chair, wondering what the teenager could possibly want answering.

“Why were you so surprised I didn’t know what the potion did?” Harry questioned, his gaze intense as he stared into Grant’s blue eyes as if gauging his truthfulness.

“Ah,” Grant murmured, relaxing, that he could answer quite happily. “Each student at Hogwarts is given that potion their first night at Hogwarts with the exception of the students whose medical files are up to date, they would have had to visit St. Mungo’s at least a year before the start of Hogwarts to be exempt from it. You see the healers have to know your medical history, its important if they ever needed to treat you. Any prior or ongoing illnesses, potions you are taking, and more importantly if you are allergic to anything. The purpose of the potion wasn’t for that particular reason solely, but it also identified students who are being abused. It was something put into practice sixty years ago.”

“Sixty years?” Harry said surprised, “I wasn’t aware the laws on abuse existed then,”

“In the magical world they do and did, something we actually started first for a change.” Grant nodded briefly, before continuing in a grim tone, “It all started when the magical world got wind of students failing to return to Hogwarts, when they did investigating they realized that they weren’t just missing but they were being killed, by their own families, with the abuse either going too far…or the fear causing them to kill their child outright especially in the case of religious parents. Armando Dippet was horrified and ensured such a practice was put into affect, to safeguard the next generation. In fact it was one of the last things he did as a Headmaster before he retired and Dumbledore took over.”

Harry felt the first stirrings of actually feeling sick to his stomach, his lip unconsciously curled at the words.

“You must understand with us being such a small community each magical child is a blessing, there is nothing more important than children to pass on our legacies. It might seem stupid to some…but to have a child to pass on the name, their fortune, their work, and a child to continue the family name and keep their speciality when it comes to magic alive…to make the magical world thrive is…is all that matters.” Grant said seriously, “Specialties like the ability to spell cast, ward weave even parselmouth, they are extremely rare now our world is getting even more smaller soon they’ll be gone if something isn’t done.”

“Please,” Harry scoffed, “Don’t tell me abuse doesn’t happen to those who live in the magical world with magical parents,”

“Ah, but nine time out of ten abuse cases are with Muggle-born’s, that is a cold hard fact,” Grant stated, “I’m not saying all magical parents are perfect, far from it, but children aren’t abused.”

Harry frowned, not sure what to make of the conversation, “Alright, but I’d never visited St. Mungo’s before so why wasn’t I given the potion?”

“I think you already know that answer,” Grant said sympathetically, but without pity, he had a feeling the wizard would get extremely pissed off if he did pity him.

“No, I get that Dumbledore would try and circumvent me getting checked, although I’d like to know how, but I’m quite often in the hospital wing, why wasn’t it done then?” Harry said, his hands clenched into fists, “You said healers take oaths,”

“Healers do, I am one, your Madam Pomfrey is merely a Medi-witch, which is someone that can cure colds and hand out some potions but she’s in no way capable of the things I am. You can become a Medi-witch is six months albeit if you complete the course and pass which even a simpleton can do. The course is mind-numbingly tedious but if you want to go on the healers course you have to take the first step which is the Medi course.” Grant waved dismissively, “It’s something you would have to find out from her yourself.”

Harry just grunted a slight pensive look on his face.

“May I?” Grant asked, his wand out.

Harry just shrugged, he didn’t care anymore, “Go on then,” as vindictive as he felt sometimes, Grant really hadn’t done anything so there was no point to getting him into trouble with Voldemort.

Grant didn’t wait for further permission, as soon as Harry gave the go ahead he was murmuring Latin so quietly that Harry couldn’t hear him. Then a large glow of white spat from Grants want and into Harry, causing tingling all over from head to foot before it stopped leaving a warm feeling behind as if the magic was reassuring him he would be alright, Pomfrey’s magic didn’t feel like that.

“Just as I suspected, you are recovering really well,” Grant said reading over the results, his eyesight was perfect, his bones corrected, the nutrients he needed were definitely being absorbed. “Perhaps a bit too well, what have you been doing?” Grant’s blue eyes unconsciously begged Harry to tell him, not in that pathetic way but in a way someone pleaded when they desired information.

“I created a potion,” Harry told him smugly, “It helps you bulk up, nothing too drastic, but enough to make someone like me healthy, although I wouldn’t know I’ve not taken the potion long enough…nor will I after a while.” the prospect of being very muscular and bulky didn’t appeal to him whatsoever. He would leave finding out until someone actually wanted to be that way then he’d offer them the potion.

Barty perked up at that, he’d half zoned out listening to the conversation happening in front of him. He liked the sound of that potion, but he knew the boy wouldn’t just hand it over - call it sixth sense or whatever he just knew. He had to have it though, this would help him, and in turn he would be useful to his lord so much sooner. He hated feeling useless, he’d felt it for too damn long, he just wanted to be back to his old self again. Not constantly exhausted, sick or having to sleep to regain strength. “What would you ask for if I wanted two weeks worth?” Barty asked speculatively.

“Hmm,” Harry mused thoughtfully, he couldn’t think of anything right now, it wasn’t as if Barty could give him anything right now anyway. “A boon I suppose, there’s nothing I want right now.” and he wasn’t just going to hand them over, not when he might think of something later and have to kick himself for being so foolish.

“Bloody Slytherins,” Barty grumbled, he swore he would like nothing more than to kill whoever started the boon nonsense in Slytherin.

“You weren’t in Slytherin?” Harry asked taken aback.

“No,” Barty smirked, “I was a Ravenclaw, graduated with twelve O.W.L’s,”

“I know,” Harry claimed, “Well the O.W.L part.” he amended.

“How?” Barty’s smirk disappeared and a confused look plastered over his face.

“Your father, when he got to Hogwarts he was muttering to the tree about how you’d graduated with twelve O.W.L’s, he might have been delirious but he sounded proud.” Harry answered, he would have done anything for someone to be proud of him - genuinely.

“It was the only time he actually spent more than a few seconds of his time talking to me,” Barty admitted bitterly, an ugly look on his face, how he loathed his father. For ignoring him all his life, for ignoring his mother, especially when she was dying, that he’d never been able to forgive. “He was more concerned about his career, of becoming the Minister of magic, he abandoned both me and my mother,” it was guilt that had enabled Mrs. Crouch to convince her husband to let their son out even if he had ended up regretting it more than anything else.

Harry was surprised that Barty didn’t go completely nuts that he’d mentioned him, he hated his name with a vengeance never mind his actually mentioning the man himself.

“If you take the additional potions, this will need changed before I go,” Grant spoke after a few moment of silence.

“Alright, a boon,” Barty grudgingly agreed, “I want a months worth of potions though,” if he was going to have a boon over his head he wanted to make it worthwhile.

“Done, I’ll brew them for you tonight,” Harry said wryly, stretching himself out feeling very pleased.

“I’ll just change this,” Grant said, scribbling parts out and adding writing here and there to the plan to get Barty back to good health. “Might be a good idea to hang on to it for when the others get here, they’ll need it as well.” he certainly would be busy trying to get them to anything remotely resembling normal health. He would be rushed of his feet, he would be tending to at least thirty people. He didn’t even think he’d get home the first few days after they were all brought here, after all those years in Azkaban they couldn’t be in good shape.

Harry arched an eyebrow, he knew by ‘others’ it meant the other Azkaban Death Eaters, even during the resurrection it had been one of his plans to get them out. He couldn’t help but wonder if Voldemort was actually going to go in half cocked or if he was taking his advice…the thought of him actually taking his advice was laughable, but he hoped it was at least considered. It was definitely the plan he would put into action if he had ever considered it. Not that he wanted to rule over the magical world, he’d much rather just fade into the background thank you very much. He was so deep in thought he didn’t see the look Grant sent him, the healer was wondering if he had done the wrong thing in mentioning something like that in front of him.

The window being tapped caused them all to turn as one, Harry jumped to his feet, joy thrumming through him. She was alive, she’d survived, she was alright. Quickly jogging over, he unlatched the window and held his arm out for her to hop on. A wide grin splitting his face in two, now she was the only thing he truly cared about, she’d been there for him for years, even if it was just a mostly silent presence, she was his familiar and he shouldn’t be surprised she’d found him but he was. He stroked at her head and neck as she hooted a few times.

“Its good to see you too, girl,” Harry said just standing there petting her. Oh, he’d missed her more than he had even realized.

“That shouldn’t have been possible, only the birds that live here should have been able to bypass the wards,” Barty said cautiously.

“Its nice to see you have full confidence in my wards,” the smooth voice of Voldemort causing them all to startle once more. Truth was, Hedwig had gotten all but passed the wards, she’d been flying into them as he returned from Azkaban, determined to get to her Master. To have gotten this far he realized the owl wasn’t just any ordinary owl but a familiar, they were bonded, and he didn’t want to risk the owl leaving and returning but with people trailing it. He did not want his hideout found, it was imperative that it remained secure and unknown.

“My Lord,” both Grant and Crouch said, bowing in respect, Harry didn’t do anything, he just stood there petting at his owl. Grant and Barty tensed, waiting for something to happen, anything, surely the Dark Lord wouldn’t like that? Yet he did nothing, merely moved over to the table and situated himself at the head of it and food appeared almost immediately.

Harry stared at Voldemort, why let his owl in at all? Why would he risk him writing to anyone? Remaining thoughtful he took his usual seat, not even needing to wait for Voldemort to glare this time, he simply just took the potions with a ‘there I’ve done it’ look on his face. What if he had done something to her? That made Hedwig to go to Voldemort instead of wherever he sent the letter? Shrugging it off, not that it really mattered, who would he write to? Hermione and Ron had made their allegiance clear, he would never forgive them for keeping him in the dark, even if he’d only been in the dark for really a fortnight before he’d been kidnapped and brought here. They would have kept it up the entire summer, no, they’d chosen Dumbledore over him and that was it, their friendship if it ever had been one, was done.

Chapter Text

Embracing His True Self

Chapter 14

Voldemort hated to say it but he was continuously impressed with the fourteen year old teen. Harry was honestly surpassing anything he could have expected. They had truly began training (he didn't consider learning to close ones mind or read one training) four weeks ago at the beginning of August, it was now the end of August and he had exceeded his expectations. He had never complained about the length of time they duelled, or being hurt, with the obvious exception of needing his arm reattached when the shield Harry used failed and his spell met its target it had been reattached easily enough. Considering if he did that to Pettigrew or his followers they would have been brawling their eyes out he was grudgingly awed at his pain tolerance. He flicked his wand in a long complicated motion and fired a spell at the teen, watching his reactions keenly.

Harry's eyes widened, he didn't know what the hell the spell was, and the motions weren't familiar to him, knowing Voldemort though it would be an advanced and painful curse or charm. So without more ado, he quickly erected the strongest shield charm he knew that could hold pretty much under any spell. It was up in time, but the blast of magic both his and Voldemort's was explosive to say the least and Harry was blasted back five feet and painfully against the wall then the floor as his body lost its fight with gravity and plummeted down. For a good few moments, Harry lay there unable to think of anything dazed and winded and most of all in pain. "Fuck," Harry wheezed, trying to breathe but finding it impossible, groaning in pain, he lay where he was unable to move, as he tried to right his breathing.

"Are you alright?" Voldemort asked smoothly, showing no concern even if he was. "Is anything broken."

"Um, no, I don't think so," Harry said, wincing in agony as he sat up, his breathing was getting easier each passing minute, which was good, his body had still taken a hell of a beating. They'd been duelling for over three hours, which was more than usual actually; he knew he couldn't continue anymore.

"Amita!" Voldemort commanded sternly.

"What can Amita do for Master?" the House-elf appeared and bowed immediately, its green eyes gleaming up earnestly, an obvious desire to do whatever her Master asked of her.

"Bring me up a pain reliever," Voldemort ordered, Harry was obviously in worse shape than he was letting on, otherwise he would have been forcing himself off the ground, refusing to show weakness. No matter how bad it was, Harry did refuse to show how much pain he was in, he admired that. Amita left as soon as he stopped speaking, the House-elf knew her way around potions.

Harry heard footsteps and glanced towards the door, watching Barty levitate an unconscious person by. Arching an eyebrow, genuinely curious, was that what Barty had been up to recently. He would constantly be gone doing stuff, then coming back, he would never say what it was either. He'd actually had a lot of fun with Barty, at Pettigrew's expense but really, he didn't care about the disgusting rats feelings. He had learned quite a few…lovely spells along the way. Although lately they hadn't been doing much of anything with his training and Barty being gone all the time.

"What is he up to?" Harry asked shrewdly, his eyes going from the now empty corridor to Voldemort.

Voldemort just smirked at him, he was happy to answer quite a few of his questions, but this wasn't one of them.

"He's been leaving for irregular intervals for two nearly three weeks now," Harry said, relaxing his tense pain filled body, and if he was going the same thing all the time then…"You actually listened to me?" he gaped at the black haired wizard, he had seen Voldemort in many guises, a parasite on the back of someone's head, a sixteen maybe seventeen year old preserved in a diary, the Horcrux he should say, then the snake visage he supported once he returned, which admittedly was only for a brief time before he changed his looks once again and Harry would say he looked barely older than twenty-one, exactly like the Horcrux in the diary only a little older obviously. He preferred this one, and not just because of his appearance which was very easy on the eyes but because he seemed a lot calmer and in control, but he was judging that solely on the half hour he spent in his presence in the graveyard. To know he had taken his advice left him stunned, he hadn't expected that in a million years, pride wormed inside though, pride and satisfaction, Voldemort had actually taken his ideas seriously and obviously given it a lot of thought. He was picking up Muggles to replace the Death Eaters he planned on getting out of Azkaban. "Where is he getting them from? And how the hell does he know how to blend in? He's a pureblood; they tend to stand out from the crowd."

Amita popped in with the potion, and handed it to her Master before leaving without another word.

"Drink it," Voldemort stated, handing the potion over, his red eyes gleaming, he wouldn't accept any challenges on that, although it had been a while since Harry protested against any potion he took. Obviously Harry had come to trust him to a certain extent that he no longer felt suspicious about any potion he consumed.

Harry grasped it and removed the cork and gratefully drank it, not even a few moments later, he felt the potion rapidly working, the pain diminished considerably before fading to a dull throb. Sighing in relief, he got shakily to his feet, not wishing to remain on the floor, especially now that he could move. He'd spent his childhood on the floor supporting one injury or another, he never wanted to feel or be that weak ever again. "You really took my advice on how to get them out of Azkaban, didn't you?" Harry wanted confirmation.

"You may stay if you keep quiet," Voldemort stated, moving away from the makeshift duelling area he'd created for training Harry, and made his way to his desk and began to deal with the paperwork. The vampires had finally joined his side, and it had taken a month of hard negotiating on both sides the deciding factor was the vampires realizing Harry was at his manor, what could he say? He was a Slytherin and wasn't above using any means at his disposal to get what he wanted. He still hadn't had any luck locating Fenrir and his pack, they had probably moved several times since his temporary defeat.

Harry wanted to pout, but he didn't, instead he summoned his book or 'Grimoire' as Voldemort and the others called it. Severus had edited his potions, to maximise their strength. Severus had been there quite often this past month, brewing his potion, the stronger nutrition potion; he kept urging him to name it too. He had also been brewing a variety of others, ones he couldn't identify, there was no book and Severus just had him copying his moves, telling him what to add and how to add it. He had asked but Severus obviously hadn't been in the mood to share, same as Barty, now that was annoying but he also sort of understood it, not that it mattered he already had his suspicions about everything - he wasn't stupid.

The next few hours were silent, as Harry took time to create a few more spells, it was something he did during the summer to stave off boredom and keep his sanity. He wasn't exactly bored these days, but it was nice to have at least one habit and something he enjoyed doing that could continue. He hadn't been flying despite the fact the property was huge and he could fly for miles in each direction he'd bet. He had been curious how far he could go, and did go further each and every time, but it didn't seem to activate whatever was strapped to his leg. Either Voldemort was giving him more leeway or he had lied but Harry knew Voldemort didn't lie, he told you how it was whether you liked it or not.

"My Lord?" Lucius said his dulcet tone wavering as he caught sight of Harry Potter of all people sitting in his Lord's office as if he belonged there. He couldn't have been more stunned, what on earth was Harry Potter doing there? And more importantly why was he just sitting there? Why hadn't he been killed?

Harry looked up in surprise, he was usually told to leave whenever anyone came into the manor, well with the obvious exception of Severus who knew he was here. A sneer planted itself over his face; the urge to curse the wizard was strong. In fact he was unconsciously gripping his wand green eyes glimmering coldly.

"Potter," Lucius spat, gripping his cane tightly, ready to defend himself.

"Malfoy," Harry stated coolly, his lip still curled at the blonde.

"Harry," Voldemort warned, seeing the teen holding his wand, not that he blamed him, Lucius had almost cast the killing curse on the teen when he was twelve years old. He had as well, but that was totally beside the point, it would take a while for Harry to even want to be in the same room as some of his death eaters, never mind trust them, if such a thing was possible. Such anger did intrigue him, even Pettigrew didn't illicit that kind of reaction from Harry. "Leave us." not even Barty and he had tried to kill him as well.

"I want to go flying," Harry stated after dismissing Malfoy, his lips twitching vindictively at the indignant look on his face. Hopefully Malfoy would appear more often, he did need someone new to wind up. Just thinking about flying earlier made him long for the open skies, at least for a while before the pain reliever wore off, since he knew he would be in agony after.

"Go," Voldemort stated he wanted to know everything Lucius did and not sit and argue with Harry. And it would be an argument; no matter what he threatened the teen with he didn't seem to listen. While it was infuriating it was also a refreshing change, nobody denied him, with good reason he would end their lives where they stood. An exception was being made when it came to Harry Potter, not only solely because he was a Horcrux either.

Harry stood up, still smirking, keeping a hold of his book, before walking to the door sniffing in distain he walked passed Lucius sniggering quietly at the look of rage on his face. Oh he was so going to enjoy winding him up, definitely have to get Barty to help if he was willing. Although Lucius didn't really spend any time in the manor, it would have to be something that would really piss him off but short in taking affect.

 

"My Lord?" Lucius questioned, still furious with the audacity of the boy.

"Do you have any news?" Voldemort questioned, completely ignoring Lucius' subtle move for answers.

"I have everything I was able to collect, My Lord," Lucius said bringing out a large folder from his cloak and passing it over, bowing as he did so. Grateful that Harry Potter wasn't here to see him doing such a thing, he would never live it down, especially considering the boy showed no respect to his Lord nor did he defer to him much to his annoyance. The fact his Lord said or did nothing in reprimand was even more insulting.

"And memories?" Voldemort demanded.

Lucius nodded firmly, removing an intricately box and returning it to its correct size and handing it over. Watching as the Dark Lord opened it and revealed the dozen of crystal vials holding the memories contained within. Despite how much money the items were worth he didn't even blink an eye at handing them over.

"Good, I have a new mission for you," Voldemort stated, and he knew the blonde wouldn't like it - an added bonus for giving it to him.

"Yes, My Lord," Lucius said giving him a bow of deference once more.

"Find Fenrir Greyback and his pack, do not come back without their location and informing Fenrir that I require his presence." Voldemort informed him, it went without saying that he would be furious if the wizard did come back without them, and torture would be one of the things he'd dole out too.

It took everything for Lucius to keep his face impassive; all the while he just wanted to sneer at the thought of going anywhere near Greyback. He loathed werewolves, and hated that the Dark Lord wanted them in the war, they were filthy animals that should be put down to save anyone else from turning into the horrendous beasts each month. "May I enlist a few others to aid in the mission?" praying that he would allow that, he did not want to scour the countryside looking for the beasts, at least not any longer than he had to. He knew if he tried to get out of it and send the others the Dark Lord would find out and he wouldn't be happy and he rather valued his life.

"You may," Voldemort conceded only because it would ensure they were found much quicker.

"Thank you, My Lord," Lucius said, waiting impatiently for his dismissal so he could find the beasts and be done with it.

"And Lucius? If anyone finds out about Harry Potter's presence here…it will not be you paying the price, have I made myself clear? Nobody not even your family will be informed." Voldemort threatened him, knowing it would work, Lucius loved his family and it was the best way to get him to pay attention and refrain from screwing up. "Now leave."

Lucius paled drastically at the threat, visibly swallowing thickly, bowing low before straightening up and preparing to leave. He couldn't help but cringe a little when the Dark Lord stood up abruptly, expecting a curse to come his way, but it didn't, all he could do was gape a little when the Dark Lord exited his office without sparing him a glance. Breathing out shakily, he swiftly made his way out of the Dark Lord's office, he had been told to leave, he wasn't about to stand around and wait to be cursed, he wasn't stupid.

 

Harry zoomed around on his broomstick and breakneck speed, lying flat out on his broom the air whipping around him violently, the sun beaming down, but largely unfelt due to the wind and coolness. He had almost forgotten how good it felt to be on a broom, he'd used to think it was Quidditch, or just being normal perhaps it wasn't just those reason after all. Twisting around holding tightly as his broom did a turn Harry slowing it down, exhilaration filling him, his broom stopped and Harry just gazed out at the scenery, he'd chosen a brilliant spot, there was nothing around for miles, well nothing but grass and trees and even a few rivers he could see.

He hadn't seen his life taking this sort of turn, hell he'd just been biding his time, until when he didn't know if he was honest. He was just going through the motions, playing Dumbledore's game while he tried to keep himself alive. Voldemort hadn't been the only threat to his life either, the Dursley's were, or more accurately Vernon. Vernon was a big man, and he wasn't able to defend himself, one wrong hit and there would have been nothing he or anyone in the magical world could have done - although they would have probably found his rotten corpse on September when he didn't show up at Hogwarts more likely.

When the House-elf had grabbed him and he'd found himself in Voldemort's place in a cell he'd thought it was game over then. He hadn't expected the events that followed, he had been angry at first, who wouldn't be? Stuck in Voldemort's lair but hey, go figure he would find a safe heaven with someone who had tried to kill him numerous times. He really liked it here, being able to use magic, learning magic, and contrary to what everyone would say at Hogwarts Harry loved learning. He just left the showy stuff to Hermione, he could only imagine how she'd react if he suddenly just started to outperform when it came to classes. To begin with Hermione had been better, no doubt, but he wasn't eleven year old and new to magic anymore. The only reason he'd been behind was because his stuff had been shoved in the cupboard and he hadn't been able to read any of it.

He really liked Barty, he probably shouldn't, especially given what he had done in the past to his friends parents, Neville would have a heart attack if he saw him and Barty talking and laughing. Unfortunately he couldn't continue living his life to the expectations of others, it was time he started thinking of himself. He felt really proud of himself actually, Voldemort had taken his advice, and he had never expected that to happen in a million years.

Shaking off his thoughts, this was why he liked to fly, he didn't have to think, he just moved, and was at peace. Lying flat along the broom again, Harry began to build up speed passing over the manor before jerking his broom handle downwards and into a Wronski faint, his heartbeat shooting through the roof, concentrating, and yanking it back up at the very last second, leaving his stomach on the grass as he rose back up.

Shivering at t he sudden coldness, frowning, it shouldn't be getting cool yet, it wasn't even dinner time. Shrugging it off as sudden pressure change as he flew up, he began to circle the manor again, and he didn't know how long he'd get before he would have to go back inside. Scratch that he knew it would be soon, he thought feeling the ache in his shoulders and lower back after shrugging.

The chill was getting worse; a bad feeling began to churn in his gut, just as he observed his broomstick handle beginning to ice over, very reminiscent of the time it happened in his third year. His breathing hitched, not wishing to be caught like he was the last time and fall fifty foot from his broom, he began to descend as quickly as he could all the while trying to find out where they were. It was definitely Dementors but the question was why? Why the hell were they here? The last time the Dementors had been out of Azkaban they'd been looking for Sirius and Sirius wasn't here. Could they be after Barty?

He soon had his answer when he touched down just outside the manor; his broomstick lay forgotten as two Dementors began circling around him. His knees buckled as Harry tried to think of his very best memories, clutching his wand closely, "Exp-ex-exp-" Harry felt panic and fear creeping up on him. No damn it, he wasn't going to let them nearly get his soul again, he refused. He could get rid of two measly Dementors; he'd gotten rid of over a hundred in the past.

Harry closed his eyes determinedly, thinking of the few good memories he had, which weren't much but it was always enough. He no longer had to make up fantasies to make this spell in particular work. "EXPECTO PATRONUM!" Harry shouted his wand out, raised slightly upwards straight at the Dementors.

It was NOT a stag that leapt from his wand as he expected needless to say Harry's jaw dropped in shock. His green eyes widened and glazed over as he stared. What. The. Fuck?

Chapter Text

Embracing His True Self

Chapter 15

Voldemort had made his way out of the manor as quickly as he could. He didn't need confirmation through the wards that something was seriously wrong, he could feel it, and it didn't take a genius to figure out what caused the dip in emotions and Harry's wellbeing to plummet. Dementors, were here at his manor, against his explicit demands, to say he was furious was putting it mildly. His magic slammed the front door open as he stalked out into the grounds, in time to see Harry trying to cast the patronus charm. Removing his wand he pointed it at them, not truly concerned, he had been informed by Severus that Harry had conjured a fully fledged Patronus while surrounded by a large number of Dementors, unsuccessfully unable to hide how impressed he was, it would after all take someone with immense power to do that, and at just thirteen he had succeeded. Then he observed Harry's shoulders squaring and he uttered the spell correctly.

The shape of Harry's patronus surprised him immensely, it was a thunderbird and it was ironic beyond words. The thunderbird like the eagle stood for creation and destruction symbolic of profound power, glory, transformation and divine dominion. He had been under the impression that Harry's patronus was a stag, what could he say? Know thy enemy and it was something he'd lived by, or so he thought but it turned out he hadn't known a single real thing about the boy.

Lucius moved but kept well out of the Dark Lord's sight, his magic was fluxing wildly, then he inhaled sharply, his face slacking in disbelief as Harry cast a fully fledged patronus of all things. He couldn't cast a fully fledged patronus, he could shield himself well enough that he hadn't truly bothered about it, until now. Jealousy, envy and anger thrummed through him that a half-blood like Potter, with a Mudblood mother was able to cast such a charm and he, a powerful pureblood could not.

"Impressive Patronus," Voldemort said idly, his red eyes gleaming darkly as he watched the dark spots disappear on the horizon. It seemed another conversation with the Dementor Lord was in need. He would find out who had sent those Dementors after Harry, and swift retribution would be on the cards. Nobody harmed what was his and got away with it, especially not those who were supposedly under his control. He was also rather envious, he himself couldn't cast the charm, but he had no need for it. Turning back to face Harry, he noticed he was staring utterly stunned and a little confused.

"But my patronus has always been a stag," Harry stared at the flying bird which he had yet to cancel.

"And what exactly did you learn while casting it?" Voldemort in lecture mode.

"Nothing, just how to do the spell, six lessons was all it took," Harry said facing Tom smugly before turning back in wonderment.

"Insipid professors," Voldemort sneered in irritation.

"Whose fault is that?" Harry said pointedly, "Thanks to your albeit brilliant curse I've had nothing but crap teachers, ironically enough all of them have tried to kill me in some manner." he would love to know about the curse he'd put on the position, and why Dumbledore didn't just circumvent it, it would be easy enough. Yes he knew the curse was real, especially seeing the spells Voldemort had created. "Dumbledore's stupid if he didn't just change the name, I'll be the curse is focused on the title of Defence Against the Dark Arts right?"

"You're learning fast," Voldemort replied, giving him an answer to his statement without even answering it really. "Your professor really should have ensured you read upon the spell before he even considered showing you how to cast it."

"It was a werewolf not a teacher," Lucius replied, his tone cool showing none of his disgust.

"Maybe if we'd had decent teachers along the way your son wouldn't have been idiotic enough to mess with a Hippogriff," Harry sneered, "And Then whine about it like a big baby for months as if he'd had his arm ripped off." Hagrid was alright, he wasn't overly fond of him, his belief in Dumbledore was disgusting but Hagrid himself was a good man and believed the best in someone who didn't deserve it. What couldn't be denied was he shouldn't be a teacher, teachers went to school and university to step foot in a class, all the teachers at Hogwarts had and Hagrid shouldn't and couldn't use magic in front of them and dealing with dangerous beasts with students…someone should be teaching them who could use magic to defend them if something went wrong.

Lucius gritted his teeth, stopping himself from saying anything, he was unsure of this new relationship between Potter and his Lord; he would rather not be writhing under the Cruciatus curse if he could help it. Hopefully he would figure it out sooner or later, and if he happened to see Potter being cursed well happy days.

Harry bent down and picked up his broomstick, it was time to speak to Barty, he would know Malfoy best, and would know what would really wind him up. No, he had something he wanted to do first before he spoke to Barty. Then he walked passed Malfoy saying in a squeaky voice, very reminiscent of Dobby, "Master has given Dobby a sock…Dobby is free," bursting out laughing when he saw Lucius going red in restrained anger, his fingers tightly gripping his cane, Harry literally begged to the man to make a move, Voldemort couldn't say anything if he merely defended himself. "Still think I'm going to meet the same sticky end as my parents now?" green eyes gleaming vindictively, but nothing, Lucius just stood there, huffing in annoyance he walked back into the manor, keeping an eye on his back at all times.

Yet still unaware of the red eyes gleaming in amusement, Voldemort had to admit it was hilariously amusing to see how much Harry was able to wind his Death Eaters up so expertly. He of course knew what Harry was referring to; he had been in his memories after all. He had absolutely no doubt where Harry was going, even without the strap around his ankle. He was going to look up on Patronus' and find out why his had changed. It was ironic that his patronus now represented freedom and power, which Harry had more of here than he ever had at Hogwarts on Dumbledore's side, Harry himself had said it was like living in a gilded cage.

"My Lord why is he here?" Lucius asked, unable or perhaps unwilling to curb his own curiosity. He was admittedly still bewildered, just two months ago his Lord had wished Harry Potter dead, had tried to kill him as he and many others stood and watched. Now this? He was suddenly sitting with the Dark Lord…arguing with him without consequence, nobody got to do that, not even his father who had been the Dark Lord's second in command for decades.

"Would you like me to retrieve another, My Lord?" Barty asked as he stalked out, blatantly ignoring Lucius and his question. He still believed they should have all been heavily punished for abandoning the Dark Lord to be a disembodied spirit for thirteen years. Another reason he also made sure to give as little away as possible. Lucius was the nosiest of all Death Eaters and liked to know everyone's business. He was rather hopeful that Lucius would get cursed for asking. Apparently that was asking for too much, and Barty scowled, he would wait Lucius would screw up eventually.

"No, that is enough for now," Voldemort stated, he didn't want to draw attention even in the Muggle world; he wasn't going to risk Dumbledore figuring out what he was up to. Although he doubted he would but he was going to do this as cautiously as possible. "Why are you still here?" he asked Lucius irritation slipping through, and just like that Lucius got the message and swiftly left Apparating from the property.

 

Harry entered the library, his eyes narrowing in all the books, it would take a while to search through them all and he wasn't in the mood. Summoning all books with the mention of the charm would have him pelted with books no doubt. The worst of it was it could be in either the Defence section or the charms one, since it could be considered both despite the fact charm was in its name. Stalking along to the charms section, grabbing one of the series of books - the standard book of spells, he looked the index he found Patronus Charm easily enough, giving a nod he moved over to the seat and opened his book to the right page and began to read the passages.

Eager to know why and how his Patronus had changed. 'This ancient and mysterious charm conjures a magical guardian, a projection of all your most positive feelings. The Patronus Charm is difficult, and many witches and wizards are unable to produce a full, corporeal Patronus, a guardian which generally takes the shape of the animal with whom they share the deepest affinity. You may suspect, but you will never truly know what form your Patronus will take until you succeed in conjuring it.'

'The Patronus Charm (Expecto Patronum) is the most famous and one of the most powerful defensive charms known to Wizardkind. It is an immensely complicated and extremely difficult spell that evokes a partially-tangible positive energy force known as a Patronus (pl. Patronuses) or spirit guardian. It is the primary protection against Dementors and Lethifolds, against which there is no other defence.'

Harry rolled his eyes; this wasn't what he wanted to know, so his gaze flittered over the words in search for what he desperately desired to know. He sincerely hoped that he wasn't the first person to have a changing patronus.

'To successfully cast the spell, one must muster the happiest memory they can think of (the happier the memory, the better the charm will work) and begin drawing circles with their wand so as to increase the power of their spell. They must then say the incantation, Expecto Patronum; the Patronus will come from the tip of the wand and can be directed towards a target by pointing one's wand at said target. It is possible to disguise the form one's Patronus takes.'

Harry sighed in relief, so it was possible to disguise his patronus that was good, at least he wouldn't have to worry he would just need to concentrate on actually doing it himself.

Patronus forms, however, are subject to change if the caster goes through an emotional upheaval of some sort, including falling in eternal, unchanging love. For example, Merlin's Patronus changed from its previous form (a horse) to that of a dragon after his affinity for dragons was realised.

Based on the fact that Patronuses are conjured by recalling happy memories, it stands to reason that a Patronus might change its form after one falls in love and the memories used to conjure the Patronus largely revolve around the person the caster is in love with. In addition, it seems that some couples have "complementary" Patronuses (male and female forms of the same animal). It is, however, unknown if this is a coincidence or not. If a wizard is an Animagus and can summon a corporeal Patronus, the two may take the same form.

Most Patronuses take the form of an ordinary animal. Magical creatures, such as Merlin'sdragon Patronus, are uncommon. It is extremely rare for Patronuses to take the form of extinct animals. Hedley Fleetwood's woolly mammoth Patronus is a notable exception. Andros the Invincible was the only wizard capable of casting a Patronus the size of a giant.

"What has you so enchanted that you didn't even look up when I entered?" Severus asked his voice louder than normal, gazing at Harry shrewdly. Harry was always vigilantly aware of everything around him, a trait the Dark Lord no doubt aided and encouraged in him.

"Can you cast a Patronus?" Harry enquired, staring at from his book. He didn't believe his had changed because he was in 'love' so it stood to reason he had undergone an 'emotional upheaval' which was true really.

Severus moved forward and stared at Harry for a few moments mulling over how best to answer that question. He had a book open at the page for the Patronus charm. "Most Dark wizards cannot cast the Patronus charm, to do so one would end up with rather severe consequences."

"Like what?" Harry asked perturbed.

"Believe me you don't want to know," Severus replied grimly.

"You didn't answer my question though," Harry observed smirking a little, wondering if Severus was stalling or if he was just wondering how to explain but he wasn't sure what would require explaining.

"I can," Severus informed him, taking a seat opposite him, "It is the same as your mums," he admitted.

"Which is?" Harry asked, as always eager for more information on his parents, it didn't elude him that he had learnt more from Severus this past few months than he had from Remus and Sirius in the years he'd known them.

"A doe," Severus answered. "Why?" he queried wishing answers of his own. Harry already had the ability to cast the charm so he wasn't sure why the sudden interest in it.

"Expecto Patronum!" Harry uttered, his wand going in a circular motion, the library was encased in bright white light before a thunderbird, not a stag like Severus was expect was flying around the room. "That is why. I need to learn how to hide it and make my old one appear."

"That isn't too difficult; I myself have hidden my true patronus in the past." Severus explained, or should he say it wouldn't be too difficult for Harry since he was quite the prodigy at charms. Filius when he had learned had fallen from his seat, stunned to the core. He had wished to give Harry extra lessons and hopefully help him gain a Mastery in the subject (Lily had wanted to do that before she had Harry and the war was too great to take years off to study for a Mastery so sure she would get a chance to do so in future until the very end when she realised she'd have no future) but Dumbledore had shot him down and forbidden him from doing so.

"How did you do it? Is there a book on how to do it?" Harry asked curiously. Dispelling his patronus causing it to fade away.

"No, there's never been a need for one to hide their patronus, why would they? To cast it is considered the greatest success one could hope to accomplish in regards to magical prowess to the general population. You'll find the higher up in the Ministry can conjure a fully fledged patronus and it isn't a coincidence." Severus explained, "They're held in higher regard, you have the spot of the youngest castor of a fully fledged patronus in fact. Follow me and we'll see if we can do something about it."

Harry stood up knowing where they were going, Voldemort had a duelling room created, for the Death Eaters who would be rescued from Azkaban presumably, and they would need to regain their strength and control over their magic. Despite the fact it was finished and ready for anyone to use, Voldemort still insisted on using his study, he wasn't sure why nor did he particularly care about getting an answer.

The entire room was covered in mats that softened the blow when you were blasted back off your feet. There were a dozen training dummies spread out in the bottom right hand corner. They lit up in different areas, hands, feet, stomach, throat, eye, head, even the legs. You were supposed to hit them with spells it made for very good target practice made you more precise with your aim.

"Would you be willing to tell me what your memory was that had your patronus changing?" Severus enquired, he wouldn't be surprised if Harry said no, it was extremely personal and despite the fact they were no longer antagonist towards one another it didn't make them friends. Although he liked to think there was at least some trust between them.

"Not really," Harry admitted embarrassed, it was the memory of just a few hours ago, learning that Voldemort had took on board his suggestions about the prison and Death Eaters. He was used to his ideas being shot down and ridiculed, even by Hermione. He knew he was probably putting too much into but the feeling of being respected (by Voldemort himself actually using the idea) and needed was something he liked but hadn't ever experienced. Dumbledore didn't need him he was using him that there was the difference.

"Is it different from the memory you usually use to perform your patronus?" Severus then questioned, getting to the root of it.

"Definitely." Harry replied immediately.

"Very well, go back to that memory, think of the stag clearly in your mind," Severus told him, standing there arms crossed his expression pensive. "You must want it, desire it above all else to change."

Harry closed his eyes, thinking of the memory of him leaving the Dursley's to attend Hogwarts, finally free of their abusive ways remembering how he felt before it felt tainted by Dumbledore. Thinking of his stag and his father, desperately wishing for it to work. "EXPECTO PATRONUM!" his eyes leapt open and was disheartened (only because he had failed) to see the thunderbolt still there. Cursing in annoyance, he really didn't like when things didn't go his way. He had in the past just thought of his parents, imagining them there beside him, a fantasy nothing more and it hadn't been strong enough for him to cast the Patronus charm.

"It wont work right away, it takes a lot of self control and discipline to change its form, magic isn't easily fooled, Harry," Severus explained, seeing the disgruntled aggravation on his face. "It took me a few tries to get it as well, it helps if one can clear their mind and focus more solely on what they need."

Harry nodded in understanding, doing exactly as Severus instructed, closing his mind, focusing with single minded determination on that one memory, recalling once again the feelings he'd experienced knowing he was a wizard and going to Hogwarts free of the Dursley's. "EXPECTO PATRONUM!" Harry had to stop himself growling in annoyance. It failed yet again.

"Perhaps finding a way that will work for you might go along more smoothly? You've yet to adhere to the normal rules applied to magic." Severus said wryly, no thirteen year old with only two years of magical training should logically be able to perform such an advanced piece of magic yet Harry had. "Everyone's patronus changes at some point in their lives, you've gone through more than most, and it wouldn't surprise anyone that it would change." he felt the need to point out.

"To a thunderbird? I don't know much about spirit animals but I'm pretty sure that it would reveal more than I want anyone to know." Harry stated.

"They aren't always coinciding with what the spirit animal is," Severus argued.

"Really? When you have the deer as spirit animal, you are highly sensitive and have a strong intuition. By affinity with this animal, you have the power to deal with challenges with grace. You master the art of being both determined and gentle in your approach, wisdom imparts those with a special connection with this animal with the ability to be vigilant, move quickly, and trust their instincts to get out the trickiest situations. Gentle maybe not so much but the rest is you."

"Hardly, I've looked up the meaning myself, do I look like someone who is in touch with their inner child? Gentle? Sensitive and intuitive?" Severus asked sardonically.

"The saying still holds truth, just not all of it," Harry replied, sighing softly. "Look I don't want Dumbledore to find out, that's if you aren't telling him everything. You know as well as I do what the thunderbird represents."

Severus was far from insulted by this, his lips just twitched in approval; it was never wise to trust a spy with all your secrets. Especially just because he informed Harry that he had taken a vow to protect him, after all he could have been lying. He would never betray Harry's trust nonetheless, but he also approved of Harry's suspicious nature it would see him survive this war. Especially surrounded by Slytherin's but given Harry's true nature he knew that it would never be a problem. Nodding grimly to concede his point.

The thunderbird was a symbol of many things, power, provision, expansiveness, transformation, divine dominion, indomitable spirit, unquestioned authority and otherworldly. There was even some suggestion and belief that the thunderbird represented war, one that who saw it foresaw victory. Creation and destruction, and controller of nature the ultimate power. Something Harry most definitely had, he had the power to influence an entire generation of wizards and witches, all because of something that happened when he was a baby. If he harnessed that power he could be unstoppable.

Stiffening his shoulders, Harry just focused solely on his father, his patronus and the desire for his to be one again. "EXPECTO PATRONUM!" and Harry whooped in delight when he saw his stag gallop around the room. Supreme satisfaction mingling with pride at his accomplishment and it had only taken a few tries.

"Exceedingly well done," Severus stated amused by Harry's jubilance over a mere change in Patronus.

Cocking his head slightly, tongue out slightly, "Expecto Patronum!" and out flew the thunderbird, he couldn't help but grin it was very cool considering most people couldn't even cast a patronus never mind having them changing back and forth so easily. He did it.

Severus watched over him, his face impassive once more, wondering if Harry already suspected what the Dark Lord was going to do. Why else would he be so eager for his Patronus to change back? Nobody here would bat an eyelash, other than to reel in shock at the fact a child could cast the charm that is and envy would probably be mingled in there somewhere. No, he wanted his patronus to change back because he didn't want Dumbledore to know, how was it that Harry could possibly know? From his understanding his Lord hadn't yet revealed his plan to the teen. "And do reveal why you think you'll ever see a need to hide your current patronus?"

Harry just smirked and elected not to answer, he was far from stupid, he'd already pieced a lot of information together, and Voldemort wasn't exactly subtle about what he was teaching him - no it hadn't been hard to work out. Although there was a chance he could change his mind, not that he felt the need to get his hopes up, he actually really liked it here, it would be odd going back to Hogwarts and he would have one hell of a hard time doing anything if he did go back. Dumbledore wouldn't let him out of his sight for Merlin's sake.

 

"Malfoy? What do you want?" Amycus asked, scowling at the Malfoy Lord from his doorstep, the Carrow estate was much less extravagant to the Malfoy's, the Carrow's didn't feel the need to showcase how much they had that and they truly did have less, mostly due to the fact there were more Carrows than Malfoy's.

"Aren't you going to invite me in?" Lucius said smoothly, glancing around suspiciously.

"Get in," Amycus grunted, rolling his eyes before he slammed the doors shut with a wave of his wand getting sadistic amusement out of the fact Malfoy jumped.

"Is your sister here?" Lucius then asked.

"Yes," Amycus replied curtly, stalking through his home until he got to the sitting room they used for guests. "Now what is it you want?" they hadn't associated with Malfoy since the Dark Lord's downfall, the silence hadn't been their part but Malfoy's.

"Our Lord needs us," Lucius stated, remaining standing despite the fact it was extremely rude to do so, he didn't want to be here any longer than he had to.

"For?" Alecto asked from where she sat, lounging on the chair, a goblet of wine in her hand as she casually drank from it.

"He requests that we find Fenrir Greyback and as quickly as possible," Lucius explained, "We are not to approach him until the task is complete."

"He wishes for us to do so or you do?" Amycus asked suspiciously. It wouldn't be the first time Lucius had been misleading, and he probably had gotten more devious as he got older.

"I asked permission for help," Lucius informed them, refraining from gritting his teeth, he deserved respect not derision, it wasn't as if they weren't as guilty as him at just slinking into the shadows and feigning that they hadn't been the Dark Lord's followers. "Our Lord agreed. If you do not wish to help I will just inform him of that fact." his lip curling a little knowing they wouldn't say no now.

"Oh it's on, we will be the ones to find Greyback," Alecto answered challengingly.

"Just remember to tell Greyback that he's wanted. I will owl with locations that need to be divided up." Lucius sneered, not informing them of what else the Dark Lord demanded. With his piece said, he twirled around and swiftly left Carrow estate, his sneer never once let up.

Amycus watched him go not even bothering to show the wizard out.

"What do you think he decided against telling us?" Alecto wondered, swirling her priceless wine around in her goblet before taking another sip.

Amycus smirked, "I would summarise the Dark Lord wishes to be informed of Greyback's location." he could be wrong, but he'd definitely be alerting the Dark Lord as soon as he did just to be on the safe side. "Time to get in touch with your contacts dear sister, I would hate to have to face the smug look on him if he wins. I on the other hand have a few people to visit." hopefully they'd get incredibly lucky. With that Amycus stood up and swiftly departed through the Floo network, his destination? The Ministry of magic. He would prove he was better than Malfoy this time around. It was too bad Greyback and his pack was constantly behind anti-locating charms, Greyback was a wanted wizard/werewolf after all and it would be pretty stupid not to be.

 

"So who exactly is Greyback?" Harry asked after an hour of reading through this particularly interesting Ancient Runes book, and yes, another area of magic he was becoming increasingly familiar with. Voldemort didn't just stop at the subjects he took at Hogwarts, with a disapproving look on his face at when that subject of classes had been brought up. He had been easily frustrated to begin with; it required precision right down to the wand movements and signs. Yet as he got through the second year book he began to realize just how handy runes would be in every day life to protect himself he had then quickly became self sufficient in that subject quickly (much to Voldemort's approval) he still found it difficult though, but according to Voldemort apparently only a third of all Hogwarts students took it and kept at it, it was an 'incredibly difficult subject to master' and only those 'with a keen mind and determination would keep at it'.

Voldemort turned to face Harry, quite frankly stunned, "You have not heard of Greyback?" it was like saying they hadn't heard of him, but at least his reputation was warranted whereas Fenrir's wasn't at least not to the extent it was. Not that he was particularly upset; it just meant more followers for him.

"You say that like it's a bad thing?" Harry questioned, paying more attention now.

"Your werewolf didn't tell you about him?" Voldemort questioned seriously.

"Um, no, I've never heard of the name Greyback before, but now I'm really curious what's he done? I guess he's not in Azkaban otherwise you'd know where to 'find' him." Harry pointed out thoughtfully.

Voldemort barely refrained from rolling his eyes, he didn't know why he bothered trying to keep anything a secret, and the boy seemed to be able to find everything out on his own. He was much too curious for his own good; it was going to get him in trouble one of these days. Although perhaps it's why he was able to see under Dumbledore's grandfatherly façade by digging too deep, so maybe it was a good thing? Just remembering Harry's confession that he'd deliberately went into Dumbledore's pensive and got much further than the old fool knew made him realize information gathering for this teen was extremely easy, and he did it in such a sneak fashion that any Slytherin would be proud - unless it was being done against them!

"Fenrir Greyback is considered by the general population as the most savage werewolf alive today. They assume it is his mission in life to bite and to conta minate as many people as possible; that he wants to create enough were wolves to overcome Wizardkind. They say that I promised him prey in return for his services. They also believe that Greyback specialises in children... Bite them young, and raises them away from their parents, raise them to hate normal wizards." Voldemort informed him. "In fact it was Greyback that bit and infected Remus Lupin hence my surprise that the werewolf didn't say anything."

"He doesn't tell me much of anything. The general population I'm going to guess the Ministry is involved with that?" Harry stated and questioned blandly, putting the runes book on the table, crossing his legs after scooting the chair forward further towards Voldemort and incidentally the fireplace in a bid to hear better and warm up. "What is the real story?" he didn't believe everything he heard, how could he? When he had heard so many things about him which weren't true…and everyone believed.

"And what if it is the real story?" Voldemort then questioned in turn.

"Nothing is ever bad as the Ministry and the public makes it seem," Harry replied, "So?"

"Fenrir was bitten when he was just shy of nine years old," Voldemort started only to be interrupted.

"What the hell was an eight year old kid doing out after dark?" Harry protested quite shocked.

"Will you let me finish or are you not interested in hearing it?" Voldemort demanded in annoyance. He loathed being interrupted; it was at the height of utter disrespect.

"Alright," Harry sighed, he did want to hear it so he held his tongue - for the moment.

"He was found by Muggles at the side of the road, they deemed it a wild animal attack, they were able to locate his parents, but when they found out exactly what happened, and they quickly denounced him and left him to fend for himself. He spent his life in the wild, coming to loathe wizards and witches alike for letting it happen to him especially his parents. Yet he also missed company, he went about creating his own pack, and no, that did not entail biting anyone, there are too many people abandoned for the simple reason of being bitten by a werewolf. Contrary to popular belief I believe Fenrir has only bitten three people, that number might have changed in recent years but I doubt it." Voldemort explained. "The first two were accidents, people straying too far into his path during the full moon, but he took them under his wing regardless, more out of a desire for a pack than guilt, he had hardened himself a long time ago and rarely gave into any emotion other than disgust and anger."

Harry nodded, he could only imagine what it was like outside, but being alone and secluded Harry completely understood those terms.

"The Aurors don't care for bringing in the werewolves alive, prejudice and fear is rampant in that department, more often than not if you looked every single werewolf they were told to apprehend ended up 'fighting back' and the Auror's simply had to defend themselves, their stories matching completely, which by the way doesn't happen in the heat of battle especially for ones life." Voldemort continued his explanation. "They called themselves the exterminators, and everyone in important circles knew but did nothing, presumably relieved that someone was taking the 'trash' off the streets. They were given all the call outs, Fenrir lost four pack members and an unborn child to them. It was around about that time he was caught and brought in by an Auror that didn't participate or belief in what the others did. Admittedly they weren't sure whether Fenrir was a werewolf or just an ignorant homeless Muggle, they were arguing about it when Lyall Lupin entered and declared that Fenrir was in fact a werewolf, and when they shrugged him off he proceeded to call all werewolves soulless creatures that deserved to be put down. It's not known whether he was the head of exterminators or not, but Fenrir believed he was, since his scent was all over his hideout where members of his pack had been killed despite the fact he had no reason to be there."

Harry's eyes were astonishingly wide, wondering just what relation Lyall Lupin was to Remus Lupin, not father and son surely? Remus was the name of a bloody werewolf in Muggle mythology…unless he had absolutely no idea? Most Pureblood's didn't, but was Lyall Lupin a Pureblood?

"It took all of Fenrir's willpower not to strike out, and in the end the Ministry decided he was a harmless homeless Muggle, and sent him on his way to Obliviate him. Fenrir of course overpowered the wizard and Obliviated him, electing not to draw attention to himself, desiring a much greater target for his revenge." Voldemort spoke, "Then he saw Lyall Lupin with his son, a little boy named Remus and the irony wasn't lost on him, so he put himself into position and when the moon went up the boy was bitten but saved by his father who cursed Fenrir until he fled."

"So it was Lupin's father…so was he the leader?" Harry asked curiously, speaking quickly.

"Let's put it this way, the day after Remus Lupin was bitten… the attacks just stopped, Lupin resigned his position and was never heard from again, moving from home to home to avoid his secret from being brought out into the open, protecting his son from all harm wizards and witches would foist upon the boy." Voldemort continued, "A few months later a few werewolf attacks happened, children, and they were quick to point the finger and blame a known werewolf, Fenrir, who had become an unstoppable force of nature and had defended himself against many Aurors who did not come back out unscathed or alive. Over the years Fenrir became what the public accused him of being, almost feral and savage, I was able to give him a purpose, and a way to get a new pack, and no before you ask that did not mean biting others. You would be surprised by the amount of werewolves there currently are in the British Isles. Dumbledore when he found out about Fenrir's place at my side exponentially blew up his reputation further by saying he enjoyed biting and savaging children…his implication was paedophilia but that did not catch on by the public."

"Do not get me wrong he's not a good man, nor is he easy to get along with, he's an ultimate alpha, but he's grown to like teasing people with his reputation, scared the Death Eaters witless, and in turn they took to cursing him, but he got them back sooner or later." Voldemort did roll his eyes this time; Fenrir did get too much a kick out of scaring people.

"How come he's hard to find? Isn't there a stronger version of a point me spell?" Harry asked. A wicked grin on his face, he liked the sound of this guy, winding up Death Eaters? He wanted front row seats!

"He's a wanted Werewolf, his disgust at wizards doesn't include their magic, he has made himself and any pack he has Unplottable." Voldemort said sardonically.

"And you can't find a way around that?" Harry asked, marginally surprised.

"And how would I go about doing that?" Voldemort asked sarcastically.

"Wellll…that Geas spell you have might work, it gets around all wards," Harry shrugged, "It depends on how often Greyback is brought into every day conversations…and how the spell actually works…if it goes off say in the middle of nowhere chances are you'll find him."

"It would work if his pack called him Greyback," Voldemort replied, he'd already thought of that. "He is an alpha and they call him that out of respect."

"How many Alphas' are there in the UK? It can't be that many?" Harry said thoughtfully.

"Too many, and if I sent my Death Eaters into a werewolf pack they'd be killed before they can try to defend themselves, and wasn't it you who said I took unnecessary risks?" Voldemort pointed out wryly.

"Fair enough," Harry conceded, yawning to himself, glancing at the time he found it was just past one o'clock in the morning.

"Get some sleep," Voldemort demanded turning back around to finish his paperwork, and then he would take his own advice.

Chapter Text

Embracing His True Self

Chapter 16

"Hey Barty," Harry said entering the great hall, honestly, pureblood's or wannabe pureblood's, nobody needed manors or mansions this big, it was just stupid to compete for the biggest and grandest homes. The money would be better spent elsewhere; especially considering most pureblood families consisted of three to four people if they're lucky. The parents and of course the heir and 'spare' as they were called much to his internal disgust. So what the hell was the point of having a property that had like nine bedrooms? Ten bathrooms (a lot of them probably ensuite) and probably a dozen more rooms overall? Games rooms, various sitting rooms, offices, kitchens, a dining room, a great hall and not to forget the dungeons the whole shebang. He had finally gotten around to investigating every room in this place, including a lengthily time in the dungeons tormenting his cousin primarily. They had watched their son torment him knowing what he was capable of…knowing what he would be even more capable off, he wasn't sure how they could have seen their lives going any other way. Now the tables had been turned, they had been forced to watch their son tortured and unable to do a damn thing. It had given him a great deal of satisfaction, and Barty had helped make it even more interesting.

"Hey," Barty said, giving Harry that maddening grin he liked so much. Since taking Harry's potion he had changed so much, the weight he had put on had surprised the healer so much that he'd began documenting it stating that the process was 'unprecedented' along the way making sure that the potion wasn't doing anything harmful, which admittedly had annoyed Harry, like he would ever take anything that would harm him. Grant upon seeing his face had apologised profoundly, saying he hadn't meant anything by it, but the process of the rapid healing done by repairing the malnutrition just shouldn't be possible. Barty had been giving him that look, and Harry had just rolled his eyes and accepted the apology and even let him do a diagnosis charm on him. His hair looked healthier too, it had grown in some more, and Barty now held it up in a black piece of leather. With his clothes and aristocratic look, he was gorgeous, not Tom Riddle gorgeous but very nice looking nonetheless.

"How's your training going?" Barty asked, familiar with the process due to the fact he had once upon a time had the greatest honour of being chosen by his Dark Lord to receive extra training to help him. He had climbed even more swiftly up the ranks after that, all his own hard work of course, the Dark Lord might have favourites but he didn't give favours, no you had to do it alone and it was difficult especially seen as the inner circle were in fact older and more experienced than you.

"Alright," Harry winced as he sat down, he was sure that Voldemort got perverse pleasure in causing him pain…or would have if Voldemort didn't ensure he got the potions he needed to heal any injury, or actually heal him himself, like the time he'd had to reattach his arm. He was getting faster his reflexes and defence shields and moves both actually. He still had a while to go before he was anywhere near Voldemort's level, he was just extremely fast, something he'd already known, but bloody hell, during a duel you really had to exhaust yourself to keep up with him. It didn't help that at regular intervals he used Wandless magic at the same time as casting magic through his wand. He had wanted to whine at the unfairness the first, second, third and fourth times he'd done it, but he hadn't. If anything it made Harry want to do it and he tried, Merlin did he try, but so far he had no luck, he couldn't simultaneously think of two spells, one for his wand and one from his hand it was so far an impossibility for him but he refused to give up. He hated himself for it but he did desire Voldemort's approval, he wasn't used to being given positive reinforcement but Voldemort did that, not very often admittedly but it was there and it was well earned. It made him strive to earn more of it, but he could live without it, or so he continued to tell himself…his heart though wasn't in it.

It shouldn't have come as any surprise, after all the way Harry had been raised.

"What hurts today then?" Barty asked, grinning more ferally, surprisingly not at the fact Harry was hurting, but rather his own memories and the fact it was someone else not him going through what the Dark Lord called an apprenticeship, he'd never use anything so plebeian as training lessons.

"My back," Harry admitted with a groan, he had been blasted off his feet like five times today already. Surprisingly they had been in the actual training room today, instead of the office, it was as if Voldemort had decided against using his office because of what happened the last time, when he'd blasted into the wall - which wasn't in any way spelled to soften the blow while the training room was specifically created for that reason and did have spells imbued to prevent serious injury.

Barty winced in remembering his own agony, "Yeah, I was lucky if I could move after those lessons, the morning afterwards was always the worst, I'd literally be unable to get up out of bed." although he would have preferred a million of those lessons than the time he'd spent in Azkaban or worse trapped in his own mind while his father controlled his body. All those years, only getting a reprieve when the spell wore in efficiency letting him fight it. When Pettigrew came…he had known he'd known his Lord had sent for him. Then the spell had been removed and Pettigrew had Apparated him to their Lord, regardless of how he looked it had been…utterly glorious. The fact the favour had been returned on his dear father had been poetic. He just wished he had been the one to end his miserable existence, in fact he wished he'd done it a lot sooner at least his mother wouldn't have died pining for the disgusting coward who called himself a wizard.

Harry just stared at him his head cocked just slightly.

"What is that look for?" Barty frowned, peering at Harry curiously.

"Just wondering at your pain tolerance," Harry shrugged, not getting out of bed meant that Harry had a huge fever, which meant unable to keep his balance, it was the only times he'd actually been given anything either. Not antibiotics, heaven forbid they take him to a doctor, no it was just something to bring his fever down a little, he presumed his magic had done the rest. He wasn't stupid enough to think for a second that he would have survived without his magic; had he been a normal muggle…he would have died in their tender loving care.

"Everyone has a high pain tolerance," Barty pointed out, "And if they don't they get one really quick."

"Does he use it as often as I think?" Harry queried, Wandlessly summoning an apple from the fruit platter that the House-elves had put down he sank his teeth into it.

"Huh?" Barty blinked, wondering if he had missed part of the conversation.

"The Cruciatus curse, does he use it as often as I think?" Harry enunciated his sentence.

"Oh, um, at first yeah, but rarely after," Barty nodded. "He let them all off too easy for abandoning him." he gritted his teeth painfully, he still felt out for blood against those who had abandoned the cause. To begin with they got cursed a few times here and there for screwing up, but mostly it was a deterrent for the future, and only for a few seconds as a warning, you really needed to piss the Dark Lord off to get the full extent of his wrath, although towards the end before…it had become a regular thing.

Harry nodded, he had noticed that for someone's 'favourite curse' and the fact he was angry at them he had only put one Death Eater under the curse and that was for pleading with Voldemort. He had been put under it twice so far, the first time considerably longer when they'd been 'enemies' so to speak. The second time had definitely just been a warning hit that he was pushing his luck and he had made him angry by comparing him to Dumbledore. He probably should have known better, Voldemort or even Tom Riddle - bring up Dumbledore and they just lose it. "So you keep telling me," he said dryly, although he was more articulate about it now than when he'd been at Hogwarts. His madness had been very prominent; the potion whatever it was to help those exposed to Dementors was truly a miracle worker. He had brewed six vials worth for Sirius and would give it to him when they next met. He wouldn't send them to him, even though he had Hedwig; he knew Sirius wouldn't take them even if he revealed who they were from. He wouldn't believe it was him and probably discard them.

"I'll get satisfaction one way or another," Barty said imperiously.

Harry laughed, "Been practicing that look have you?" his grin showed a lot of teeth.

Barty flushed a little in embarrassment at being laughed at.

Harry just chuckled some more at the look, there was no denying that Barty looked up to Voldemort. The look of reverence on his face every time he saw Voldemort was obvious, hell a blind man could. Barty would do anything for Voldemort, he would even go to Azkaban if he was told that's what he was to do Harry suspected. He was envious of it, he had to admit, deeply so. He'd never had anyone look at him like that, and as odd as it sounded he wanted it. People would insist he did, but the truth was, they didn't revere him they revered a mask, a character, and even then the adoration came and went, not like Voldemort's Death Eaters, they didn't just decide one day not to, it was constant, they'd die for him and all he had was…two friends with questionable loyalties, he didn't know whether they were truly his friend or not, and even if they were…he was dark, they were not, they were sickeningly light and believed the light side propaganda without looking any deeper.

"We need to talk," the Dark Lord said smoothly as he entered the great hall.

Harry twisted his head so he could see Voldemort, an eyebrow rose in curiosity, Severus was behind him. "Which one of us?" he asked, his brow then furrowing, his head moving as they did, until they were sitting down, Voldemort took his usual seat at the head of the table, Severus sat down next to Barty. His apple was promptly abandoned as curiosity got the better of him.

Barty was curious as well, glancing between Severus and his Lord intermittedly. He wasn't going to leave unless he was specifically asked to, and it didn't look as if he'd be dismissed, since he knew his Lord would have already demanded he leave.

"Do you wish to return to Hogwarts?" Voldemort asked, as always sitting there like a king on his throne speaking to his subjects. His fingers idly drummed against the arm rest as he stared at Harry with his penetrating red eyes. Not reading his mind, since he had more than adequate defences, that wouldn't stop him if he felt the need to read his mind, he wasn't a wizard who cared for the law after all. He narrowed his eyes when he noticed that Harry wasn't even the slightest bit surprised by his question. He knew. He had known before this, the question was how? It was very irritating; he seemed able to get information in spades even when he wasn't supposed to be aware. He knew his slippery spy wouldn't have told the boy, he knew that much he had forbidden it after all.

"I would," Harry replied calmly, his face blank showing nothing, he had expected this after all, or rather only half expected it. He had known there was a possibility that Voldemort might change his mind. "Hogwarts was my first home." his lips twitched knowing Voldemort was bound to be wondering how he'd figured it out.

Voldemort noticed the tense, was, that was an interesting statement, he knew Privet Drive had never been a home to the boy, did he actually consider this place a home? Well obviously to some extent he did, otherwise the blood wards would never have been erected around the manor in the first place. He knew the feeling, Hogwarts had been his first home too, and in a way it always would be if he ever had the chance he would have stayed there. "And why, Mr. Potter are you not surprised by my question?" he asked him shrewdly a note of dangerous purring in his voice.

Barty turned to Harry, realizing his Lord made a good point, how had he known? He glanced very briefly at Severus to see that he wasn't surprised by the question or the fact Harry knew. If anything he had a resigned and amused look about him.

Harry blinked, his voice taking on a strange note…was his voice seductive or had it been his imagination? Harry blinked again before a small smirk made his way onto his face, he replied immediately knowing better than to push Voldemort's buttons he was in an odd mood as it was actually. Ironic really, when he first ended up here, he had been determined to drive Voldemort up the wall and regret taking him. "You suddenly made me read through fifth, sixth and seventh year curriculum books on most of the subjects I took at Hogwarts and then some I hadn't. You also taught me everything before you let me learn stuff that wasn't on Hogwarts curriculum. It isn't that much of a leap to make, although I didn't get my hopes built up, minds can be changed, even yours."

Voldemort sat back, refraining from rolling his eyes or shaking his head, the boy was stating it like fact not even the slightest bit of smugness in his voice despite the fact he had smirked before explaining. "And do you have plans set out as well?" he asked dryly.

Harry scoffed, "There is no way I can explain away being 'captured' but considering you took all my belongings I'm better off saying I ran away on my own accord." he admitted, "I've never rebelled against him, it might be fascinating to see how he reacts to my first bout of 'rebellion', he's bound to have expected it to happen sooner or later I'm supposedly an impulsive Gryffindor, and seeing someone die in front of me and my mortal enemy being resurrected, it stands to reason I would also feel grown up enough to handle my own problems. That and with being ignored, I wanted to give them a taste of their own medicine."

Voldemort smirked, Barty stared in surprise and Severus just closed his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose.

"As for how, Severus showing up and conveniently finding me is definitely out of the question," Harry hummed quietly, scratching his cheek absently, "Showing up at Hogwarts on the train would be absolutely hilarious, the look on his face is bound to be priceless. Although word will probably get back to him before I reach Hogwarts unless I close down a compartment for myself."

"You do not want to push the old fool too far," Severus cautioned him seriously, "You are underestimating just how furious he is with you, and you have no idea how far he will to go keep you within his control."

"I'm going to Gringotts to get the Lordship ring, between that and this," Harry showed off his pendant, there was a small list of runes imbedded within it that was too small even for Severus' sharp eyes to see. "Any spell or potion he tries will prove quite ineffective, I am not stupid, Severus, I know how far he's prepared to go to get me onside. He left a defenceless baby with magic hating Muggles, going on an off change that I would be beaten down and submissive, bend to his will, when it could have backfired, which it did, but he isn't aware of that. His actions are going to cost him the war, and it was always my plan to run, I was never going to roll over and do what he expected of me." his tone was dark as he spoke of Dumbledore in a way that was familiar - very familiar. Nobody had ever actually asked him what he wanted, what side he supported, not once they just heaped expectations on him and then expected more from him.

Severus nodded in grim understanding, respect flowing through him; he couldn't help but be glad of this turn of the tide. If Harry had ran…well he wasn't sure what he would have done. Instead Harry was here, and so was he, he had returned to his true side without fear that he would lose his magic. He was a dark wizard and he belonged here, Dumbledore had been a fool to think for one second Lily could have kept him 'light' and that he was on his side without reservation.

"When did you plan on running?" Barty asked curiously, it wasn't often Harry spoke of his past, Dumbledore or anything similar.

"As soon as I could, I contemplated leaving as soon as I got my O.W.L results, I would be able to continue using magic, or I thought I would, until I realized the trace remained on the wand until I was seventeen. I was good at Wandless magic but I wasn't confident enough that I could use it every day for long periods of time. So I thought about leaving as soon as midnight struck on my seventeenth birthday. That way I would also have access to my vaults and be able to leave with money and properties I knew I would be fine." Harry shrugged dismissively, neither one mattered anymore.

"You are off age now, your participation in the Triwizard tournament saw to that," Severus pointed out a flaw in his thinking.

"Yes, I'm aware of that now, something else that was no doubt deliberately kept from me by the old fool, hence why I plan on going to Gringotts to retrieve my Lordship ring." Harry nodded firmly, and thankfully it remained invisible except to those who already knew about it. Which would be these three wizards now. His lordship ring was guaranteed to work much better than a rune pendant, it was old magic, both goblin and wizarding magic imbued in those rings. He wasn't going to outright antagonise Dumbledore, that wouldn't be a smart move to make, since he was going to be watched closely as it is.

Voldemort watched the conversation between Severus and Harry closely, respect shot to new levels. While he enjoyed goading Dumbledore he would never have outright done such a thing especially not at the age of fifteen. He had feared and loathed Dumbledore in equal measures, Dumbledore had been the only one not blind to whom he was, powerful enough to actually match him magical powers. He would never be confident that he would be able to beat Dumbledore in a duel and it really infuriated him. Especially considering he thought of himself as the most powerful wizard alive.

Knowing that Harry had taken preventative measures against anything Dumbledore could possibly try eased some of the reluctance he felt in letting the boy return to Hogwarts. The Lordship ring would definitely prevent anything sneaky Dumbledore could try in his bid to control Harry. Considering he had taught the boy a great deal of what he knew, and the things he'd seen Harry create, he would hate to kill him. Harry hadn't specifically said he wanted to join his side, but if Harry being neutral was the best he could get then he would accept it, considering the advice he'd given he wasn't so sure Harry would remain neutral. His words also led him to that conclusion, 'his actions had cost him the war,' only time would tell really. Perhaps Severus had been correct, letting the boy come to him on his own was for the best. He was sure Dumbledore would help in that matter when Harry returned to Hogwarts. Satisfaction thrummed through him, yes, things were going much better than anticipated.

"Severus will take you to Gringotts, under glamours," Voldemort informed him imperiously.

Harry nodded his understanding; he had no problem with Severus taking him to get his Lordship sorted. There was no way Dumbledore would be looking there for him. Number one, he had his key, two he had never gone into his vault other than during the summer to gather his school things, and third and most importantly Dumbledore probably thought he didn't know about his vaults. "It's too bad I can't figure out the potion, now that would have ensured I could go where I wanted without being recognized." Harry muttered to himself, being heard by the others without realizing it.

Severus had just nodded his understanding in his new orders to let the Dark Lord know he wouldn't let him down when he heard Harry. "What Potion would that be?" Severus asked his eyes narrowed in on the teen. Very curious and suspicious, he hadn't heard anything about another potion. They did spend a great deal of time brewing, Harry often talking about potions he desired to make, but he'd not heard anything new and surely he couldn't have thought of one within the past few days?

Harry shook his head, "It's one of the first ones I tried." Harry told him, "Before I started using the book, it's just a rolled up parchment in my trunk."

"Grimoire," Voldemort corrected, a book, it wasn't just a mere book.

"The potion?" Severus queried truly curious.

"I wanted to unlock any potential Metamorphmagus abilities," Harry shrugged, not something he had high hopes for anymore.

"But you can't just unlock it, you either have it or you don't," Barty pointed out. "That's like saying you could just randomly unlock the ability to talk to snakes!"

"I don't believe that's the case," Harry replied honestly, "I may be wrong, but I was never able to finish it so I forgot about it mostly."

"Why?" Barty asked, leaning over really curious, the Ravenclaw in him coming out. Why would Harry think it was possible? Something must have happened to give him credence or at least a theory on unlocking magical gifts handed down from the families. If such a potion could be created…well the gifts one would receive would be potentially immense. It would bring back lost abilities that had diminished over the centuries.

Harry's face closed off, his magic turned dark as he thought on his life before he knew he was a wizard. His hands curled into fists as his lip curled, "My so called aunt used to cut my hair, she hated the way it looked like my fathers, she hated my scar more and always kept it covered up, in other words she made a right mess of it, not that she cared, the next morning I would wake up and my hair would be exactly the same. It always did, no matter who did what until I used magic and spells to straighten and lengthen it."

"That's why you shaved her bloody head!" Barty exclaimed feeling like a fool; it had seemed so random of Harry to do such a thing. His humiliation of the Dursley's always involved pain, severe pain, never something as stupid as removing all the hair on Petunia's head. He would need to remember even the most random of things ran deep, he truly was vindictive to the core, he belonged here, and he couldn't wait to see the others reactions to it.

Voldemort's lips twitched, what he knew Harry had done to the Dursley's so amused him.

Severus' own hands clenched under the table, as his fury built up just thinking of what he had seen in Petunia's mind, the flashes of malice and what she had done to Harry over the years. Seeing memories in someone's mind was just flashes, it was like a ten second video as apposed to an actual hour long scene for every memory. Some of the feelings the person had in association with certain memories filtered through as well. He still hadn't come to terms with what he saw in her memories and his own failings but he was trying to make up for his blind idiocy.

"My point is once could be considered accidental magic, but so many times? No, I think my magic dug into the Black blood in me and let me use a gift not mine," Harry stated.

"You started using that book very early, as early as your first year I would guess," Severus summarised, "When exactly did you write the potion down? And may I look at it? I would very much like you give you some advice and perhaps help you finish it even theoretically."

"I stole it from amongst the pile of broken toys and books Dudley didn't want after my first year, they were dumped into his second bedroom," Harry replied, his tone still not softening the slightest. "When I received it, I began to write spells and potions down, mostly spells to begin with, the potion was my first and I wrote it during the school year, and yes, I'll show you."

"How much had you really read by the time you left Hogwarts?" Voldemort asked curiously, the boy was still an enigma so any information as welcomed.

"I've never slept much, not really, not even at Hogwarts, when everyone assumed I was asleep I was reading all I could, I copied all Grangers books, then snuck into the room of the other second and third year students to copy theirs. It took a lot out of me, since I had to override the spells on the book to protect them from being copied." Harry admitted, without a single hint of embarrassment. "When I figured the overriding spell for the restricted section I began to read in there for hours before returning to my dorm but that wasn't until half way through second year. I allowed myself to be caught out of bounds at night a few times, wandering the halls and such, so nobody would ever really suspect what I was up to. They would just assume I was out looking for adventure, although once or twice the real reason was known and nothing to do with reading." answering just for the sake of a full answer. It was annoying, having to hide away to read but what else could he do? He didn't want Dumbledore to know what he was capable of.

"You really should have gotten better grades; they truly are abysmal especially considering we know what you are capable of." Severus pointed out, it was the teacher in him, especially with his upcoming O.W.L's. Trying to hide his abilities it was nonsense.

"I did good enough," Harry shrugged.

"It will not continue," Voldemort stated sharply, it worked him up the wrong way that he would deliberate sabotage his own exams and under perform.

"I can just imagine Grangers face," Severus chuckled dryly, and also enticing Harry to do better just to spite her, and he knew it would work, Harry liked getting under peoples skin as he'd observed as of late. He would freely admit it would make his year to see the girl flustered and annoyed that anyone was performing better than her, she'd had it too easy these past four years. He knew Harry could do better than her in all classes especially if he just applied himself.

Harry slowly smirked, just thinking about it himself, that would be a good way to ascertain whether she was a true friend or not. If she cared more about being the best than her best friend then she definitely wasn't worth it. He could already guess his answer, but he would like to know for sure. They wouldn't like the real him anyway, he was so far from the persona he had created it was truly laudable.

Severus glanced at his time before turning his attention to the Dark Lord and spoke, "Dumbledore will be currently at lunch, the Order working, this might be the best time to go undetected."

Voldemort nodded curtly, giving Severus permission to take him, he had been thinking along the lines of tonight, when it was less busy but Severus did raise an excellent point, perhaps now was for the best. Either way it had to happen within the next twenty-four hours, since tomorrow at exactly 11 am the Hogwarts express would depart from the concealed platform that was nine and three quarters. Speaking of which, he would need to create a Portkey to get the boy there since he couldn't risk Severus being seen with him as Harry had stated, he wasn't going to risk the parents recognizing his followers. He waved his hand at Harry, unbeknown to all the strap around his leg glowed briefly but Harry definitely felt the buzzing.

Harry just rolled his eyes, of course Voldemort would do it non-verbally, and it's not as if he wanted him to know how to remove it. Or rather how to deactivate it or whatever Voldemort had done to it.

"Let's go," Severus stated, standing up, he wanted to get this over with as soon as possible.

"Alright," Harry agreed, moving towards his professor, not even twitching when Severus flicked out his wand and used a few spells, one to colour his hair, his eyes and a few other identifying features that would give him away. He didn't even want to know what he looked like, he was pretty sure he wouldn't like it either way. He then watched Severus' appearance change, and was surprised to find that he wouldn't have been able to identify Severus with the look he supported at the moment - which was the point.

"I'm going to Apparate us straight to the doors of Gringotts," Severus explained, his hand gripping Harry's shoulder tightly, with a nod to his Lord and Barty, he Apparated them both out of the premises.

Chapter Text

Embracing His True Self

Chapter 17

Harry swiftly made his way to the second compartment within the Hogwarts express and closed the doors, magically locking them in Parseltongue so nobody could get in. Not many people were there yet; people were literally just starting to either come though the platform or Apparate with their families onto the magical platform without enduring the bustle of Kings cross - and more than likely the Muggles. He leant his trunk against the wall beside the window, and put the blind down a little, but not too much as he observed everyone. He just didn't want anyone to be able to see him, the anticipation was rising, and he was looking forward to this more than he probably should. He soon got bored of the sight of families dropping of their kids and so sat himself down comfortably and brought out his Ancient Runes book (which he had bought actually via owl order after his visit to Gringotts, it had gone to Severus' home since nothing came to the manor, Voldemort had summoned all the books back to him even the ones he'd tried to take to Hogwarts with him much to his irritation and Voldemort's amusement) flipping the book to chapter three, his Lordship ring gleaming brightly, reminding him that he was safe from any outside tampering anyone might try. His trip to Gringotts had been…revealing to say the least.

-0 Flashback 0-

Harry groaned inaudibly as he was Apparated by Severus to the very steps of Gringotts, their intended destination. He absolutely loathed nearly all means of travel by magical means. His only exception was flying and travelling by House-elf, Portkey, Floo and Apparation were just down right awful. Although it was more side-long Apparation that bothered him, Apparating on his own was less jarring but still unpleasant. "I have a feeling I won't like what happens in here," Harry stated, staring at the building, a sense of foreboding washing over him, he no longer ignored his gut instincts they never steered him wrong in the past.

Severus just arched an eyebrow briefly in his direction, which looked very odd in the look he currently supported before he began wandering up the steps and into Gringotts, his usual stalk nowhere to be seen. Harry could honestly say there was nothing that could pinpoint this man as Severus Snape; he was obviously very good at what he did.

Harry followed him, since he wasn't walking fast; he had no trouble catching up to his Potions professor whatsoever. He had been quickly briefed on how to speak and interact with the goblins by Barty and Voldemort as well as Severus obviously. It was advice he was definitely going to take, so without more ado he approached the goblin at an empty teller and waited until he had his attention. Before the goblin could speak Harry spoke firmly and quietly, he didn't want anyone to know he was here after all. "Griphook, I wish to have a meeting with the goblin in charge of the Potter accounts immediately, it's of the utmost importance." the surprised look on the goblins face disappeared in the blink of an eye before he nodded curtly. Then he disappeared from view, jumping from his seat or stool, whichever was behind there.

"Follow me," Griphook called to them, without revealing who it was that he was speaking to, judging by the boy's quiet demeanour and the quite strong glamour he had on, he wanted his business dealt with as secretly as possible. The wizard would one day be Lord Potter, so he would give him the appropriate respect due to him. The two had a quiet conversation before both moved towards him, the elder looked quite stunned, for reasons unknown to him, he did not know of human affairs, he had no desire to unless it dealt with the bank itself.

Griphook led them through three corridors turning left and right before he got to the appropriate office, he gave a firm knock before entering, speaking to his fellow goblin in his own tongue, regarding his current appointment.

"Lead them in," Coop said, giving Griphook a nod of thanks, quite stunned that the heir had finally shown his face, he certainly hadn't expected him to since he'd never shown an interest before, the only time he'd expected him was years from now, when he was seventeen and took over the vaults from his current guardian whom he seemed very happy with otherwise he wouldn't still be the executor of the estate.

"You may enter," Griphook informed them both waiting until they had indeed entered the office before he closed it behind him and began to walk towards the main entrance; he had a job to do after all. He had worked hard to get off the gruelling long hours of boredom that came with leading weak stomached wizards to their vault. The amount of times he'd had to wipe away sick was more times than he cared to remember.

"Mister Potter, Master Snape," Coop said, giving Severus a nod of respect, and surprisingly it was genuine, Goblins needed potions too, and while they brewed their own, they were based on wizards recipes, and many goblins respected their initiative and intuition when it came to potions. Potions Master Severus Snape had created more than his fair share, in fact he had been approached by the head of the goblin nation twice to invent potions for them, paid handsomely for his time, but potions never saw outside of the goblin nation. "How can Gringotts help you today, Mr. Potter?" Coop said getting back to the matter at hand; he had been informed it was important after all.

"To claim my rights as Lord Potter," Harry informed him curtly, he knew Goblins considered their time valuable and couldn't stand idle chit chat or someone wasting their time.

"You can claim the heir title but not Lord, not until you turn seventeen years old or get permission to be emancipated," Coop explained, slightly annoyed, the boy should already know these things.

"I am emancipated," Harry informed him coolly, glancing briefly at Severus, who nodded once subtly, letting him know he was doing well.

"Impossible, we would have been informed," Coop said sitting up straighter, clicking his fingers he brought forth an extremely large folder that pertained all information regarding the Potter accounts including Harry's status, self updating so they didn't have to rely on the likes of the ministry of magic. "The Ministry of magic is obligated to inform us," despite the fact they would already know.

Then he saw it, his status was emancipated, he was legally an adult in the eyes of the magical world he had been for nearly a year. A deeper annoyance slashed over him, the Ministry of magic was becoming even more incompetent it seemed.

"Mr. Potter did not receive his emancipation from the Ministry of magic, it was done via extremely old magic," Severus said smoothly, cluing the goblin in on what was happening.

"You did a ritual?" Coop asked, speaking directly to Harry, such a thing hadn't been done for centuries.

"No, I was an unwilling participant in the Triwizard tournament, my name was put in against my will but I was nonetheless forced to compete due to the magically binding contract that made me an adult and legally emancipated." Harry explained, and despite everything he was glad for it.

"I see, and how did you fair against more experienced wizards?" Coop asked, actually really curious.

Harry blinked, obviously the goblins didn't bother reading the Daily Prophet then, "Myself and Cedric Diggory took the cup together for a Hogwarts victory after I saved him from being wrapped in vines." he said curtly, and they no doubt knew about Diggory's death so they could make of it what they will. He wasn't about to show his true self to the goblins, not even if they never took sides during war. He certainly wasn't going to play a clueless bumbling idiot so this was what he had chosen on. A combination of impassive and curt.

Coop nodded and didn't show it but he was somewhat surprised that the boy had at the age of fourteen managed to beat out seventeen year olds in an old tournament like the Triwizard tournament of all things. Goblins didn't take much interest in wizards but Harry Potter had gained their interest the night he'd been proclaimed the Boy-Who-Lived humans and their silly monikers.

"My Lordship?" Harry questioned impatiently, he didn't want to be out too long and he wanted to get a bit of shopping done while he was here.

"Of course," Coop said, with that he filled in one of the forms in the Potter estate folder and handed it over, it would allow the boy to official claim his Lordship status; it was a very simple process. Another click of his fingers, he had a box and a roll of wax, he opened the box and held out the Potter Lordship ring, which the boy took immediately.

Harry gave the contract a once over, it was very blunt and to the point, so without more ado he quickly signed it, grabbing the wax he used Wandless magic to melt it onto the parchment and pressed his seal into it, officiating it in a way even his signature could not. Wiping away the residue he placed the ring on his finger, it magically resized to fit him perfectly, the magic tingled and Harry would bet it was the spell that prevented the ring from being removed forcefully or otherwise by anyone other than himself.

"Congratulations, Lord Potter," Coop said as he slid the parchment back into place. "What will be your first order of business?"

Severus leaned over and whispered into Harry's ear, "Enquire about your parents will," he had a suspicion on that.

"Why?" Harry asked glancing at Severus in confusion. It was probably already read at this point, probably a week after his parent's death, the norm for will readings, usually after the burial.

Severus merely gave Harry a stern nod, to do as he asked without question, and he would explain much later and away from prying eyes.

"I wish to see a copy of my parents will," Harry demanded turning back to the goblin.

Coop nodded and began to flip through the contents, his brow furrowing further and further the more he went back. Then he got to it, the goblin cleared his throat nervously, "It seems your parents wills were not read, as per you magical guardian's instructions that the will be read upon your claiming of your Lordship when you turned seventeen."

"Excuse me? Magical guardian?" Harry asked frostily, "And just who is my so called Magical guardian?" his green eyes were glittering dangerous as he eyed the goblin in immolation.

Severus cringed just slightly, Harry's magic was creeping out, and quite frankly it felt very similar to the Dark Lord's when he was close to cursing anything in sight. He had an inkling of who it was before the goblin opened his mouth to speak.

"Albus Dumbledore," Coop said, his beady eyes watching the wizard with just a hint of nervousness showing through.

"And how can anyone withhold a will? Isn't that against the law?" Harry asked through gritted teeth.

"He has power of attorney, which means what he has done is perfectly within legal within the eyes of the law," Coop explained.

"Power of attorney has now fallen to me is that not correct?" Harry asked, his tone calm, but his eyes and powers held another story.

"As Lord of the Potter estate now, yes," Coop answered him promptly as possible.

"Then I would like to see my parents will, now." Harry stated, hand held out in expectation, Dumbledore didn't do things for the sake of it, there was always a reason behind his actions and he wanted to know what those were. Although he couldn't for the life of him figure out what it could be, if there was proof of his godfathers innocence in there though…Dumbledore wouldn't know what hit him. He largely suspected that was what it was.

The goblin swiftly brought out the still sealed wills, and handed them over.

Harry quickly unsealed the wax seal and unveiled the will, his green eyes roaming down the missive, becoming increasingly darker the further he read into it. Without pause he opened the second one, which was his mothers, and the one that was legally binding, due to the fact that his mother had been the one to die later.

Severus didn't even try to read the missives, he was being trusted enough to be here as it was, although he couldn't deny he was curious, he too had come to the conclusion there must have been something contained within to make Dumbledore leery enough against having the will closed. To have it closed meant he also knew the details of the will in the first place, something that would go against him. Obviously not too concerning otherwise he would have found a way to have the wills destroyed completely. He was under no illusion that Dumbledore was capable of it, although perhaps he was waiting, Dumbledore probably thought he had an additional three years to deal with it.

Harry sighed, rubbing his forehead, instead of feeling angry he just felt numb now, he understood why the wills had been closed, and Dumbledore's signature along with Alice and Frank Longbottom stood mocking him. He wanted to scream and rage, but right now he just felt detached, as if he was merely an observer of what was happening.

"Harry?" Severus called to Harry, his tone quiet and soothing, quite frankly he did not want any of Harry's anger to latch onto him.

"Where are the contents that are supposed to be handed out during the will?" Harry asked his tone blank.

"They are secured in a vault to be dispersed during the reading of the will," Coop explained, even more on edge.

"I want you to retrieve them now," Harry stated his voice still emotionless.

Coop quickly vacated the room, realizing that the young lord wished to speak to his companion alone. Normally he would have protested at being asked to leave his office, it was his after all, but he didn't, he was rather glad to be getting out of that stifling room. Part of him wondered if the other goblins could sense the magic emanating from the teen too.

"Harry?" Severus questioned, not sure whether Harry was even in the mood to talk. Harry trusted him, yes, a little, but not one hundred percent, not quite yet. "Do you wish to talk about it?" giving him the opportunity but not pressing him. Pressing him would result in Harry getting even tighter lipped.

"You say you and my mother fell out when you were fifteen and didn't become friends right?" Harry asked, calmly.

"That is correct," Severus replied, frowning, trying to get to the underlying reason for the question but failing spectacularly.

"Apparently she trusted you enough with my life," Harry replied blandly.

Severus inhaled sharply, going marginally paler than normal, finally understanding Harry's pervious question and wishing he didn't.

"She knew how much danger the Longbottoms, Sirius and Remus were in and feared they wouldn't survive, she listed you to be my sole magical guardian if the Longbottoms or Sirius were gone. Naming you honorary godfather, apparently she would have picked you if it had been solely up to her." not the actions of someone who didn't care. The Longbottoms were in as much danger as his mother and father due to the fact Neville was the other 'prophecy child' and Sirius was out there playing decoy for naught, since his parents had trusted a rat, literally. He hadn't had a clue that the Longbottoms were his godparents, another thing kept from him; honestly he wasn't sure if he could be surprised by anything anymore.

Severus clenched his fists, his teeth gritting painfully furious beyond belief himself now.

"I have the requested items here, do you wish to go ahead and have the reading of the will, Lord Potter?" Coop asked, as he walked back around his desk and gratefully sat down; he'd run there and back as quickly as his legs could carry him. Thankfully it was in the one vault they were allowed into since it was information pertaining to the will.

"I'm not sure there's any point," Harry sighed, "Most people listed on the will are…permanently incapacitated or dead," there was only Remus, Sirius, Severus and himself left the Longbottoms were suffering a fate worse than death. People had always said his parents were popular…well according to their will it didn't seem that way at all. Dumbledore wasn't mentioned in his mothers will, wasn't given anything in his dad's will, which Harry did find fascinating. Perhaps they weren't as close to Dumbledore and the old man tried to lead him on to believe. Sirius wouldn't come out for the will reading without telling Dumbledore, so it wasn't the best of ideas. "I'll write to you when I want the will reading done but I would like for myself and Severus to be given the letters from my mother."

"Very well," Coop replied, opening the lily carved box, with a stag, wolf, grim and rat intricately woven with lilies. He flipped through the letters for the individuals until he got to the ones he wanted and swiftly removed them from the box and handed them over.

"Thank you," Harry stated, taking only his own allowing Severus to collect his, which he did with an almost discernable shake in his hands that Harry wouldn't have seen if he wasn't looking intently. "I would like to see all comings and goings from my accounts since Dumbledore took control of the Potter estate."

When several pages were handed over to him, Harry began to look over them, there was absolutely nothing coming in (except interest) the Potter estate was in a state of disrepair. His eyes widened when he saw there was money coming out and put into a Muggle bank account for not only the Dursley's but Arabella Figg. Those lying lousy bastards, taken him out of the goodness of their hearts had they? It was little wonder they'd bloody kept him all this time. Money had always been a big motivator for the bloody social climbers. He'd been paying for the Dursley's extravagant lifestyle! Every damn bloody present Dudley had got had came from money that Dumbledore sent them. The cars, the holidays, the fact they'd paid for their damn house, all of it was from his damn account. "I want the money going to the Dursley's, Elphias Doge and Arabella Figg stopped effective immediately." he took solace in the fact they were suffering the tortures of the damned, they would regret everything they'd done to him, Doge would be next on his list. He was surprised Dumbledore hadn't just stole from him as well and been done with it, but he probably didn't need it with all the jobs he had.

Of course, he realized he'd spoken too soon, the next page listed over forty items had been removed from the Potter accounts over the past fourteen years. He'd actually taken the invisibility cloak, so much for his father entrusting it to him before he died. "The items…where are they?" he asked coldly, he had taken the Potter Grimoire out of his vault.

"That I am afraid you'll have to ask Albus Dumbledore," Coop replied.

"And let me guess…there's not a damn thing I can do? He removed a priceless Potter Grimoire from one of the vaults!" Harry spat out furiously.

"Actually…there is a clause he signed when he became executor that could enable us to get the items back as long as they haven't been sold, for a price of course," Coop informed him with a vicious smirk on his face, every goblin at Gringotts loathed the ground Dumbledore walked on.

"Then that would require him finding out about me," Harry cursed violently, fuming. He was actually trying to prevent that, but he would be damned if he let anything of his be touched by Dumbledore's slimy hands anymore than it already had. Maybe he should just let the will be read, Dumbledore was already going to make his life hell anyway…so might as well just get this over with.

Severus was only half listening at this point, half his attention was on the letter in his hands; Lily's curvy handwriting was calling to him. He was desperately wanted to know what she had written, and more importantly why she had done it in a will instead of seeking him out. "I'm afraid you'll have to decide on what you want," Severus replied honestly, "Fortunately for all concerned…Dumbledore will have more concerns than you this year, so perhaps you are better off doing it."

"What do you mean by that?" Harry asked, his green eyes gleaming in curiosity.

"The Ministry is interfering at Hogwarts," Severus replied smoothly, "So yes, you're best bet would be doing this now."

"How much do you want to retrieve my items?" Harry asked resignedly, trusting Severus, he knew Dumbledore better anyway.

"Ten galleons, for all items," Coop replied after looking at his own copy of the items list.

"Fine, but if you don't get them all you don't get the full amount," Harry warned, and fair was fair.

Coop nodded, a gnarly smirk spreading across its features. "Consider it done."

"Have the will reading the first weekend after the school begins, I probably will be prevented from coming, but I already know what's in the will so it won't be a problem." Harry informed him, making his decision and hoping it wouldn't turn around and bite him in the ass. "Is there anything besides the letter that I would get at the will reading?"

"Yes," Coop replied, immediately withdrawing various keys from the box as well as another letter before handing them to the new Lord. Harry accepted them, still wondering why Dumbledore had felt the need to take his things, money he would have understood, people were greedy, it's the way it was.

"Thanks," Harry said standing up, he just wanted to get out of there, go back to the manor and blast some bloody dummies. He would just get what he wanted later. He wasn't in the mood for shopping now, the numbness was wearing off and the anger was mounting once more.

-0 End Flashback 0-

"A Reminder to put your school uniform on, we are approaching Hogsmeade station in five minutes," the magically amplified voice called out once again, making sure that all the students listened and got dressed in their uniform. Harry already had his on, he didn't see the reason for keeping Muggle clothes on for a few hours then changing in a cramped compartment, not that it was cramped this year of course, since he had it all to himself. He strengthened his mental shields, refusing to think further on his trip to Gringotts, and the anticipation was back, the look on everyone's faces was going to be spectacular. He thrust his hand into his largened pocket and pulled out his invisibility cloak as the train began to slow down for its stop at Hogsmeade.

He watched as the first years were called by someone that most definitely wasn't Hagrid, very unusual. Shrugging his shoulders, not truly caring one way or another, another reason to be grateful that Hermione and Ron weren't there, he would have to pretend to care, not that he hated Hagrid just to whom his loyalty lay. They were quickly herded into the boat and all that could be seen was the lanterns carrying them across the water, people passed the window, getting into carriages for their quick ride to Hogwarts. He waited until they had all gone, Hermione and Ron were the last to leave, and with it their hopeful gazes had become worried again.

He'd just jumped off when the train began to move once more, where it was going Harry had no clue actually. He jumped on the last coach and as soon as he sat down the Thestral began to canter, easily catching up with the others. He stayed behind the others, his green eyes gleaming mischievously. Once he was alone, he removed his cloak and replaced it, the first years he could be heard being brought up by McGonagall.

So without further delay, Harry walked into the Great Hall, the entire hall went utterly silent; you could have heard a pin drop.

Up at the top of the teachers table, Delores Umbridge went pale then red, as she stared at Harry Potter in utter shock. He was supposed to be dead! She'd sent the Dementors after him, he should be gone! She could scarcely believe her eyes, the anger brewed within her, and she had to stop herself from giving anything away.

Another teacher was having the exact same problem, just as angry when he saw the teenager, Dumbledore was utterly furious, the boy looked fine, healthy and Merlin help him he had to stop himself from strangling the boy for ruining his plans and for making him worry about the magical world should he not be able to find him.

Severus Snape watched it all, his amusement carefully hidden as he made sure to get everyone's reactions, he was sure it would amuse the Dark Lord to no end. Then it was as if someone had turned the volume back on as everyone began to chat loudly, Granger and Weasley calling out Harry's name in relief as they ran to their best friend profound happiness and relief written clear to see upon their faces.

Harry himself was having to stop himself from laughing out loud in sadistic delight at the mixed reactions he had to being there.

Chapter Text

Embracing His True Self

Chapter 18

"Mr. Potter you will come to my office the very second the feast is over, is that understood?" Dumbledore boomed over the now hushing Great Hall, all of them reacting to Dumbledore's anger, they all knew he wasn't easy to rile up, he always had a smile on his face, but it was times like those that they remembered vividly that he had defeated one of the darkest wizards the magical world had ever known - second of course to You-Know-Who. They swung around to see Harry's reaction, just out of curiosity and they blinked when they saw that Harry didn't even shed a single reaction he was just standing there looking bored of all things.

"Understood," Harry replied his tone firm, before he squeezed past Ron and Hermione and went to his section of the Gryffindor table just as McGonagall placed the hat on the stool and exited the Great Hall, bringing in the new first years who were predictably all gazing at everything with wide eyed wonder.

While everyone concentrated on Harry, Albus made his way to the antechamber and conjured his patronus, sending it off and repeating the process with the second one. He knew exactly how to bend Harry to his will, Harry might try rebelling against him a little, but all of them? There was no way, he needed approval and reassurance too much to outright antagonise every single one of them. It was one of the many reasons he had sent Harry to the Dursley's, he needed his weapon malleable. Until now it had worked a treat, he contemplated against punishing him but instead bringing him into his confidence on a few things, with the illusion that he trusted him. He would see how the meeting went, and what Harry had to say for himself before he decided that. He slid back out and reclaimed his seat, his genial mask back in place as if he hadn't just raised his voice at one of his students.

Ron and Hermione shared a bewildered yet resigned look on their faces, before they moved back to their seats. Both of them lost in thought, wondering if Harry was going to completely ignore them or if he was just preoccupied from what Dumbledore said. They were so desperate to know where he'd been, what he'd been doing and if he had truly been safe. They could clearly see he had been eating well, he looked filled out, not gaunt like he usually was by the time Hogwarts rolled around. His hair had grown in and in his new robes it wasn't a surprise half the school were drooling over his new…image. For the first time many began to realize that Harry wasn't a child anymore, he was growing up.

"Is it just me or is something different about Potter?" Blaise questioned, eyeing the teenager with trepidation and quite frankly like a bug under an enlargement charm. Giving polite applause to the Hat whenever it shouted out Slytherin to welcome the new firsties.

Draco nodded slowly, "There is," he murmured, he couldn't quite put his finger on it, and he absently wondered if it had anything to do with his fathers warning before his parents Apparated him to the magical platform so he could board the train for Hogwarts. His father had explicitly cautioned him from running his mouth first against any Gryffindors. That things were changing from what he knew, but he honestly hadn't truly understood exactly what his father was trying to get at. The fact he wasn't saying anything meant he couldn't and there was only one person who could tie his fathers hands, the Dark Lord, he thought reverently and not so small amount of fear. He doubted it had anything to do with Potter.

The other Slytherin's agreed, still eyeing Potter before they seemed to realize what they were doing and stopped. Glancing for the first time at the new first year Slytherin's they had, before quietly conversing with each other, but every now and again they would glance over just to see if they could figure out what was different with Potter.

"Harry?" Hermione said quietly, watching him from across the table, he was sitting there with one fist under his chin, the other rhythmically tapping his four fingers on the table looking torn between deep in thought and boredom. She'd never seen Harry like that before and she honestly didn't what to think.

"Suddenly remembered I existed do you?" Harry asked, staring at her in mock surprise, his green eyes glimmering in annoyance.

Hermione opened her mouth to explain they couldn't write, that Professor Dumbledore told them it was unsafe. Of course, she remembered exactly where she was, Harry wasn't going to react well, and she definitely didn't want him getting angry at her in the Great Hall where everybody could hear. No they would talk when they got to Gryffindor common room. After her prefect rounds, she had a responsibility to the first years after all.

"What the hells your problem?" Ron snapped, feeling very defensive all of a sudden, especially at the way he was staring at Hermione. He cringed under the glare Harry sent him, oh Merlin's balls, he wasn't just angry he was furious, he probably shouldn't have opened his bloody mouth. He was aware that sometimes he had no brain to mouth filter, but he just felt so defensive with the way Harry glared at Hermione. How she hadn't wilted under that glare he didn't know.

"Ron, calm down, and be quiet," Hermione urged, grasping a hold of his arm, listening to the speech Umbridge gave, after so shockingly interrupting Dumbledore as he was about to speak.

Ron didn't need to be told by Hermione, he was already looking away from Harry, only to realize that everyone nearby was watching them with curious speculation, going from them to the pink toad who was talking in such a disgusting voice. It wasn't the first time the 'golden trio' had fallen out, but this one was the most obvious of them all, even worse than what happened last year. He was starving, he hoped the food would come soon, he hadn't had anything on the train, with Harry not there to share his sweets, and his mum continued to forget he didn't like corned beef so it had been promptly stuffed into his bag and forgotten.

"I can't believe it," Hermione said indignantly, whispering due to the hush that had overcome everyone as they stared at the woman who would be their defence teacher - Professor Umbridge. "Did you just hear what she said?" turning to Harry only to realize he was still pretty much in the same bored position as before. Instead she turned to Ron, only to see him sitting bored too! They hadn't been listening, why did they never listen?

The food came and then there was a mad rush to fill their plates, all of them eager to eat after the long wait. Ron as always, was overfilling his plate, salivating at the thought of eating.

"Wha…?" Ron muttered, rubbing his arm where Hermione had lightly punched him for ignoring her.

"Didn't you hear what she said? She's interfering with Hogwarts!" Hermione whispered in a hushed tone, eager to tell everyone as if they didn't already know.

"Yes, she made that pretty clear, we aren't stupid," Harry drawled, rolling his eyes, before he continued to eat. Why was he finding her irritable? She'd always been this way, thinking that everyone was unable to think intellectually. He did have to admit the underlying message was quite hard to understand if someone wasn't listening properly and it was true in the past he'd constantly tuned out Dumbledore's speech. He had listened to this one; it wasn't every day that Dumbledore was interrupted, and the look on his face, twice in a single night, Merlin he was glad he had come back.

The pureblood's all glanced Harry's way, while he had never been a filthy eater the way Ronald Weasley was, he had never shown the proper decorum for the last heir of the Potter line. Yet here he was, eating properly, showing the proper etiquette. The Gryffindor purebloods were mildly surprised; perhaps a lot had changed after all. Had he claimed his heir status? Had someone been helping him understand the rules of pureblood society? Harry sensing the looks looked over his face impassive causing them to take a sudden very intense interest in their own dinners. Of course if they knew whom Harry had learned from, they wouldn't be quite so curious but more terrified than anything else.

Harry absently wiped his mouth, placing the used cloth napkin on the table, it was distinctively odd, normally he wouldn't have been able to eat even a quarter of the food on his plate the intense regimen he'd been on had helped beyond what he'd assumed his potion would be capable off. He was proud of it, extremely so, he'd never really though he'd get the chance to brew it when he was younger, let alone use it…not until he was sixteen at least and that was if he was able to find a place with a lab. The platters of remaining food, plates and utensils disappeared leaving the table completely bare, except where others had dropped food on the table, like a splatter of mashed potatoes that Ron was sticking his elbow in. It made his lips twitch despite his anger at them, same old Ron, some things didn't change and he was actually a little glad for that.

Then just as quickly the table filled with an array of assortment of desserts, Harry went for the glass bowl of fresh fruit, scooping up a large helping and placed it on his plate, while everyone else went for the sugary treats, cakes and ice cream. What could he say? He'd gotten too used to eating healthy, whenever he ate an excessive amount of sweet treats, Voldemort had looked at him with an air of…well Harry still didn't know what it was actually, lets just say he'd been unimpressed and ensured less was available for consumption but not completely cut off.

Harry frowned while he ate the assortment of fruits he'd heaped on his plate, what had that feeling been just now? Was he actually missing Voldemort? Oh, bloody hell, he was too, it could be just the simple quietness? He knew even as he thought it that he wasn't exactly being entirely truthful. Shaking his thoughts off, taking his time in eating his dessert, trying to put off this upcoming interrogation. As fun as the thought was, enduring it wasn't anywhere near remotely pushing fun.

"Come on Ron, we have to take the students up to the common room," Hermione said, but before she stood up, she glanced at Harry, "We'll see you in the common room?" it wasn't a statement, it was a question, showing how insecure Hermione was feeling in her friendship right now.

"I'll send you an owl with a reply shall I?" Harry asked sarcastically, standing up himself, he might as well get this over with, "Oh wait…I don't think I'll bother." he ignored Hermione's eyes misting up, they had to understand! They couldn't just do that to him, he was their friend! They were his only friends! Or had been, he liked Barty a lot, but they'd ignored him just because Dumbledore told them too. Now Hermione had done it, sure, but Ron? Ron who doesn't care about the rules overly much going along with the ride too? No, no he wasn't going to have friends who cared more about Dumbledore than they did him. He was going to put himself first from now on, even though he couldn't truly be his true self, he would let part of it come out.

Leaving behind devastated friends, Harry stalked out of the Great Hall; if he had looked back he would have noticed that a few teachers were already gone. Now that he was walking, or rather stalking towards the Headmaster's office, he suddenly wanted this over with; no more stalling it would only delay the inevitable.

It was only once he was in the corridor, the gargoyle at the other end did he realize he had no idea what the password was. Shrugging his shoulders, he pressed on; there was nothing he could do about that. Just as he got six foot from the gargoyle it began to move, apparently Dumbledore had realized he wouldn't know the password either. Or so he thought.

"Wotcher Harry!" Tonks said, her cheerful personality ever present, grinning at him despite everything as she walked down the gargoyle stairs.

"Tonks," Harry stated curtly, nodding at her, he had a bad feeling about this. He stepped past her and made his way to the Headmaster's office, Tonks not far behind him, scrambling to catch up, and ending up tripping up. Harry made no move to help her, instead he just opened the door without knocking - what was the point when he was already expected.

He wasn't prepared for his…arrival party. Dumbledore had summoned the order to be part of this? Well he assumed it was the Order since he knew certain members (thanks to Severus' spying) and they were all there. A new idea flashed through his mind, and he had to stamp down on his amusement, okay, this was definitely going to be fun. Dumbledore he though to himself, you've just made your biggest mistake yet. He wasn't going to bow to their pressure.

"Oh Harry!" Molly cried out, coming forward and embracing him, paying no heed to the fact that Harry did not return the embrace. He just stood there stiff as a statue until she withdrew a look of awe on her face, he was all grown up! For the first time he wasn't a skinny little thing, he was filled out, soon to be a man, oh she was proud of him, and he was like another son to her. She opened her mouth to say more before deciding against it, and reclaiming her seat.

His eyes roamed around everyone his lip curling just a tad seeing the looks on their faces, but a warning glare from Severus, urging him not to take unnecessary risks. Instead his face smoothed out, a hint of curiosity in his eyes; Dumbledore sat in the middle on his chair, lording over it as though he was a king. Huh, he'd thought Voldemort was the only one for dramatics like that, seemed he stood corrected. If he was waiting on him speaking, Dumbledore would be in for a long wait.

"Harry!" Sirius said, his grey eyes glimmering with relief as he embraced his godson.

"Do you know the trouble you've caused, Mr. Potter?" Dumbledore asked his twinkle missing as he regarded Harry with severe disappointment.

"Trouble?" Harry queried cocking his head to the side, his green eyes glimmering innocently at Dumbledore, his brow furrowing as a show of confusion as Sirius who had stiffened at Dumbledore's words and gave Harry's should a squeeze before he sat back down. He didn't like being so far away from his godson or the fact everyone was judging him they didn't know what had happened yet.

"You know how important it is that you return to Privet Drive Mr. Potter," Dumbledore warned him, shaking his head sadly. "I have spoken to you about it many times in the past.

"Well if I had listened to you I would be dead," Harry stated his face still in his 'innocent I don't know what's going on' phase, even if there was a hard edge to voice now. Sound exploded from everyone, as they all called out wanting to know what the hell happened.

"Take a seat, Mr. Potter and explain," Minerva stated waspishly, conjuring a red gaudy chair, which Harry actually did sit in. The glare she gave everyone caused them to stop the noise they were making.

"Why? Will you listen this time?" Harry questioned her, surprised to see her cheeks go red, but her face become indignant.

"One more wise crack from you, Mr. Potter and you'll have detention before school has officially started back up," Minerva warned him, she did not like her failures being flung in her face so callously by a child she actually cared for.

"But it isn't a wise crack, Professor, it's a genuine question, you dismiss everything I've ever said to you as untruthful," Harry pointed out, his green eyes still meeting his professors, a tired defeated look in them especially for her.

Minerva opened her mouth but before she could say anything, Albus began to talk.

"What happened? Was there Death Eaters in the vicinity?" Dumbledore questioned Harry, completely ignoring the staring match between the Gryffindor and his head of house.

The Order sat forward, worried and curious, many thinking and wondering how Harry had managed to get away if that was the case.

"If Voldemort started taking on Muggles, yes, my uncle decided to start the summer off in good fun by beating the hell out of me," Harry stated bluntly, having to bite his lip at their reaction, had they all just collectively flinched at a name? No wonder Voldemort wasn't worried about them, they were utterly incompetent. "I'm sure he would have killed me if I hadn't managed to stop him." he sat back enjoying the accusations and shouting going on at his pronouncement.

"I hope he's dead," Sirius snarled viciously, his voice heard above the pandemonium in the room, panting furiously at his godsons declaration, the only thing keeping him seated was Remus. How dare that filthy muggle put his hands on his godson? He had met him once and it left a disgusting taste in his mouth, but he'd gotten back at the fat prejudice prick.

"Dead? What are you talking about?" Harry asked, giving his godfather a strange look, forcing bewilderment on his face for all to see.

"Harry…the Dursley's…they're missing," Tonks said delicately as if she thought he'd despair, despite what she had just heard.

Harry laughed, "Missing? They've probably fled England with their tails between their legs! Is there any sign that they've been taken?" already knowing there wasn't. He had been there after all, no there was absolutely no proof.

"No," Dumbledore replied, trying to take back control of everyone.

"That's because they aren't, they probably got scared after I left and ran." Harry said shrugging his shoulders.

"Scared of what?" Dumbledore asked tersely, knowing the Dursley's wouldn't have gotten scared of a little accidental magic since he had constantly used it as a child.

Harry disrespectfully popped his feet up on Dumbledore's desk, gazing at his fingernails, "I may have inferred that my murderous criminal godfather was coming for them," ignoring the anger blazing from those blue eyes at his statement, Dumbledore definitely wasn't happy with him now.

Sirius let out a bark of laughter, "I'll make a Marauder out of you yet, Harry," Sirius said proudly.

Harry grinned at his godfather, they had no idea it was amusing really. He supposed he did like Sirius a little, he didn't know him enough to really say he liked him a lot, or love him. He did wonder speculatively if he could get Sirius to go natural during the war, like he was, although Harry had a feeling in his bones he wasn't going to remain that way…he'd had too much fun during the summer, plus he was naturally a dark wizard and some of Voldemort's goals he agreed emphatically with.

"Do you know where they've gone?" Dumbledore demanded, sitting upright, he would need them back at Privet Drive the boy would be returning everything would get back to normal, he would have been relieved if his weapon hadn't gone against his wishes.

"No," Harry replied nonchalantly, "I don't care either," they would never see the light of day again; Dumbledore would never find them he didn't need to be a genuine to figure out what Dumbledore wanted.

"Where have you been?" Dumbledore then asked, his voice commanding Harry to tell him a blast of Wandless magic hit him, but it didn't absorb, his ring was doing its job all too well for that.

"Here and there," Harry said, "I didn't stay in one place too long, mostly from one hotel to the next every few days I didn't want to be found, I had no idea you were looking for me, why would I? I mean you're my Headmaster…Headmasters don't have a say in what their students do during the summer. You didn't know in my third year and you didn't bring me up here because of it. I mean there are hundreds of students down there right now who didn't spend their entire summer at home…" Harry pointed out, and Dumbledore wouldn't disbelieve him due to the spell he'd tried just moments ago, he would assume it had absorbed. Now he doubted Dumbledore would bring up the tracking charms, he wouldn't want to risk that getting out.

"Harry…has your uncle ever lifted his hand to you before the summer?" Sirius asked his grey eyes wide with worry.

Dumbledore's eyes widened comically, quickly clearing his throat, "Go on Mr. Potter, return to your dorm, I'm sure your friends are waiting on you." he wasn't going to risk Sirius Black finding everything out and complicating matters, he still couldn't get his mind around the fact that Harry had actually spouted out such words in front of the Order. He had made sure that Harry would never tell anyone; make sure that nobody would believe him. He was going to have to get very compelling; they weren't going to let him send Harry back quietly. He couldn't Obliviate them all, so that was unfortunately out of the question. He would have to make sure they realized Harry was exaggerating, he would just have to. "The consequences for your utter disregard for the rules means that you will not be allowed to play Quidditch this year, you are banned from flying, and banned from Hogsmeade." he warned the teenager, he would get through to the boy that he could do nothing without his approval, he was Albus Dumbledore.

"I have students to welcome," Severus stated, taking his leave, "Move, Potter, I'll take you to your common room so you don't break anymore school rules tonight."

"Yes, Sir," Harry stated speaking to Dumbledore, glaring at his Potions Professor, he stood up and left the room, biting his lip savagely, that was three times he'd seen Dumbledore's mask crumble in a single night. He literally had to keep himself from laughing, he hadn't done or said half the things he wanted to, but it was enough that Dumbledore would be trying to smooth over the cracks that were appearing in the precious order. Sowing discord was easily done, keeping it up was harder but if it was successfully executed eventually it would cause the suspicion to root deeply. Unfortunately for him…he knew some members of the Order actually knew about his abuse and didn't care. He couldn't accept so many people knowing about it and just going along, but if he was proven wrong then fair enough.

Severus nor Harry spoke as they walked along the corridors, it was only once they were in a hallway that did not have portraits that Severus turned to face the teenager casting his 'Muffliato' just to be on the safe side. "Be careful," he stated once more, he had seen the spells Albus had admittedly very subtly flung at Harry, he doubted anyone else noticed, but he was a Slytherin and a spy, he noticed everything. The knowledge that Harry was safe from them because of his ring had been the only thing stopping him from worrying overly much. He would deny that until his dying breath though. Harry was being cautious though, for that he was grateful, he had left as soon as he had been commanded to by Dumbledore, he would think his spells had attached for the moment. Who knows how long it would last, and when Dumbledore tried again. He knew Dumbledore had a penchant for this sort of thing, but he hadn't realized he was putting them on Harry, but given how powerful he was, they wouldn't have lasted too long, how had he avoided them in the past?

"So that's the order?" Harry asked dryly, scoffing a little.

"Indeed," Severus replied, finding it distinctively odd to hear Harry's voice through Potter's mask. "Do not underestimate them, they might be useless politically, but magically they are powerful, they wouldn't be there if they didn't serve a purpose." he added before walking, the bubble surrounding them continued with them. "Tell me, has he put spells on you in the past?" he didn't have to worry about anyone understanding what they were saying. Anyone eavesdropping would hear constant buzzing and their mouths were blurred preventing any lip reading, he wasn't a fool.

"Of course he has," Harry replied shrugging his shoulders, "I've always been sensitive to magic so I knew what he was doing, I made to sure remove them when I figured out what was going on but it's only been two or three times to get me to investigate the mystery surrounding the stone, another to find out who the heir of Slytherin was…but I think my own curiosity overrode that, being curious and acting though are two different things and I wouldn't have done anything but it would have looked suspicious." Doge hadn't been there…had Voldemort already captured him or was it something they'd do together? The thought of it actually excited him immensely; he had all those lovely spells and potions he so desperately wanted to try. Now he wanted the Dursley's to suffer completely, but Doge he didn't care if the old man died after one round…just as long as it was painful. The Dursley's though he was determined would suffer for years before he let them out of their misery; after all they'd done to him it was the least they deserved.

Harry groaned suddenly as they stood outside the common room, he didn't know the password for the common room either! Grumbling inwardly, he pounded on the portrait door, getting the attention of the Gryffindors so he wasn't standing out here waiting on someone coming out or less likely coming in.

"Remember what I said, I better hear of your improvements in class." Severus warned him quickly removing the spell, and added "Oh and Potter? Ten points from Gryffindor for your cheek." instead of getting furious, Harry's lips just twitched, his eyes rolled as if he honestly didn't care about Gryffindor…Severus not waiting around for any students to see him, instead he turned on his heel and began to march away, he did have his newest set of Slytherin's to welcome it was true.

Chapter Text

Embracing His True Self

Chapter 19

Harry entered the common room, giving a nod to Neville who had been the one to actually get up and answer his knocking. Neville told Harry the password to get into the common room, remembering it for now, but he knew sooner or later he would forget that was Neville for you. The loudness grated on his nerves, the Gryffindors had always been a rowdy bunch, it had never bothered him overly much, not until now apparently. It was distinctively odd; he always looked forward to this after spending a summer ignored, surely a few months somewhere else couldn't have changed that? It was becoming all too apparent that it had. The first years were up in their dorm rooms getting settled in, since they weren't here, neither were Ron and Hermione actually.

"How was your summer, Nev?" Harry asked idly, turning to face the teenager.

Neville shifted, paling a little, "Er, it was alright, the usual, you know," Neville mumbled nervously.

Harry blinked, staring even more intently at the teenager, why was he so nervous? Could it have something to do with his parents? He already knew what happened to Frank and Alice Longbottom; he had seen it in Dumbledore's pensive. Neville didn't know that though, and he had no intention of telling him, Neville obviously kept it from everyone for a reason, to know Dumbledore had deliberately let it drop would probably hurt the teenager. Neville might be his age, but half the time he didn't act like it, he acted more like a startled doe eyed first year student. Harry just grinned at Neville, not sure how else to react, it wasn't as if Neville was continuing the conversation he had started now was it?

"W-w-what about you?" Neville stuttered, his eyes a little larger than normal.

"It was brilliant for once!" Harry said, his grin becoming more genuine, and the answer was completely honest. Was Neville nervous because of him? He didn't seem so nervous around Seamus and Dean…at least not quite like this at any rate. Oh, Neville had no idea how lucky he had it, to think if the situation had been different that Neville would have been crowned The-Boy-Who-Lived? The bigger question was would he have? Would Neville still have been the same? Still a stuttering nervous mess? Either way if things hadn't gone the way they had would he and Neville have grown up to be best friends?

"Good," Neville murmured, half smiling at Harry, before turning to stare into the fire lost in his own little world.

"I'm going to head up to the dorm, I'll see you later," Harry informed Neville, shaking his head, with that he moved away and began to wander up the spiralling tower staircase. He had literally just closed the door when a House-elf became visible, it was absolutely filthy and the words spewing out of its mouth was hilarious. It had obviously been waiting there; it certainly hadn't popped since he hadn't heard a sound.

"Who are you and who do you belong to?" Harry barked out, knowing better than to be too kind, otherwise it would start blubbering, Dobby had well and truly pounded that into him.

"The filthy half-blood is talking to Kreacher," it wheezed heavily before glancing up at him, "I is be Kreacher, filthy blood traitor Master Black wanted me to give you this," he handed over the box before muttering a few other expletive words.

"Leave!" Harry barked in annoyance, it was obviously completely insane; he wasn't sure whether Kreacher was insulting them without realizing he could be overheard or was blatantly doing it and trying to pretend he didn't know they could hear him. Shrugging his shoulders in annoyance, he sat down on his bed, staring at the small square package, casting detection spells at it, but found nothing harmful, so maybe it was from Sirius? Unwrapping it carefully, he cast yet another series of spells at it, and found nothing on the inner box, removing the lid; he found a mirror and a letter inside. Cautiously he did the same thing two more times, but there was nothing harmful in the letter or mirror. Although there were plenty of spells on the mirror, one similar to the protean charm.

Opening the letter from Sirius, he found it short and to the point, signed 'Padfoot'. Apparently the mirror was a two-way mirror that he and his father had used as teenagers. To speak to Sirius all he had to do was say his name and it would glow blue, as soon as he could he promised to answer it. He had meant to give it to him at the meeting but hadn't had the time and he also apologised for anything 'the elf' had said, not using his name.

"Muffliato!" Harry cast around his bed, now nobody would overhear him, his green eyes twinkled deviously, he wondered if Tonks would ever realize he knew her name without ever once being introduced to her. The thought of her constantly trying to think when they met or how he knew who she was filled him with sadistic amusement. It had truly been a mistake on his part; he knew who they were because he saw the memories that Severus gave Voldemort. It was during the time he had figured out Doge was also following him around outside of Privet Drive when the squib couldn't. Not that he'd known his name, just what he looked like and after he pointed him out to Severus he had been given a detailed description of who and what he was.

"Sirius Black?" Harry said, feeling stupid talking to a mirror, talking to himself. He wasn't for long, as soon as the mirror glowed blue he was staring at Sirius' face.

"HARRY!" Sirius called out, a relieved smile spreading across his face. Merlin it was so good to see his godson, he had been so worried about his this summer. Now this new knowledge had been forced upon him, he was terrified of the answered he'd get but he had to get them, it was why he had sent Kreacher to Harry instead of sending an owl, it would take far too long and he was losing his mind as it was.

"Hello, Sirius," Harry replied, "Sirius…did you ever take a potion to help with the affects of the Dementors after you got out of Azkaban?" he knew it would help Sirius a whole lot, hell it had helped Barty immensely.

"Um, no," Sirius replied honestly, blinking at his godson in shocked surprise.

"Why?" Harry asked grimly, still staring unblinkingly at the image in the mirror.

"It's not like I can go into a shop and buy it Harry, only the Ministry makes it," Sirius pointed out, not that he'd ever considered taking it.

"I have brewed some for you, would you take it? For me?" Harry pleaded with him, knowing Sirius wouldn't be able to deny him…or at least hoping so at any rate.

"You did?" Sirius rasped out incredulously, how on earth could Harry brew that potion? Only the best of the best could brew it, it was extremely tricky and he doubted even he could brew it. Truthfully though he hadn't brewed a potion since he was at Hogwarts, when he was seventeen years old. He'd done what he had to so he could become an Auror but that was it. Slughorn hadn't liked him or James overly much but he fawned over Lily and Snape. "How did you manage that…the potion is impossible to brew!"

"I'm really good at potions actually, especially without the Slytherin's throwing things in my cauldron or Snape breathing down my neck." Harry revealed, "I'm surprised you haven't tried to brew it, you did get an Outstanding or Exceeded Expectations in your N.E.W.T's right? You had to have to become an Auror after all."

"I haven't touched a cauldron since my N.E.W.T's exam when I was a teenager; it's not my favourite subject." Sirius admitted sheepishly. Surprised they were sitting there talking about potions and being students, he had questions he wanted answered to damn it. Yet just speaking to Harry was cathartic after all the worry he'd been put through this summer. He was also at a loss as to why Harry hadn't once gotten in touch with him.

"I'm going to guess anything sitting down and requiring you to look at a book isn't your favourite subject," Harry said sardonically, biting his tongue to stop himself laughing at the insulted look on Sirius' face. "Send Kreacher over again quickly and I'll give you the potions," with that Harry scrambled off his bed and opened his trunk, digging into the trunk until he found the box containing all the potions, he didn't have to worry about Kreacher doing anything to damage them since they were spelled unbreakable. Just as he was closing the trunk Kreacher reappeared, Harry passed over the box which the elf took with great reluctance as if something nasty was being shoved under his nose.

"Take one when you go to bed, another when you wake up until the vials are done," Harry informed him, seeing Kreacher handing the box over through the mirror.

"I want you to answer my question," Sirius blurted out, unable to keep silent.

"You didn't ask me one," Harry said feigning ignorance, he knew what Sirius wanted to know and he would make him work for it.

"The Dursley's HARRY!" Sirius shouted grey eyes filled with fear and horror.

"Oh, you want to hear what they've done to me? The question is do you, Sirius? Do you really?" Harry asked, "Or is it something you're going to discuss with Dumbledore behind my back once I tell you?"

"What?" Sirius muttered gaping at Harry confused as hell.

"Oh, come on, Sirius, you didn't make a secret of it last year, all your letters contained 'Dumbledore thinks' at least once or twice, everything I told you, you just ran along and told Dumbledore." Harry pointed out, putting on a mask of hurt and betrayal on his face.

"But Harry…this connection…I didn't know what to think…I was afraid for you…" Sirius replied wounded, what on earth did his godson think of him?

"Where you afraid for me when you left me alone after seeing Voldemort resurrected and decided to go and round up the old order members instead of visiting me? Five minutes, I mean just five minutes and to know you cared…it would have meant the world to me." Harry said, suddenly feeling very tired. He was so sick and tired of everyone just listening to Dumbledore and not giving a shit about him or his feelings.

Sirius swallowed thickly, this wasn't how he had planned this conversation, not at all. "I couldn't be seen at Hogwarts…I'm a wanted wizard, you know that." even he knew his protest was weak.

"And not writing to me at all this summer?" Harry asked, his tiredness showing through.

"I did!" Sirius protested, "They came back."

"You mean after Dumbledore noticed I was missing? Only then did you think of writing to me? You used to break all the school rules at Hogwarts, but now you'll listen to Dumbledore and do everything he asks you…even if it means ignoring me? I had just seen Voldemort brought back for Merlin's sake, I'm your godson! And you didn't think for a second I should hear from you? It makes me wonder why my parents chose you as godfather…it seems there's always been something more important than me to you my entire life. Going after Pettigrew after I'd just been hit with the killing curse, handing me over to Hagrid, going after Pettigrew again in my third year, going after the order…I'm so tired of it Sirius…please don't pretend you care it hurts too much." Harry said weakly, it was wrong to manipulate his godfather he knew, but he wanted Sirius on his side so he would do whatever he needed to accomplish it. Whether it was weigh him down in guilt or vengeance. This was just the start; he was going to slowly lay it out for Sirius, so that he would slowly be consumed by anger and betrayal. Oh he doubted Sirius would join Voldemort, but being neutral was the best thing he could get Sirius to be…hopefully. He just wasn't sure if it would work…so far it genuinely did seem like Sirius didn't care…part of him wished he did despite himself.

Sirius swallowed thickly again, opening and closing his mouth, staring at his godson as if he had never seen him before. Perhaps he hadn't this was the first time they had truly spoken to each other, since the night he flew away on Buckbeak.

"I mean you're meant to be my godfather but I'm the one who's done nothing but look after you. I saved you from the Dementors kiss, me your thirteen year old godson fought off a hundred Dementors to keep you safe while I was just as affected as you. I used a time-tuner and got you to safety before you could be kissed yet again when you were captured. I brought you food to make sure you were eating…I haven't done anything to deserve you ignoring me Sirius…is it because I'm not like my dad…like you said that day because I didn't want you coming to Hogsmeade in case you were captured?" Harry asked plaintively. "I didn't grow up with dad; I don't know anything about him…how can I? There's nobody who ever talks about him, you nor Remus have ever given me more than just a few scraps of information! I know I look like my dad its been told often enough but that seems to be the only thing anyone sees!" hell Severus had told him so much about his mum while they brewed potions together, he knew more about her than he knew about his dad, not that he minded truly, he loved the fact he knew about his mum…but Sirius and Remus had been in his life longer than he got on with Severus and still didn't know a smidgen of information on his dad.

Sirius just sat there gaping; he looked for all the world completely stunned.

"As for what happened at the Dursley's I'll tell you, but only after you've finished the potions, I have to go," Harry said, before Sirius could say anything Harry muttered "Deactivate!"

"HARRY!" Sirius called into the mirror, staring at it in devastation, for the first time he was beginning to realize just how much he had messed up. He'd felt so guilty about going after Pettigrew, still did, but the whole slew of things he hadn't realized he was doing to his godson weighed heavily on Sirius' burdened damaged soul. His stomach felt queasy, he almost, almost wanted to be sick, staring at the box feeling very unworthy, but never daring to dump them, his godson had made them especially for him, and they weren't easy to brew. He'd obviously lied to Dumbledore about where he had been there was no way he could have brewed these potions in a hotel.

Suddenly not wanting to listen to Kreacher's muttering, he delicately grabbed the box, holding them to his chest as if he was afraid they'd disappear and he left the kitchen without another word. Hastily making his way up the stairs, squirreling himself away in his bedroom the only place he got peace and quiet. He slunk into his bed, utterly gutted and feeling like a complete failure.

 

The next morning Harry woke up greatly refreshed, wondering what the day would bring. Oddly enough as soon as he parted his curtains and Seamus noticed him, he began to dress ten times faster than normal before vacating the room as if the grim was on his heels. Arching an amused eyebrow, he shook his head; sometimes people just didn't make sense to him. Dean looked tense and Neville just smiled consolingly at him, evidently he was missing something. Ron he noticed was already gone, was it Ron's turn to avoid him was it?

Shrugging his shoulders, he got dressed himself, nobody said anything about the band around his ankle, Voldemort hadn't removed it merely deactivated it. He messed with his tie on the way down to the common room, getting it to sit straight, which he successfully did just before he got into the common room listening to Hermione and Ron going on about Lavender and Seamus not believing that Voldemort was back.

Perhaps he had been a bit too hasty in his bid to come back to Hogwarts, he thought as he walked through the common room, aware of all the eyes on him. They were treating him like they had in his second year; as if he was about to suddenly start attacking everyone just because he could talk to snakes. He was so bloody tired of their hypocritical bullshit, of the way they treat him, and surely they can't think they could do this to him then expect him to be all forgiving the next day? Oh that's exactly what they wanted he knew that. He glared at the Ravenclaw's who all huddled together as they passed him. He snorted derisively at their actions, like he could care less about them! All this was doing was showing just how pathetic the light side was, at least with Voldemort there was a sense of camaraderie…just a bit. Unfortunately he had to take his O.W.L's, at least, just so he could continue to use magic. Perhaps it was best to ask Severus if there was a way around this, it was only day one and he was already ready to curse someone silly and give them a reason to fear him.

Harry sat down in his usual seat, pointedly ignoring everyone that was until Katie stalked up to him. "Good summer?" she asked, but without waiting for an answer she continued on, "Listen, I've been made Gryffindor Quidditch Captain."

"Okay, quick question, why are you telling me?" Harry asked, staring at her blankly, hadn't McGonagall told her the news yet?

"With Oliver gone, I'm holding tryouts on Friday at five o'clock I want the whole team there." Katie explained.

Harry snorted, "No, you're not just holding tryouts for a Keeper, you're doing tryouts for both a keeper and a seeker." he informed her.

"What are you going on about?" Katie asked perplexed, her eyes widened, "You're not quitting on me!"

"No, no I'm not, I've been suspended from Quidditch, flying and Hogsmeade weekends," Harry informed her bluntly, a little bit of bitterness coating his voice.

"We've not even been back a day! What did you do?" Katie choked out, unable to believe she wasn't going to have Harry as a seeker this year; she would need to talk to McGonagall and try to make her see reason.

"Your guess is good at mine, apparently because of my utter disregard for the rules by running away, I'm being punished." Harry replied sardonically.

"BUT WHAT YOU DO DURING THE SUMMER HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH HOGWARTS!" Katie screeched, extremely upset by the unfair punishment forced upon all Gryffindors. "I'll talk to Professor McGonagall," she said determinedly.

"Don't bother," Harry said shaking his head, "I won't play even if they decide to overturn the suspension."

"Come on Harry, that's just cutting your nose of to spite your face!" Katie complained.

"Can you blame me?" Harry asked her honestly, "I'm pretty sure anyone in my shoes would do the same thing." he pointed out.

Katie just stood there, gaping, before grudgingly sighing and agreeing with him. If she had been punished in such a way for something she didn't to at Hogwarts she probably would react the same way. Harry accepted the timetable McGonagall handed him without looking at her, but judging by the way Katie was looking at their head of house she was never going to hear the end of it.

"Look at today!" Harry heard Ron complain as he always did when he got his new timetable, "History of magic, double potions, Divination and double Defence Against the Dark Arts…Binns, Snape, Trelawney and that Umbridge all in one day!…" Harry ignored the rest of his complaint by immersing himself in his new timetable as he served himself some breakfast and absently ate it; sliding his timetable into his history book he shoved it properly into his bag.

Well he had an entire hour of listening to Binns today, then something a little more lively, potions, this year he wasn't holding any prisoners…not that he was allowed to. Both Severus and Voldemort had threatened him against getting his usual grades. Starting with History of magic, which he was barely passing, well not so much anymore, Voldemort had made him read and memories even N.E.W.T's questions he knew if he were to take the exam it he'd probably pass. Voldemort was a harsh taskmaster, there was no denying that, but he knew that already the duelling they'd done…or rather he'd felt like a dummy to begin with.

 

Harry entered the dungeons when Seve-Snape he had to remind himself, he couldn't slip up here of all places, and instead of taking his seat beside Ron and Hermione in the back, he sat himself in one of the benches that was normally empty. He had to bite his tongue when he heard Snape call on them to 'Settle down' which was pointless since everyone remained quiet in Snape's class, he'd made it more than clear he would give detention to anyone found talking in his class…right from first year.

"Before we begin today's lesson," Severus said, "I think it appropriate to remind you that next June you will be sitting an important examination, during which you will prove how much you have learned about the composition and use of magical potions. Moronic though some of this class undoubtedly are I expect you to scrape an acceptable in your OWL, or suffer my displeasure."

He strode to the front before continuing, "After this year, of course, many of you will cease studying with me, I take only the very best into my NEWT potions class, which means that some of us will certainly be saying goodbye." now Severus had definitely glanced at him, Harry's lips twitched and he arched an eyebrow, oh he had no doubt that Severus would be glad to see the back of many students, and he would have been one of them…if this summer had not happened.

"But we have another year to go before that happy moment of farewell," Severus replied softly, "So whether or not you are intending to attempt NEWT, I advise all of you to concentrate your efforts upon maintaining the high pass level I have come to expect from my OWL students."

"Today we will be mixing a potion that often comes up at Ordinary Wizarding Level: the Draught of Peace, a potion to calm anxiety and soothe agitation. Be warned, if you are too heavy handed with some of the ingredients you will put the drinker into a heavy and sometimes irreversible sleep, so you will need to play close attention to what you are doing." Severus explained his lip curling as he noticed as always Granger was sitting up right, determinedly.

With a few flicks of his wand, the board was writing out the instructions or as the professor always said 'method' everyone immediately began rushing to gather the ingredients to start the potion. Harry decided to wait, he was only slightly surprised that there had been no questions, he usually did that without fail, and maybe there wasn't enough time? The potion did take the entire duration of their double period he summarised.

"Harry what are you doing?" Hermione whispered urgently, seeing him still sitting there, the professor was going to be so furious if he didn't brew the potion. She looked a cross between wanting to stay there and continue reprimanding him or getting her own potion quickly started to. When Harry continued to ignore her, her decision was made and she quickly scurried to her own desk, and began preparing her ingredients. Occasionally looking up at Harry worriedly, wondering what was going through his mind.

Only once the majority of the students had returned did Harry stand up and retrieve his own set of ingredients, setting up his cauldron, casting a shield charm over it so that nothing not by his own hand could be thrown into his cauldron. The potion would have been quite a difficult potion to brew if Harry hadn't created and brewed more difficult ones himself this summer. The directions were very precise, and like Severus had warned, if they were too heavy handed, it would go wrong.

Harry flicked his wand at the bottom of his cauldron, simmering the flame lightly to the level required for the potion to simmer, which he allowed for precisely six minutes before he added the last ingredient. Smirking in satisfaction, at both the pieces of potion ingredient that had been flicked onto his table, after bouncing harmlessly of his shield and the fact his potion was the right colour and consistency for once…well at Hogwarts at any rate. Harry wiped his forehead, sweating profusely, the constant heat made one glad they brewed in a dungeon sometimes.

"A light silver vapour should be now rising from your potion," Severus called to his students, noticing the ones that definitely didn't have it rising from their potions.

"Well, well, Potter, it seems if you keep this up you might just pass your OWL after all," Severus said, staring down at the potion, a grimace on his face. "Five points to Gryffindor," Harry's eyebrows rose up in surprise as his jaw dropped, he couldn't believe it! Snape had just awarded Gryffindor points! To him! He wasn't the only one surprised both the Gryffindors and Slytherins were gasping and whispering to their neighbours unable to believe their ears. "Those who have brewed the potion, put it into a vial, label it clearly and put it on my desk. Homework will be twelve inches of parchment on the properties of moonstone and its uses in potion-making, to be handed in Thursday."

Severus had to stop himself smirking in satisfaction at Harry's genuine emotion and the fact that Granger was staring at Harry's cauldron as if she'd never seen one before. Merlin he slightly wished he could find a reason to be in each of Harry's classes just to see the looks on Grangers face. She'd never had competition before, except in defence, but now that wasn't going to be the case anymore. He moved on to the other cauldrons already looking for a reason to deduct the potions he'd awarded.

"Five points from Gryffindor, Longbottom, for this disgrace of a potion, zero points," Severus stated sharply, banishing the contents of the potion, before he went over to Ron's cauldron and did the same thing, minus the loss of points.

Harry just rolled his eyes, well there we go, he managed to remove them as quickly as he gave them, he thought wryly. Not that Harry really cared about house points anymore, it was just stupid. He had stopped caring about a lot of things these days, it just seemed so childish. Just then he saw Goyle's vial shatter and his robes caught on fire. He stood there and enjoyed the show before putting his unbreakable vial on the desk, clearly labelled with his name. It was lunch time and he was glad for it, he was utterly starving, his own fault really for not having much breakfast. Harry quickly cleaned up his workstation and scooped up his bag the second Severus dismissed the class he was gone.

Chapter Text

Embracing His True Self

Chapter 20

Harry was inwardly cursing Voldemort five ways to Sunday, it was his fault they were forced to endure the worst kind of wizard or witch in the magical world when it came to their Defence Against the Dark Arts teachers. Despite the Ministry sending her, it wouldn't have been possible if Voldemort hadn't cursed the damn position anyway, and stopped any half sane person from wanting the title as DADA professor. The room was just horrendous, pink and gaudy, he would have rather had Quirrell's setting than this, and the smell of garlic had been overwhelming so that was saying something. The damn book Umbridge had picked for them to read was tedious, it was actually the first time magic hadn't been exciting to him, he wondered idly if he would get away with transfiguring her into a toad, nobody needed to know after all.

"Did you want to ask something about the chapter, dear?" Umbridge asked, causing Harry to look up, he saw the class all staring at Hermione rather than read the book, which he couldn't fault, it wasn't like Hermione to disobey a teacher he thought darkly. Or worse not to read a book that was planted in front of her. He silently shook his head, they were playing right into her hands, he was expected to as well, but he wasn't going to, he was through playing the 'golden boy'.

"Not about the chapter, no," Hermione said, finally lowering her hand which had been waving in the air - goodness knows how long.

"Well, we're reading just now," Umbridge said, "If you have other queries we can deal with them at the end of class."

"I've got a query about your course aims," Hermione informed her.

"And your name is?" Umbridge then asked, her face a mask of feigned politeness.

"Hermione Granger," Hermione replied.

"Well, Miss Granger, I think the course aims are perfectly clear if you read them through carefully," Umbridge said. Harry was impressed how her voice didn't reveal the sarcasm behind her words, instead it was just sugary and sweet, and quite disgusting really.

"Well I don't," Hermione said bluntly, "There's nothing written up there about using defensive spells,"

So if it's about her school work she would stand up to a professor and let them know she wasn't happy. When it came to him? Apparently she and Dumbledore knew better. Harry wanted to feel anger, but really all he felt was sadness, four years of friendship, and school was still the most important thing to her, never him. Fuck her, he thought bitterly, if he'd had any notion of being friends with them again, this had just well and truly wiped the slate clean. If she wanted to go ahead and question a Ministry official and a teacher about her work, but not question Dumbledore on him then she deserved whatever came her way, screw it.

Ron's cry of not using magic brought him out of his dark angry thoughts.

"Mr?" Umbridge asked, her face never changing as she dealt with the angry class.

"Weasley," Ron stated sharply.

Harry noticed Umbridge watching him with her beady eyes for a second before calling on Hermione again.

"Yes, Miss Granger, you wanted to ask something else?" Umbridge was clearly getting a little exasperated.

"Yes, surely the whole point of Defence Against the Dark Art is to practise defensive spells?" Hermione said in that usual haughty I know better than you tone.

"Are you a Ministry-trained educational expert, Miss Granger?" Umbridge asked, the only sign of her annoyance was her eyes narrowing further, her annoyingly sugary voice still present.

"No but-" Hermione continued to argue.

"Well then, I'm afraid you are not qualified to decide what the 'whole point' of any class is. Wizards much older and cleverer than you have devised our new programme of study. You will be learning about defensive sells in a secure, risk-free way." Umbridge replied.

"But we need to learn for our OWLS!" Hermione protested. "We can't do that if the first time we use the spells are during our practical exams!" the others all cried out their agreements, they couldn't believe they weren't going to be learning any spells all year.

"I do not wish to criticise the way things have been run in this school, but you have been exposed to some very irresponsible wizards in this class, very irresponsible indeed - not to mention extremely dangerous half-breeds." Umbridge informed them. "And it is to my understanding that my predecessor not only performed illegal curses in front of you he actually performed them on you. It's quite obvious you've been scared into thinking you need to know how to defend yourself." she chided them.

"Professor Lupin was the best we ever had!" Dean cried out in defence of his favourite professor.

"Your hand is not up, Mr Thomas!" Umbridge sang nastily. "As I was saying it's quite obvious you've been introduced to spells beyond your age group and potentially lethal. In my class you will now learn in a safe risk free environment."

Harry had to actually admit Umbridge did have a point, each teacher had gotten steadily worse than the last. It was just a damn shame they'd only interfered when they wanted something, he presumed they wanted something…unless it was to keep an eye on him. He wouldn't put anything past anyone these days. He was aware of everyone glancing at him intermittedly every so often, as if they were expecting him to defend them all. Ron's was more indignant and Hermione's was just confused.

"And your name is?" Umbridge asked, when she noticed yet another hand up.

"Parvati Patil, and isn't there a practical bit in our Defence Against the Dark Arts OWL? Aren't we supposed to show tat we can actually do the counter-curses and things?" Parvati asked.

"As long as you have studied the theory hard enough, there is no reason why you should not be able to perform the spells under carefully controlled examination conditions," Umbridge waved away the girls concern as if it was nothing.

"Without ever practising them beforehand?" Parvati said incredulously, "Are you telling us that the first time we'll get to do the spells will be during our exam?"

"I repeat as long as you've studied the theory hard enough there is no reason why you shouldn't be able to perform the spells." Umbridge stated.

"Harry why aren't you saying anything!" Ron whispered to Harry, annoyance and irritation showing on his face, having noticed that Harry was the only one remaining silent out of them all, it wasn't hard to notice since Harry had sat next to him, not out of choice, but due to necessity since there had been no other seat available.

"You have something you wish to say, Mr. Potter?" Umbridge asked, daring him to say anything.

"No, professor, I don't." Harry stated calmly, much like Umbridge wearing a mask, but his was completely blank.

"Harry!" Ron hissed, his face going bright red.

"I assume you are responsible for this display, Mr. Potter? Detention tonight, with me for encouraging this nasty behaviour." Umbridge said smiling nastily.

Harry merely blinked at her, as soon as Umbridge had turned away strutting like a peacock, Harry glared coldly at Ron, then gritting his teeth in fury. The teen next to him cringed and looked away abruptly, his red face paling as anger drained from him replaced with worry, Harry had never looked at him like that before and quite frankly Ron was intimidated by it.

"Now read the rest of the chapter or you will all join Mr. Potter in detention tonight," Umbridge said as she sat back down in her seat, obviously through playing any games with the others.

Harry spent the rest of the class seething inwardly, why had he decided to come back to Hogwarts again? Hogwarts had been his home, the one place where he could use magic, not be abused and he'd loved it even when his life was endangered, truthfully though, being with his relatives had been a danger onto itself, if he hadn't had as much magic as he did, he would have probably killed him before he was eleven. Who would have thought he'd miss Voldemort's manor?

The class seemed to last forever, it was quite honestly the most tedious class he'd ever endured, he'd have preferred another two hours of Binns than have another DADA class again. So when the bell rang, Harry quickly put his book in his bag, ready to leave as quickly as humanly possible.

"I will see you at five o'clock for your detention, Mr. Potter," Umbridge sang as soon as the bell stopped, Harry nodded curtly, before turning around and forcing himself to walk slowly out of the door, he would not let the bitch know she was getting to him. Knowing if he sat anywhere near Ron he'd be liable to lose his temper, he decided to make his way up to the common room while everyone went down to dinner. He would get his homework for Potions done, then go for his bloody detention with Umbridge he thought, muttering the password to get into the common room and slumping down in one of the seats, and taking out a roll of parchment and beginning to do 'the properties of moonstone and its uses' and he began to scribble away, having no trouble doing the amount that Professor Snape required of him.

 

"Well? Sit down," Umbridge told him, gesturing with her short stubby fingers in the direction of a seat.

"You are going to be doing some lines for me, Mr. Potter," Umbridge said, watching him dig into his bag she added, "Not with your own, but a special one of mine."

Harry stiffened at the tone in her voice, it was like the ones Petunia used when she wanted something from someone she absolutely hated, or rather when she actually got the thing she wanted most. She was up to something, he stared up enquiringly, his head cocked to the side just so.

"I want you to write the lines, I must not cause chaos," she informed him.

"I had nothing to do with what happened," Harry replied, his tone calm revealing none of the irritation showing.

"Perhaps I must not tell lies would be more appropriate," Umbridge said, eyes gleaming.

"How many times?" Harry queried, mentally chanting 'don't let her get to you' a hundred times in his mind.

"As many times as it takes for the message to sink in," Umbridge stated.

"You haven't given me any ink," Harry stated blankly.

"Oh, you won't need any ink," Umbridge tittered.

Harry dismissed her and began to write, stifling any signs of surprise with ease, as a sharp pain throbbed in his hand. What on earth was that? It was writing it out with his blood! He had never heard of such a thing, wait…he had, but those were only for like the most severe of contracts, but that had been way back in the day. Was it even the same thing? What had they been called again? He continued to write, enduring the pain, as he thought on it. He couldn't remember what they were called, but even he couldn't keep his attention from wandering to his throbbing hand, it was getting more painful as he continued to write the lines, so much so he was actually having a great deal of difficulty masking it. He sneered at himself, he had damn well endured a lot worse than this in his time, he was not going to let her get the better of him.

A sudden sharp rap at the door actually had Umbridge looking nervous, as she stood up and walked towards the door, opening it and refusing to allow whoever it was entrance into her class.

"How can I help you?" Umbridge asked in her sugary tone.

"I believe you have Mr. Potter in detention?" Severus stated sharply, his tone filled with aggravation and annoyance, nothing showed that he had actually left Hogwarts through the Floo network and returned, hastily making his way here.

"I do," Umbridge replied.

"Did Potter not tell you he has detention with me for a week? Every single day." Severus informed her smoothly. "Since I gave him detention first, the boy serves them with me. Potter get out here this instant." his voice angry and booking no disobedience.

Harry didn't hesitate, he grabbed his bag and hastily made his way over, looking down at the floor, making a show of reluctance. "Excuse me professor," he said, before sliding out of the room when she had no choice but to move aside. It was obvious she was stunned by what was happening and had absolutely nothing she could say in retaliation to ensure Harry wasn't subjected to her detention.

"Follow me, Potter," Severus snapped, before striding away, Harry followed him, slightly confused, he knew Severus hadn't given him detention so why was he even here? Why had he given him a weeks detention? He was obvious missing something…it should have been staring him in the face but for some reason…he couldn't grasp it.

With Severus walking so swiftly it didn't take much time at all to get from the Defence classroom and down the potions labs. Harry held his tongue until the classroom door slammed shut, and he felt wards being put up, strong Wandless non-verbal wards, but that didn't surprise him, Severus was more powerful than he let on, or rather more powerful than people tended to realize despite the obvious staring them in face.

"Are you injured?" Severus asked, his tone changing like the weather.

"How did you know?" Harry asked suspiciously, annoyance and exasperation seeping into his voice.

"The Dark Lord," Severus informed him without pause, "I do not like repeating myself,"

Harry grumbled inwardly, of course, as if Voldemort would let anything happen to his precious Horcrux he thought disingenuously. He knew the wizard cared a little about how he felt, otherwise he wouldn't have trained him, wouldn't have let him out of that damn cell, it would have been as easy to keep him safe by imprisoning him which he had not done. He shoved his hand out, palm down, showing the red irritated blood seeping sores.

Harry hissed, "Easy," it was extremely sensitive to pain right now.

Severus gritted his teeth as he handled Harry's hand delicately, "How did this happen?" already suspecting, but suspecting wasn't knowing.

"A quill," Harry replied, blinking when Severus dropped his hand and he headed for his potions cupboard, coming out with a few things, before pouring a yellow liquid he knew to be Murtlap Essence into a bowl. "Some sort of blood quill."

"Sit down," Severus stated, placing the bowl in front of him, "Make sure the wound is completely submerged, it will help heal and soothe the wound." Harry did as he was told without a complaint, slightly bemused that Voldemort would get all worried over him, especially considering he was bound to have felt it was a wound on his hand of all things. His stomach growled hungrily, making Harry realize just how bad an idea it was to miss a meal these days, his body definitely didn't like it.

"Did you eat anything at dinner?" Severus asked suspiciously.

"No, I didn't attend," Harry confessed, he'd been too pissed off at Ronald Weasley for getting him that detention stupid idiot that he was.

"Stupid fool," Severus stated sharply, shaking his head, before he once again left the room for a few minutes, he returned with a tray of food, giving him a light glare, telling him without words that he had better eat it all.

Harry scoffed the food down, the sandwiches and the crisps, only then did his stomach stop growling in demand for food. He wasn't going to endure this all year, or until whenever Dumbledore decided to get rid of her, or the Ministry stopped their games. "Is there a way to take your OWLS early?"

Severus let out a small smirk, having an idea what was going on in that mind of Harry's without needing to be in it. He had known it would go down this way, although a small part of him was relieved, Harry would go back to the Dark Lord before the year was out, he was absolutely positive on that front. He had known the risk by suggesting it, if Harry did not, there was a chance his life may be forfeit when his spying days were over. "Yes, it's a simple matter of an instructor coming to Hogwarts and watching over you as you take your exams. Or wherever it is that you are. And I doubt very much Fudge or anyone of importance cares about the exams or who takes them." Severus stated, as he finally took a seat behind his desk.

"Is there any way I can take them? I mean now," Harry questioned, hiding his hope. "Without anyone knowing until I tell them."

"I shall inform the Dark Lord," Severus replied, knowing that his Lord would be able to help Harry pull it off, and would probably encourage it. He would need to leave Hogwarts tonight to return to the Headquarters to report, it had been demanded of him, so he would bring it up then. Given how possessive of late the Dark Lord was of Harry, he summarised Umbridge might not even last the year, although considering who she was, perhaps she was safe for the time being, the Dark Lord didn't want to draw any attention to himself after all.

Harry nodded knowing it was the best he would get tonight.

"I'm assuming being back at Hogwarts isn't all you hoped it would be?" Severus said, once again standing up, picking up the roll of bandage and the cotton square gauze. Gestured for Harry to remove his hand, which he did, only then did Severus dip the cotton into the liquid giving it a squeeze to let some of it drip out. Nodding in satisfaction, he pressed the gauze on top of the wound, before wrapping the bandage around his hand tightly, but not too tightly, he didn't want to stop the blood pumping around his hand after all. "You'll need to remove it tomorrow morning, the smell will start to ripen."

"Alright," Harry nodded in agreement, "Thanks," he murmured as he claimed his hand back, he no longer felt the pain at all. He still wasn't used to people taking care of him.

"During this weeks detention you and I will be duelling, brewing potions, and I'm sure you can come up for a reason why you would get more detentions." he said pointedly, it was the only thing that would stop Umbridge…for now, she wouldn't be deterred for long, perhaps it would be long enough for him to take his OWLS.

"Really? Awesome!" Harry grinned, his green eyes glimmering darkly, showing the real Harry for a brief moment.

"Return straight to your dorm, get some rest," Severus stated, flicking a single finger and the wards came crashing down, another flick the door opened for him.

"Yes, Sir," Harry murmured subdued, grabbing his bag with his uninjured hand, he swung it over his back and threw Severus a grin before sliding out, his face already morphing into annoyance, after all everyone would expect him to be annoyed at having detention with Severus.

Severus stood at the door for a few moments, before he sighed, his spying duties had become indefinitely more complicated.

Chapter Text

Embracing His True Self

Chapter 21

It was passed midnight before Severus was able to leave Hogwarts to return to his Lord's side without anyone the wiser. Umbridge was a big concern when I came to his spying duties. Not only because she might find out his true loyalties but because Dumbledore had also warned him to be careful, the Ministry were aware that he was a Death Eater, or rather believed he had spied for Dumbledore during the last war. Considering they were trying to bury their heads in the sand about his Lord's return he might find himself under unsuspected scrutiny. The Floo network was always monitored by Dumbledore, not monitored per se, but he was aware when someone used the Floo network, which was why he never used it - not that he could the Dark Lord did not have an active Floo network, it defied the purpose of a secret base if someone happened to stumble upon them - not that they would be left alive to talk about what they saw.

He ensured he left Hogwarts far enough into the night before using the mark as a guide towards the Dark Lord's hideout, not that he needed to since he could Apparate but the mark ensured you couldn't be tracked, he had truly thought of everything when he had invented the beauty that was the Dark Mark. Pressing the mark wasn't like Apparating or being Portkey'd it was much smoother transition between the two places. Due to the fact he hadn't been summoned, he wasn't transported directly to the Dark Lord but to the wards surrounding the manor.

Swiftly moving up the path, he felt the wards tingling over him, granting him entrance, the Dark Lord was now aware that he was on his property. Sighing tiredly, it was going to be an extremely long night, but hopefully with the news he was about to deliver he could get back to Hogwarts and get some sleep before he was forced to teach students again in six hours time.

Once he was at the doors he opened them and stepped inside, the warmth welcome, he absently made a note to cast a warming charm on his clothes before he left. The weather was getting chillier, soon winter would settle in, he months would fly by, he knew that. Stalking through the halls, he could feel the Dark Lord and he was not in his office, he was in the Grand Hall, he suspected he was holding a meeting, the sight that greeted him when he opened the door confirmed his suspicions. Thankfully it wasn't a full meeting, but just one between the inner circle. The voice that had been speaking cut off, as they all glanced at him before swiftly glancing back at the Dark Lord.

"My Lord," Severus said approaching the powerful wizard and bowing, unlike the new recruits they weren't required to kiss his robes in a show of subjugation and loyalty.

"Severus," Voldemort said, nodding in approval and to let him know to take his place.

Severus swiftly stood up straighter before claiming his rightful seat next to Lucius, cursing the fact he couldn't have gotten away earlier, now he was going to be forced to listen to everything before delivering his own news.

"Lucius, what news at the Ministry?" Voldemort stated.

Severus relaxed marginally at that, the meeting was almost over, Lucius was in a bad position with the Dark Lord right now due to the fact his diary had been destroyed. He was being made to feel extremely unimportant, to work his way back into the powerful wizard's good graces once more. Until that time he would be given extremely gruelling tasks that were almost impossible so the Dark Lord had a reason to punish him along with his usual duties in the Ministry as well.

Lucius sat up firmly, practically oozing smugness as he had done as his Lord had asked and found Fenrir Greyback; he was as of now heading to the Dark Lord's base with his pack. He had implied that he was setting his pack up closer to the base but returning on his own. As much as he followed the Dark Lord he was an alpha and his concern was mostly fixated on his pack, he would do anything to keep them safe. "They are still in complete denial, My Lord, they seem more concerned about Dumbledore and Potter, from what I have gathered both of them are considered unofficial enemies of the ministry." he was a little leery of admitting that Potter was an enemy or calling him Potter but not everyone in the room new about the boys allegiance and he had been told to keep it a secret so a secret he would keep it.

"What plans do they have for the old fool?" Voldemort asked, his eyes narrowing in on the smug Malfoy in warning. He would curse that smug look off his face if he did not get rid of it.

Lucius sobered immediately, wariness taking its place, "More of the same, they're trying to completely discredit Dumbledore, they have removed him from the Wizengamot as you know, but they have also removed him as supreme Mugwump of the international confederation of wizards."

"And Potter?" Voldemort asked, nothing in his tone giving away any concern or damnation come to that for the boy.

"They believe Dumbledore is the bigger concern," Lucius replied, "I have not heard anything regarding the boy while at the Ministry, I believe they want to discredit him and that alone. Dolores Umbridge has taken up the Defence Against the Dark Arts post, while she's vile and unpleasant I'm sure she will help us in keeping Dumbledore…busy shall we say?" Lucius added smirking just a little; he had put the application forward so she had an easier time taking up the post.

"And also made my job and position harder," Severus said coldly, black eyes flashing menacingly remembering the boy's hand.

Lucius didn't even blink, but inwardly he shuddered, nobody not even the hardened Death Eaters like him wanted to be on the wrong side of Snape. Not only could he be vindictive he had spells on hand that had no counter-curse, leaving them cursed until he lifted it or until they went begging to the Dark Lord to see that he forced Snape's hand to undo it. Not that it always worked, some of the times the Dark Lord let it remain on for days afterwards before demanding that Severus remove whatever curse he had inflicted. Severus had always been a favourite of the Dark Lord's, even more so than himself, Bellatrix or even Bartemius Crouch Junior and they had all received personal training by their Lord.

"Should anything happen to compromise Severus' position, Lucius…your life will be forfeit." Voldemort warned him, his eyes narrowed as well, sensing there was more to what his spy had said, his job and position, it was his job to teach but his position as Harry Potter's protector and his spying was obviously harder as well.

That definitely got a reaction, Severus' lips turned up slightly seeing Lucius stiffening, watching dread flash through those grey eyes.

"Yes, My Lord," Lucius rasped out, his heart thumping loudly in his chest, he wouldn't have been surprised if everyone could hear it.

"Leave, now," Voldemort snapped, his patience wearing thin, "All of you." their information was useless, but just in case he had to have the meetings, he would only have himself to blame if something happened he would find useful.

They immediately stood, throwing Severus curious stares, as it became obvious he wasn't going to leave. Nonetheless they didn't wait around, they Apparated from the Grand Hall, back to their manors and homes. Staying in Voldemort's proximity when he was angry was never a good idea nor was disobeying his orders.

"What news?" Voldemort asked as soon as he finished counting the cracking that indicated that his inner circle (or what was available of his inner circle and not in Azkaban prison, but soon they would be out, and others in their place) was gone from his home. When he had felt it he had been furious. It wasn't just pain, it was a dark pain, something wasn't right, he had immediately called Severus to deal with it, he had felt it stop abruptly fifteen or twenty minutes later and since then he had been waiting impatiently for an answer.

"As soon as I returned to Hogwarts, I cast a spell to find Harry; he was in detention with Dolores Umbridge." Severus wasted no time in answering his Lord. "I informed her that he had detention with me for a week, he did not seem injured at first, but when I got him to the potions classroom he showed me his hand."

Voldemort narrowed his eyes; he had a feeling he wasn't going to like what he heard next.

"It seems she had forced Harry to write lines using a dark blood quill that she created and the Ministry banned almost immediately," Severus informed him, "I doubt very much that he will be the only student she uses it on. My detentions will only work so far, I have no doubt she will be after Harry relentlessly."

Voldemort's eyes flashed furiously, she would pay with her life for daring to lift a hand to Harry Potter.

"I have been informed that Harry wishes to take his OWLS early, I said I would inform you and see what we can do." Severus added, trying to get the Dark Lord out of his darkening mood. "I believe he no longer wishes to stay at Hogwarts, but desires to take his OWLS before departing either that or wishes to have it as a pre-emptive strike should he wish to leave in future…no doubt Umbridge's detention had brought this about." Harry was one to think ahead, that had become abundantly obvious over the course of the summer holidays.

Voldemort's lips twitched, yes it sounded like something Harry would do, there was no doubt he was thinking three or four moves ahead of everyone. To think he used to be under the impression that he was nothing but a pathetic wizard whom had absolutely no special talents whatsoever, but this had been solely from what he had seen from the boy during his first year at Hogwarts. He had been wrong; the boy was very smart, not just when it came to magic but also with strategic thinking and forethought. "Tell him I will have someone available before the week is out, the exams will be done in your quarters, and I will have something made to both hide his results until he's ready and to stop any spells being detected in your quarters."

"That would be appreciated," Severus nodded agreeable, "I had intended to teach Harry further, while he was at Hogwarts to hone his skill, we will simply stick to potions until I receive the object or spell." he wasn't surprised by the length the Dark Lord was going, he always did when he was passionate about something, or wanted something done.

"I think you'll be extremely surprised by Harry's proficiency in duelling, Severus," Voldemort stated, smirking vindictively, he had taught the boy well. If it helped Harry then he would do whatever he had to, even if it made him even more busy, hopefully within the year the boy would return to the manor, where he could truly keep him safe whether he joined his side or not, as long as he wasn't fighting him he honestly couldn't care less whether he remained neutral or not. Although if he was perfectly honest with himself, he would prefer the powerful wizard that Harry was on his side. Oddly enough, he had no desire to mark him, it would be like marking himself, not that Harry would take it, he was too proud to bow down to him, too headstrong and stubborn, no, given what Harry had already done…he would make him his apprentice if anything. His ideas had merit, sure it was taking longer to retrieve his men from Azkaban but it would go along with his ideals at the moment - in keeping the Ministry unaware of his return. Although considering they were burying their heads in the sand…he was sure they would come up with another theory.

"After being taught from you, My Lord? I have absolutely no doubt," Severus said, inclining his head, he had also been taught a great deal from the Dark Lord and knew how advanced he had gotten after just three months of tutelage from the powerful wizard.

"Return to Hogwarts, if that woman tries anything…inform me at once," Voldemort demanded, he was not going to allow any harm befall Harry Potter and incidentally his Horcrux. He would kill anyone or anything that tried, and someone already had, some idiot within the Ministry of magic had told a Dementor to go after Harry and suck out his soul, soon enough he would have a description of whom or even better a name. Which would happen the day before he and his Death Eaters infiltrated Azkaban to retrieve all his followers and leave the Muggles permanently poly juiced dead versions of them behind.

"Very well, My Lord," Severus replied agreeably, knowing without a doubt by the end of the week Harry would indeed be sitting his OWLS. "Before I leave, I am sure you will appreciate this memory," he added, handing over a vial with a copy of his memory, of the start of the year feast. Standing up, he bowed in respect before he left without another word, his bed had been calling to him for hours, and hopefully within the next fifteen minutes he would be within it, and actually get some sleep tonight.

Voldemort remained where he was sitting staring vacantly at the room, a vindictive smirk on his face, Dumbledore would soon lose his precious weapon, and oh he wished he could see the old man's face when it all came about. He'd bet everything that Dumbledore would never see it coming. Glancing down at the vial, he stood up and left the room, going to his office to view the memory before he got some sleep before beginning to work on getting someone on his side in the education department of he Ministry and those spells to hide any spell detection within Severus' quarters.

 

Harry made his way to the Great Hall the next morning, his hand had stopped hurting, and in fact it had healed completely overnight. He had to admit he was slightly surprised to see it completely gone when he removed the bandages to discard them this morning. He observed Ron and Hermione sitting closely to each other with a copy of the paper between them talking in hushed whispers. Completely ignoring them, he sat down, although he was curious what they could be reading. He heard the word 'Ord' from Ron so he was going to assume he was meaning this Order of the phoenix Dumbledore headed.

"Hey, Nev, you finished with the paper?" Harry asked the teen next to him.

"Sure, Harry," Neville said, without any stuttering today.

"Thanks," Harry said gratefully, shifting to the page number that Ron and Hermione were on, thanking his perfect eyesight.

TRESPASS AT MINISTRY

Sturgis Podmore, 38, of number two, Laburnum Gardens, Clapham, has appeared in front of the Wizengamot charged with trespass and attempted robbery at the Ministry of Magic on 31st August. Podmore was arrested by Minister of magical watch wizard Eric Munch, who found him, attempting to force his way through a top-security door at one o'clock in the morning. Podmore, who refused to speak in his own defence, was convicted on both charges and sentenced to Azkaban.

Harry frowned thoughtfully, "Hey, Nev…what's top security at the Ministry?" he knew next to nothing at the Ministry of magic.

"W-well the Ministry has a lot of top security, but none are more secure than the Department of Mysteries…" Neville explained, flushing red, he wasn't used to Harry actually asking him or talking to him. He knew it was probably temporarily until he made up with his friends again, and they always made up, the golden trio everyone called them.

"What is in the Department of Mysteries?" Harry then asked.

"It's a section of the Ministry that deals with confidential stuff, where the Unspeakables work…nobody knows the projects or experiments they get up to down there." Neville told him, "It's older than the Ministry of magic itself…it's been around since 1672, and the ministry was built around it in 1707,"

"Cool," Harry said surprised and impressed.

"Yes, it is, there was even a Minister who tried to close the department down, but he was ignored by the Ministry and Unspeakables," Neville said wryly, refusing to speak the name, despite the fact it was merely a descendant not the man himself who had done it. Minister Radolphus Lestrange.

Harry shook his head amused, he wondered if he had been put in Azkaban for trying to do something for the Order and got caught. Or if it was Voldemort trying to get rid of the order members by watching them and ensuring they got caught. Podmore was an Order member and Voldemort wanted rid of them, given how dangerous vigilante groups could be, causing rebel after rebel so he wanted them gone before he actually came out to the magical world so to speak and took control.

His amusement faded fast when he noticed a few people rubbing at their hands and wincing, his nostrils flared, and his fists clenched in anger. She was using that damn blood quill on other people, not just fifth years but that was a first year! He thought furiously, how dare she? Gritting his teeth, she couldn't get away with that, it was illegal, but what was the point of telling anyone? Would they listen? Perhaps going to McGonagall would help…surely she wouldn't let anyone hurt first year Gryffindors? He wouldn't hold his breath on her helping him, she had yet to listen to him but…hurting others?

Glancing around the rest of the hall, trying to see if there were others suffering, angling his head, but he couldn't get a good view of the tables or their hands. Turning back around stabbing at his food, that bloody quill had hurt him and he was used to pain…he could only imagine how painful it was for the others who weren't used to being hurt at all.

"You alright, Harry?" Neville asked, sensing Harry's shifting moods.

"I'll be fine," Harry said giving him a lopsided grin, which was rather tense but he tried. He would try and talk to McGonagall before classes started, hopefully he'd be able to catch her before any students showed up. Rubbing at his forehead, trying to eat as much as he could, but his stomach was churning. He hated himself, for being even just slightly concerned about those who would sooner stab him in the back than help him if the roles were reversed.

"Harry?" Hermione said, her tone concerned, as she finally spoke to him, she had tried to catch him but she hadn't had a chance he'd been avoiding them.

"What?" Harry stated curtly, turning to face her, his green eyes glittering coldly.

Hermione swallowed thickly, "Nothing," she whispered, turning away, she'd need to catch him in the common room at some point, he was obviously still really angry at them, she just didn't understand why or what for. She tried to tell herself she wasn't cowed by the look, but damn, he was intimidating, he'd never been like that before…what had happened this summer?

Harry scoffed, "Nothing new there then is there?" he sneered at the back of her head, the scene of her standing up to Umbridge flashing through his mind, egging him on further. "I'll see you later, Nev!" Grabbing his back, he left his half finished breakfast and walked away, making his way to the transfiguration room, hoping to catch McGonagall before she started teaching…if she had anyone to teach first thing.

It didn't take him long due to the fact it was only one flight of stairs, he leaned against the wall of the classroom with patience.

"Potter, what are you doing?" Minerva called when she caught sight of the boy, slightly surprised.

"I needed to speak to you professor," Harry informed her.

"Follow me, Potter," Minerva said, inwardly sighing in exasperation, she could do nothing to reverse Dumbledore's decision to take the ban off the boy, she had tried, something she'd had to explain to the entire Gryffindor Quidditch team, the twins were not pleased.

Harry followed her into her office, which was behind the classroom, when she sat down she gazed expectantly at him.

"Umbridge is…" Harry started.

"Potter you need to be careful," Minerva warned him, "Misbehaving in Dolores Umbridge's class can and will cost you more than house points or detention." yes she knew about the detention the boy was in her house after all. She also knew he had earned a week worth of detention from Severus on the very first day of class. It was as if he was trying to outdo his own father and godfather when it came to the amount of detentions he got.

"What that's not what-" Harry argued, anger began to simmer deep within him, he was so sick and tired of nobody listening to him. That wasn't entirely true thought was it? A sneaky thought whispered to him, Voldemort listened to him…had actually changed his plans and used his bloody idea.

"Potter use your common sense," Minerva stated, "You know where she comes from, you must know who she reports to."

"This has nothing-" Harry replied, trying to keep a cool head and actually explain.

"Keep your head down and temper under control," Minerva cautioned him.

Harry stared at her, his green eyes filled with fire, huffing a bitter chuckle, why had he thought this would go any other way? Did she know what he was going to complain about and trying to stop him from telling her directly so she could go on her way and remain ignorant? Or did she just truly not care? Each time she let him down flashed through his mind which seemed to give his second thought credence. Turning away without another word, he quickly left her office and out of the classroom, ignoring her when she called for him he wasn't interested in hearing what she had to say.

He was so done with this shit, he prayed that Voldemort could come through for him and he could take his OWLS when he left Hogwarts he wanted to know he could safely use his wand when he turned seventeen without it being taken and snapped. Another bitter incredulous chuckle left his lips, who would have thought he would be relying on Voldemort for anything? Life certainly had gotten strange in the span of three months. Sighing softly, he made his way to his first class of the day; all the while looking forward to detention with Snape so he could get an answer to his question…he prayed he could.

Harry laughed a little at that, ignoring the startled looks from the other students as they passed by, looking forward to detention with Severus…hoping Voldemort came through…yep, life had gotten weird, and it was only here and now that he was truly beginning to see how odd his life had become.

The look on Dumbledore's face if he learned all this would have truly been comical.

He was unaware that it was pretty much the same thoughts Voldemort had just last night.

Chapter Text

Embracing His True Self

Chapter 22

To say the weeks passed at a snail pace would be putting it mildly to Harry who was slowly going insane with the chaos surrounding Hogwarts. He'd known and been warned about Umbridge, of course, but bloody hell, the woman was causing more problems than he could have conceived. Which didn't bother him as much as the fact she was giving him detention with a blood quill. Not as often as she liked, thank Merlin for that, but it was solely down to Severus that he was able to keep his sanity. She had seen to it that she'd been self-appointed Hogwarts High Inquisitor she'd already inspected half the classes.

Then she had gone and made the Slytherin's her 'Inquisitorial squad' and Draco Malfoy had become very, very unbearable as well. Not that Malfoy managed to get too many opportunities to annoy him, not that the few he had bore any fruit. He found it very amusing to watch Malfoy's face turn red when Harry just stared at him intently with dark intention without falling for any of baits.

Today though, today was going to be a good day, he had finally finished the spell he'd spent weeks creating and crafting just for Umbridge. Unfortunately nothing dark or drastic as he would have liked, he would have had to have left Hogwarts to cast them, and it wasn't something he could do yet. No, he was going to enjoy watching her completely humiliate herself. Sliding out of bed, he stumbled slightly, as an overwhelming feeling of happiness and smug superiority over came him, causing a prickling sensation in his scar. Now Harry was definitely curious…what was Voldemort up to today that caused those feelings? Ever since he had accepted and acknowledged the Horcrux within him the pain was lessening when he saw things or as demonstrated just now feel things.

Brushing it off for now, Harry quickly got dressed, noticing that everyone else was up, he must be later than anticipated but Detention with Umbridge had lasted well past midnight. Then he had stayed up to complete the nice surprise he was making for her. She hadn't noticed that he had removed the stone in the broach and replaced it with a copy, the thing she so liked to clip on each disgusting gaudy pink clothes she liked to wear. It was little wonder he'd slept through the alarm. Hopping on his foot, he managed to slide his left shoe onto his foot before shuffling it into position and tied it once he got to the bottom of the stairwell, and into Gryffindor common room.

He couldn't be too late he noted as he stood up, seeing that there were still others milling around the common room, either waiting until last minute or waiting on someone who was late themselves. Groaning softly he stretched himself out, his muscles still hurt like hell from being crouched over finishing the spells on his bed last night.

Ignoring everyone, he made his way out of the common room, not even listening to Hermione who was calling for him urgently as she ran after him. He sighed softly, she just wouldn't give up, she'd apologised dozens of times and while he wanted so badly to forgive her and be friends again…he didn't want to do it, she would just screw up again, he had forgiven her enough during the years for the things she'd done including running off to a teacher after Sirius gave him his broomstick.

"Harry!" she called once more skidding to a halt in front of him.

"What is it?" Harry asked vexed, stepping aside he continued to walk, making it more than clear he just wasn't interested, but he knew Hermione would just continue to do whatever she wanted. Despite the fact she had been glaring at him for weeks because of his good work in classes, her becoming even more annoyed because he was getting all the spells completed before her as well didn't help.

"I've been thinking," Hermione said, panting as she spoke, having ran quite a bit to catch up. "I mean we aren't learning anything in Umbridge's class,"

"Don't you mean professor Umbridge?" Harry pointed out spitefully, just like she'd used to get on at them for not using the proper title.

Hermione brushed it off, she was not going to use that title with that woman unless she had to. "I was thinking…we could create a secret club, one where we can teach the students, me and you, together, that way they will be prepared for their OWLS or NEWTS!" her tone was hushed but excited as she rushed through it. "Not only will it help them but we won't end up rusty either…and we both know something will happen at the end of the year." It was customary now.

"Why would I want to help anyone else?" Harry asked his tone slightly bitter. "Let's not forgot that people can't keep a secret, someone would inform Umbridge and we'd both end up in trouble, it's definitely not worth it." grabbing the banister, Harry made quick work of the stairs. "Trying to keep a secret just means it gets around quicker."

"But Harry…nobody is going to learn for an entire year!" Hermione hissed, "Just more reading from that boring book! He's back now; we have to learn how to fight."

"Then do it yourself!" Harry snapped annoyed, tired beyond belief at the blatant manipulations going on around him or against him. Why did he have to do everything? It was like everyone was incapable of thinking. Hermione was smart; she could do all she suggested on her own, with terrific timekeeping of it for Merlin's sake.

"Harry please," Hermione said as they finally reached the ground floor.

Swinging around to face her, he narrowed his eyes, his mouth unconsciously curling just so as he read her surface thoughts. There would have been a time when Harry felt guilty about that, okay, maybe that wasn't really true. This was all an elaborate scheme by Dumbledore. He wanted their friendship repaired by the look of it, he'd had an intense look on his face as he spoke to Granger about it…as if it was vital that he be friends with the two…but why? Why were Ron and Hermione so important to Dumbledore's plans? Honestly sometimes it was impossible to predict Dumbledore; he thought dozens of moves ahead. How could have predicted he'd need those two before Hogwarts?

"We can work things out, it's not too late you know," Hermione added, her tone soft and pleading, as if she had sensed weakness or perhaps she felt as though he was close to giving in.

"It was too late months ago, you chose Dumbledore over me, I needed you more than I ever had and you ignored me. Nothing you do could ever make up for that." Harry said honestly, "Just let it go. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going for breakfast before class's start." with that he turned around, shaking his head, before entering the Great Hall.

"Hey, Nev," Harry murmured as he sat down, wasting no time before he began to fill up his plate.

"Hi, Harry," Neville said, giving him a smile before he began to eat his own breakfast again.

Harry quickly grabbed the OWL Ancient Runes book from his bag, and juggled it on his knee, flipping it to the last page he had used. He had both his written and practical Ancient Runes exams tonight, he'd assumed that Voldemort would have either blackmailed someone into doing it or had them under the Imperious curse, he had underestimated the reach Voldemort had over the magical world. The Death Eaters he'd seen were just the active fighters, he had silent followers all over who would jump to his aid, he had followers who didn't wish to fight and he strangely accepted that, utilising their talents in a way that benefited both parties.

"I didn't know you took Ancient Runes, Harry," Ginny said, eyeing the book highly curious.

"He doesn't," Hermione commented, interrupting the conversation. Imputing her own knowledge out there, regardless of whether anyone wanted to hear it.

"This book, it's used during the OWL year, Bill and Charlie had one, and they were forever reading out of it, there's dozens of pictures at home with them studying." Ginny corrected her without any attitude. The book was hers now, since next year she would be taking her OWLS, not for class, just to read so she could get ahead a little. "I've got it myself although mines is a lot more faded." she said simply. She was used to having second hand things; it's the way life had always been.

"Why are you reading about Runes, Harry?" Hermione asked perplexed, "You aren't even taking the subject."

"Because it sounds interesting," Harry replied noncommittally, as if he was going to tell her the truth! Dumbledore would put an end to his exams if he did that. He'd need to find a way to get the real stone back into Umbridge's broach, she was wearing the fake right now, so it was too late, he'd need to use Dobby to make a switch.

"Regret not taking it instead of Divination?" Ginny teased with a grin.

"You can say that again, anything is better than predicting my own death over and over again," Harry said wryly, ignoring the disappointed look on Hermione's face no doubt because he was practically ignoring her. Yawning tiredly, he began to read the book memorise the runes and their shapes and sizes. He'd already read it in Voldemort's manor, this was one he'd bought himself because Voldemort wouldn't let him take any of the books from the library to bring with him. Absently eating his breakfast as he read, his head jerked up when he heard Seamus exclaiming "BLIMEY!" in horrified fascination.

"What is it?" Harry asked, trying to get a read on the newspaper.

"Let me see!" Hermione said trying to snatch it from Seamus but the boy refused to let her, looking a little annoyed. Sighing in exasperation she quickly began to untie her own delivery, as everyone began to read it hastily.

"Something happened at Azkaban," the Irish lad said, his accent stronger than normal.

"Don't tell me it's a breakout," Hermione groaned, finally yanking the string from the plastic paper around the bag before shoving it out and beginning to read it. "Oh, it's not." she said sounding dreadfully surprised.

Neville was sitting there with a satisfied look on his face, the three Lestranges had died at long last, as wizarding flu coupled with their…inhabitant made for weak immune systems and they hadn't stood a chance apparently. It wasn't just the Lestranges but they were the only ones Neville saw…and he relished in their demise.

Harry immersed himself in a copy that was lying unattended, before glancing around to see everyone's reactions subtly of course. Draco Malfoy and many other Slytherin's had gone pasty white, obviously they weren't in the know and it did make Harry feel quite smug - not that he showed it overly much. He also noticed Dumbledore staring at the newspaper with a perplexed look on his face, the same one that Hermione currently had as if she was trying to decide if the story was true…or if it was something the Ministry was covering up.

It looked as though she was still rereading it and trying to decide when the bell rung for class. Closing the book with a snap, with the bookmarker in it, he slid it into his bag before grabbing more breakfast and leaving the hall to the first class of the day. So he'd done it then, Voldemort had used his move to release the Death Eaters from Azkaban after all. He hadn't been sure whether he actually would or not.

"I could help you, learn I mean, if you want," Hermione said following Harry out of the Great Hall, Ron as always following behind her.

"No thanks," Harry replied, it was impossible to shake them off. It was mostly why he had started using the Marauders map to get around the school without being detected. "I can read and learn on my own, it's nothing urgent."

"But you're on the third book they recommend for Ancient Runes…if you don't know the basics the advance runes will be difficult." Hermione argued.

"I do know the basics," Harry replied, "I had plenty of time to learn this summer." almost exclaiming in relief when the door to the classroom was in sight. Peace at least, Hermione wouldn't annoy him in any class, too busy trying to be the best at everything. He found a seat amongst the Ravenclaws so he didn't need to sit with Hermione or Ron and settled in.

--------------0

Harry grabbed his wand, school bag, Marauders map and invisibility cloak before disappearing underneath it. Checking to see where everyone was, he turned the light off with a 'Nox' and began to sneak out of the common room, being quick seeing as Neville was making his way to the portrait. Just when he was sure Neville might say the words, he opened it, and snuck out just in time before Neville bound through the hole and closed the portrait behind him.

The common room was the easier part; it was avoiding Draco and his goons in Slytherin territory, as if being a Prefect didn't already make the idiot show his power hungry side. The sucking up was giving him the heave, and then again there wasn't much that didn't make him feel sick to his stomach. It took him nearly fifteen minutes to get to Severus' quarters deep within the dungeons, while hiding when others went by.

Despite knowing the password to Severus' office, Harry still knocked, he could feel the protections the wizard had around his rooms, there was nobody going to get in there without his permission. He could identify almost all of them, but there were others that had him stumped, he wouldn't be overly surprised if they were ones Severus had come up with on his own.

The door opened abruptly and Severus made a quick motion for him to enter, as soon as he had stepped into the room enough Severus was already closing the door. Once that was done, he did what had become a familiar routine, he pressed his wand and murmured under his breath against a crystal, one that Voldemort had sent so they could duel, it overrode the wards on the school. Giving them peace of mind that they most definitely wouldn't be caught. It even prevented anyone from recording any activity with the Floo network; it wouldn't register at Hogwarts at all.

"You're early today, he isn't due over for another fifteen minutes," Severus said, giving Harry a curious look, he was never early. If anything he was exactly on time, each and every day, very punctual, another part of his personality Severus was becoming increasingly familiar with.

"I saw a chance to get away…I took it," Harry said, sitting down, "How many is left do you know?"

Severus gave him a deep penetrating look, "The Dark Lord got them all out, and the others have been placed in the prison under Poly-juice potion."

"Isn't that dangerous?" Harry frowned.

"No, they're catatonic and will remain so until they die," Severus said wryly.

"How long will that take?" Harry asked genuinely curious about it.

"Give or take a few weeks to a few months, not all at the same time, they'll be buried by the Dementors just as the others have been already." Severus said dismissively. He had to admit the idea was absolutely amazing, very well thought out. He had almost choked on his own saliva when he heard it had been Harry who came up with it. He was sure the Dark Lord had told him just to see his reaction.

"Let me guess…you're making all the potions?" Harry summarised, wincing at the thought, he would be brewing forever.

"You and I ensured they were covered for at least a fortnight, longer for the Dementor potion. With the stronger nutrition potion you created they won't need to take so much or for long as you would the original." Severus mused thoughtfully, tapping his foot absently, "I am brewing to make sure they are refilled but thankfully not much will need brewed in urgency."

"I guess Barty will keep an eye on everything?" Harry questioned, Barty was desperate for something to do, and if he knew Voldemort by now he would probably delegate that task to him, someone he trusted and the others would too despite their stint in Azkaban.

"That I do not know," Severus stated, just then a 'bing' sound surrounded the room, alerting them to someone coming through the Floo, the fire flared and a figure stepped out of the grate.

He was dressed in in a pristine suit, royal blue; he was a short thin man, with black hair tied up at the nape of his neck and brown eyes. He had a finger missing, his pinkie, Harry had never asked about it and the wizard had never revealed what caused it, but considering the scars around it and the lack of finger, he would guess it was a dark curse. He had a black briefcase with him that Harry was familiar with; it held all the documents he'd be using.

"Mr. Potter, Severus," the wizard said with deference, something Harry had learned wasn't just because Severus was in the room. Which had made him immediately wonder just what the hell Voldemort had said or done to him. It had soon become apparent though that he wasn't there against his will, nor was he under any spell, he was quite happy to help. It still didn't explain the deference the wizard used when it came to him.

"Clarence," Severus said nodding, "I will be in my lab," he added, which he did sometimes but not all times.

"Alright, Mr. Potter, let's get to it!" he said, his tone slightly bright but not overly joyful or annoying. Placing his briefcase on the table Harry would be using for his exams, he began to take out all the necessary material, before taking a seat by the fire to wait patiently for Harry to finish…which would take anywhere from an hour to the necessary two hours one received to do their exams. Despite the fact he was a Dark Wizard and on the Dark Lord's side, he wouldn't abide by cheating, hence he kept a good eye on Harry.

Clarence didn't talk overly much, but he couldn't help but speculate about what was going on. When the Dark Lord had demanded his presence he'd wondered why, then when his newest mission was revealed he had sat there stunned, his mouth agape, he just couldn't help it. Thankfully he had regained himself before the Dark Lord lost his patience and he had agreed to it. Even weeks afterwards he was still reeling, for the first time in a long time, he actually felt hopeful that the Dark would take its rightful place again, that they wouldn't have to read in the dark or become addicted to dark magic by investigating without understanding the consequences. And those within the British Isles didn't, they just weren't taught it, most became prejudice against it. Even more surprising there hadn't been needless violence against Muggles or magical people, which he had expected although he wouldn't admit it.

Not only that but the boy was getting through his OWLS quickly and effortlessly, he had surpassed any score on record when it came to the Defence Against the Dark Arts both written and practical exams, same with his practical Charms exam while his written one could have used a little sprucing up. Harry hadn't even attempted to ask or find out about his scores, but that was fine, he'd soon have all his results in his hand - he would deliver the letter for him. The scratching of a quill brought him back out of his thoughts, glancing over his eyes gazing critically around, but as always Harry's hands were clean, arms bare, no book in sight, he was definitely not cheating.

Chapter Text

Embracing His True Self

Chapter 23

Voldemort strode through the north wing of his manor, which until now had been unused; it was now filled to capacity with his followers, who he had just released from Azkaban prison with the aid of his other faithful Death Eaters. Grant was in charge of overseeing their return to full health, with Barty and Pettigrew aiding him as per his demands. It was not decorated, but he had installed beds to ensure the comfort of those who had suffered Azkaban, for never denouncing their lord and Voldemort would reward their loyalty as he always did. Knowing where Grant was, due to the fact his wards let him know where everyone was, made easier by the Dark Mark etched upon their arms.

Opening the door, he observed Grant working, the wizard knew he was there, not only did he glance very briefly before getting back to work, but his magic was unmistakable, all his followers were very much aware of his presence. He never made any effort to mask his power, and why should he? He was the most powerful wizard in the magical world.

"How are they?" Voldemort demanded once Grant had finished with his current patient. The empty vials were removed by the House-elf, to be washed, sterilised and returned to the potions lab for further use.

"They have not yet woken, my Lord," Grant said respectfully, giving a low bow in deference. "It makes it increasingly difficult to ascertain their mental state. Their physical state is much easier to deal with at the moment. It is as I expected with such a long time incarcerated in Azkaban they are deeply malnourished, they will need Harry's potion for at least three weeks, and this is just a guess on my part, even with the stronger potion there is no knowing how long it will take for their physical recovery. They're covered in sores, infections which I've already begun healing. I have given each of them a dreamless sleeping potion, this will aid in their mental recovery and give them much needed sleep, as they are dangerously sleep deprived." with Dementors for company it was hardly surprising.

Voldemort nodded, he had expected as much.

"I will begin them on the potion tomorrow to aid in their healing of their mind due to the influence of the Dementors once the dreamless sleeping potion wears off. This will allow them to heal and naturally the potion causes the drinker to succumb to sleep for most part while the potion does its work." Grant continued a clipboard still in his hand, "This gives me the opportunity to heal their wounds, and a few have broken bones I'll need to deal with as well."

Voldemort narrowed his eyes, "And just how did their bones come to be broken?" he asked suspiciously, not believing it was Grant but rather the Auror's.

Grant understanding what was being asked, "Three seem to be breaks from throwing oneself against a wall, the other two…are from spells, I believe they occurred during their transference from the Ministry to Azkaban given the dates they were inflicted it adds up."

"The bones will be healed properly without damage?" Voldemort asked smoothly, his eyes gleaming maliciously, when he found out which Auror had lifted a wand to his people while they were already bound he would eviscerate them.

"That I do not know, My Lord," Grant admitted stiffening slightly, "I will need to re-break them and give them the potion. Only time will tell I am afraid."

"Use the House-elves if you need further help, only while the others are unconscious," Voldemort warned, he did not want them hurting or worse killing his House-elves, not that he particularly cared about their feelings, it would just be an inconvenience to him.

"Yes, My Lord," Grant acknowledged the order.

"Have you tended to them all?" Voldemort asked Grant, giving the healer a once over critically. His usually immaculate long brown hair was in disarray, half out of his ponytail; his clothes were covered in grime and blood. His face was paler than normal and he could see the strain the wizard was under.

"Yes, My Lord, and I will be alerted the moment they wake," Grant assured his Lord, he took his duties as a healer very seriously and he would see them recovered.

"Go shower, get something to eat and rest, you may use any room in this wing you wish," Voldemort demanded, he wouldn't be any good to anyone if he exhausted himself. He had already been up all night tending to them, without taking so much as a single break.

"Thank you, My Lord," Grant said, gratitude showing through, he had been thinking there was something different about him for a while now, but it was becoming more and more pronounced and glaringly obvious that he had changed. Not only in the way he would go about his goals, but he was staring to care about everyone again and that was a relief to him.

"Tish?" Grant called, writing hastily on the clipboard before placing it on the table nearest him.

"How can Tish be helping?" Tish asked, appearing before Grant, bowing to Voldemort who was her Master before eyeing Grant who called her - they'd all been told to go if Grant called, to treat him as if he was their Master.

"I need you to bathe everyone, remove their…clothes, clean them and mend them as best as you can…" Grant was cut off before he could continue.

"Burn the clothes," Voldemort stated sharply, his lip curled in repugnance those Azkaban suits were not fit for animals to lie on. "I will see to it that they have something to wear by tonight." he added flippantly. It would be easy enough to get Lucius to go into St. Mungo's and get a pile of the usual wear for patients they get while at hospital.

Once Grant was sure the Dark Lord did not intend to continue, he began to speak once more, "They will remain asleep, they've been given a potion, make sure they're kept warm."

"Tish will be doing this," Tish said, nodding her understanding eager to help.

"They will be awake in twelve hours; their stomach won't be able to handle rich greasy foods. Porridge will be the best thing for them, and dry toast." Grant added thoughtfully, it was best to tell them now rather than forget and find the House-elves had made a feast of greasy foods they just wouldn't be able to eat, and if did attempt so they would just end up regurgitating it.

"Yes sir!" Tish chirped eagerly.

"Instruct her on what you wish brought from your home, you will stay here for at least the first few days." Voldemort added, "That will be all." he stated before turning and swiftly leaving the room and the wing itself. There was no point to remaining, they would not waken for a while, and it would probably be longer still before they were in any way coherent enough to listen to him.

Despite the fact he had a lot to do, even after nearly three weeks the urge to enter his office or the training room at this time was day was strong - it was at this time every day that he had taught Harry some of the spells at his arsenal. Yes, some, he had been around a significantly long time, and it would take years upon years, even with him teaching, and Harry being a brilliant student to teach him all he knew. There was no denying he picked up spells with relative ease, especially those of the darker nature. It was annoyingly infuriating how much he missed the boy. His stubborn nature, the fact he argued, challenged him, it had been a long time since anything like that happened and he found himself relishing the moments between them.

He hadn't hesitated for a second in getting Clarence Moran to help Harry achieve his goals. The sooner the boy realized he belonged on his side the better. It had been by far the most difficult thing he'd ever had to do by letting the boy return to Hogwarts. Letting his Horcrux leave the safety of his wards. Yet he had taken Severus' words of warning to heart, he wanted the boy to join him and if it required Dumbledore helping ease the way who was he to deny that? It did give him a sense of feral satisfaction that Dumbledore was digging his own grave. He repeatedly made the same mistakes over and over again; it was as if the old fool didn't learn from his mistakes.

Entering his office, he took his usual seat; oh he knew why Dumbledore had done it. He'd wanted a weak malleable boy to mould into the perfect sacrificial saviour. He'd taken a risk, not wishing Harry to grow into a confident, powerful wizard he would have if grown up in his rightful world. It had backfired, and it amused him to no end, the duplicity of Harry's character was really something. He truly prayed he was there when the boys true character came to light, he would pay a great deal to see the look on the old fools face when he realized his world would come tumbling down around him.

Sighing in exasperation, whether he wanted to kill Harry or not, it seemed as if the boy was constantly on his mind. The worry he had felt for Harry had surprised him that night Umbridge had carved into his flesh. The woman would die, the first opportunity they had he was going to bring her here, let Harry deal with her himself. Seeing Harry at work was truly…breathtaking, he had a way with spells that made his work on traitors seem insignificant. He missed him, even when he was reading quietly in this office.

Scoffing at his absurd thoughts, trying to push Harry out of his mind - which by the way was utterly impossible to do. Lucius would hopefully succeed in creating a false trail for his new identity. Good enough that it would fool even the most intense scrutiny, starting with Durmstrang, old addresses and old jobs mostly abroad, but with money and the right incentive (whether it was manipulation or not) they did as Lucius wanted. Between that and looking for Greyback (who had been found) and his usual duties within the Ministry Lucius had been extremely busy.

He couldn't approach the Ministry with his current looks, even with Dumbledore booted out of the Wizengamot; he would find his way back. So some subtle changes would be required, with Dumbledore's popularity not what it used to be…he might actually be able to stick with the political route this time.

Drawn to the sound of an owl tapping at the window, he arched an eyebrow when he realized that it was Harry's owl. Flicking his wand lazily, he opened the window but the owl did not fly towards him as they usually did. This was the only place the owls could fly to; he had changed them slightly due to his getting in touch with others to gain allegiances. Before standing he knew the owl was evidently not for him. A snort left his lips, Bart, it was obviously for Barty, hmm, perhaps the mail was being watched - or just Harry's which wouldn't surprise him. Dumbledore would be desperate to know where Harry had spent his summer.

He called a house-elf to inform Barty of his…mail. He stared at the owl annoyance creeping into him, along with something he couldn't discern, jealousy maybe; he didn't like it either way.

------------------0

Albus Dumbledore sat in his office, in his hand he held a missive from Gringotts, his blue eyes absent from their twinkle as he once more read the letter for the third time. He was furious, he had no idea how the boy had found out about his inheritance, and he had gone all out to ensure it never happened. He'd planned on the boy being dead before he found out at the age of seventeen where his power of attorney finished and before Harry claimed his Lordship. Not that he would have been the one doing the killing; no Harry would have walked to his own death by the time he was through.

Inhaling sharply, trying to reign in his magic, for so long everything had been going so smoothly, he had been so proud of his accomplishments where it came to Harry Potter. He was exactly where he wanted him, how he wanted him even at the age of eleven. He had seen Voldemort offer Harry a place at his side and saw the boy deny Voldemort even with the threat of death hanging over him. It had filled him with glee; Hagrid had truly done what was expected of him and filled Harry with thoughts that his parents loved him more than life itself. Which they did but Harry had to know so he'd never consider Voldemort at option.

Now in a single summer it had all gone to hell, he wasn't quite sure if he believed that Harry had been going from 'hotel to hotel' like he said, but there had been no sign of him lying either. Pursing his lips, caution crawling up his spine, he must find a way to deal with the boy, without causing too many ripples. He already realized he'd been a bit too hasty in his actions weeks ago. With Minerva's and the Gryffindor Quidditch Teams constant glares and disapproval he had reluctantly taken his word back. Not that it had accomplished anything, from what he understood the boy did not go back to the team. Instead Ginny Weasley had taken over as Seeker and Ronald was the Keeper. He didn't like that at all; the boy and Granger had to win back the boy's friendship. Being busy with Quidditch would absolutely not accomplish that. He'd compelled Granger so hopefully she would succeed on that front.

Pursing his lips, he glared at the letter his hand curling into a fist and causing the expensive parchment to crush in his hand. The unexpected intrusion of Goblins prevented him from getting his masks back up fully. He stood up at full height, his eyes strong and powerful, disapproval written all across his face despite the fact it was useless, the Goblins had never been intimidated by him.

It took all his composure not to move when they started summoning things from all over his office into the goblins waiting hands. He inhaled sharply, as the Potter Grimoire was found in his secret (not so secret now) stash behind the bookcase. The boy knew, he hadn't just taken on the mantel, he'd read the comings and goings of his vaults. Swallowing thickly, trying to regain his composure, seeing Severus standing in the doorway watching the proceedings cautiously helped a great deal in him regaining his bearings.

The goblins spoke in gobbledegook, smirking ferally, they had everything, and just like that the goblins piled out of his office and left without another word.

"Albus?" Severus stated, frowning.

"Come in, Severus," Albus said, his twinkle reappearing but not up to his usual standards. "What is wrong? Have you been summoned?" it was very unusual for Severus to come to his office without being prompted, and never in the morning before classes. Severus was more caustic in the morning so Albus always made sure to meet with him after dinner. He was difficult to deal with as it is without putting up with his personality this early.

"In a manner of speaking," Severus replied with his usual dose of sarcasm.

Albus peered at Severus through his half-moon glasses, "Meaning?" he enquired, reclaiming his seat acting as if nothing had happened.

"I have been summoned by the goblins," Severus revealed, noticing Albus' attention snapping up at that. "I've been summoned to the will reading of Lily,"

It took all of Albus' will power not to react in any way, but he would have been ashamed of himself if he realized the blood had drained from his face, leaving him paler than Severus on a bad day. "I see," Albus said in feigned casually. "When is it?" all the while wondering just why he hadn't received his own, glancing at the pile, perhaps he hadn't gotten to it yet he thought with dread.

"Saturday, at 1 PM," Severus replied, a confused perplexed look on his face, it was to be expected, after all Lily had died a long time ago and he was just now being invited to her will reading. He had already received his things, including a letter that had strengthened his resolve in keeping Harry safe. Ironically enough Lily had said she didn't even care if Harry joined 'You-Know-Who' himself, as long as he was happy and safe it was all she cared about. Reading it had given him Goosebumps, either perhaps she thinking that he would raise Harry to be one or it was just one of those exaggerated statements parents like to make. He wasn't sure which one gave him the most comfort.

"I'll bring it up during the staff meeting, I'm sure we can accommodate some of the teachers leaving for a few hours," Albus informed him.

"Very well, Albus, I must depart, breakfast will begin momentarily," Severus said smoothly, knowing if he lingered it would be terribly out of character. So with a nod, Severus swiftly turned around and walked back out of the office, using his wand to close the door as he did so.

Only once Severus was gone did Albus slump on the chair, his old wrinkled hand wiping down his face wearily. Merlin today had just started but he was already feeling tired and drained. Merlin how had this happened? He asked himself despondently. Reluctantly summoning all letters from Gringotts, a few from his in-pile flew at him, as consternation flowed through him.

The first one was opened hastily, a sigh leaving his lips; will reading, of both Lily and James Potter. He prayed the goblins hadn't revealed his decision to have the will sealed, but he had a feeling that it was exactly what they had done.

Placing the parchment down, he picked up the second letter, expecting it to be the goblins informing him that Harry wanted all his items returned. Instead, he found to his never ending horror, that Harry had closed down all the transfers he had coming out of his accounts. Which means the money for the Dursley's, Doge and Arabella had been stopped. At the moment the Dursley's and Arabella were of no consequence at the moment due to the fact they were missing. Doge however, would understand, he was very easy to manipulate.

Pinching the bridge of his nose, resignedly, there was truly nothing he could do. He could scarcely believe the Potter had threatened the Dursley's with Sirius Black. Perhaps he should have informed them of Black's innocence, it would have prevented them from running, and he would have known about Potter sooner. Cursing Vernon Dursleys lack of spine, he leaned back contemplating what to do next.

He couldn't deny the boy the right to go and attend his parents wills, but he would need to explain himself, cursing Potter to hell and back, he stood up, despite his anger, he placed his genial masks on, it couldn't do to let anyone see him furious. He had too much to deal with as it was, without this coming along.

Without another glance back he left his office, annoyance and worry his most primary emotions. It was time to eat breakfast in the great hall, he wanted to be glad it was Friday, but the knowledge of what tomorrow held - held it at bay.

----------------0

"Harry!" Sirius called into the mirror, sitting on his bed, gazing desperately into the mirror. Despite his wanted status he had received a letter from Gringotts to attend the will reading. To say he had been surprised and horrified to receive it was putting it lightly, he'd thought the damn thing had been read - why wouldn't he? With him in Azkaban it wasn't as if he would have been let out to attend it.

"Harry!" Sirius called out once more, praying that his godson hadn't already went down to breakfast, it meant he'd have to wait like eight hours before he could talk to him.

"Silencio!" was the first thing Sirius heard other than his own voice, causing him to perk up. "Hey, Sirius, what's wrong?" Sirius felt guilty at causing his Godson so much concern, especially with everything he was already going through. He almost wanted to say 'nothing' and let him get on with his day.

"A-ah, did you…um…did you get a letter from Gringotts?" Sirius asked, not very subtle of him.

"About my parents will? I've not been to breakfast yet; I'll get it when I get down there." Harry said, watching surprise fly over Sirius' face much to his amusement.

"But how…you can't be…right?" Sirius stuttered a little flushed.

"Sirius, you're smarter than this, what happened last year?" Harry pointed out, smiling in amusement.

"Voldemort came back," Sirius said immediately.

"Yes, but before?" Harry pointed out, "Think the entire year."

"The tri-wizard tournament," Sirius added he had been so terrified for Harry all year; it wasn't something you tended to forget.

"Yes, unwilling participation or not…I became an adult, in the eyes of magic itself." Harry said, smugly. "You aren't going to try and attend the will reading are you?" he asked giving Sirius a warning look not to lie to him.

"Of course," Sirius blurted out confused as to why Harry would say something like that to him.

"No!" Harry stated sharply, "Promise me you will not go, I mean it Sirius, swear an oath on my parents graves that you will not attend!" he couldn't risk Sirius being captured, not when he was so close to being revealed as a free man. He didn't want to risk Dumbledore giving the Aurors Sirius' location. Dumbledore would do anything that much he knew.

"Why?" Sirius asked, hurt flickering through his eyes.

"Because I don't want you to be captured, just do this for me Sirius, I'll send you anything that's yours, from both mum and dad." Harry soothed away the hurt in Sirius' eyes, already knowing Sirius would do it for him.

"Alright, Harry, for you," Sirius sighed resignedly, understanding the reasoning more than he wanted to. "I swear I won't attend your parents will reading."

"Thanks, Siri," Harry said smiling at him, "You're looking a lot better," he was obvious sleeping better.

"I feel a lot better, that potion…it's bloody amazing, Harry!" Sirius admitted he wasn't overly fond of Potions mostly because of Snape and Slughorn.

"I told you," Harry said smugly. "But your thoughts…?"

"A lot clearer," Sirius said soberly, he hadn't thought this clear since Lily and James had been alive. All his memories had slotted into place, and he wasn't having nightmares about his time in Azkaban so much…and he could swear that his body felt warmer, like his soul had replenished after what the Dementors had done to it. He could feel positive emotions again properly, what he'd felt before had been pale imitations. "Harry I let you down so badly…I was in a dark place but that was no excuse…"

"Dark place?" Harry asked, already knowing, just wondering if Sirius would tell him, he knew because he'd seen it in Barty before the Dementor potions got given to him. He wasn't sure why he even called it a Dementor potion, it was actually a post-Azkaban potion but it was a bit on the long side.

"I never really noticed, you know, before I took the potions," Sirius confessed, being straight with Harry, treating him as an adult, he had been forced to come to the realisation that Harry hadn't been a child for a long while. The abuse…then everything he'd been through in the wizarding world. Scoffing inwardly, yeah, his godson was nowhere near a kid by anyone's standards. "My feelings were sort of dulled, the Dementors didn't half do a number on me, but I can feel things properly again, it's almost overwhelming," he admitted, rubbing his chest as if he could sooth away his intense feelings.

"Guess it sometimes gets a bit too much, huh?" Harry said genuinely feeling a little bit sorry for Sirius. "Have you thought about meditating?" he knew even as he suggested it - it would not happen, Sirius wasn't exactly the sit down and meditate kind. Then again that was before the potion, maybe he might calm down and stop being so foolhardy. He was waiting for Sirius to calm down some more before setting up his next round of manipulations by revealing more of Dumbledore, but obviously he wasn't ready for that.

Harry wasn't ready for the thoughtful look that came on Sirius' face at his suggestion. Maybe, just maybe…there was a chance after all.

"That might help," Sirius said quietly, every Black had been taught meditation, then they stepped it up to Occlumency lessons, but he'd ran before he completed them.

"I have to go, I'm starving," Harry said, "Give it a try alright? I'll talk to you tomorrow afternoon after the will readings,"

"Bye, Harry," Sirius said, watching as his godson disappeared from the mirror, breathing deeply, meditation, huh, well it couldn't hurt. Hopefully he'd be able to meditate with Molly Weasley's grating voice all around him. He would do whatever it took; it shamed him so much that Harry had been the one looking after him since he got out of Azkaban. Worse still it took Harry pointing it out to get through to him. No, it hadn't really been that, it was the potion.

He would do everything he could to prove to Harry he could be a proper godfather. Everyone else could go and screw themselves.

---------------0

Harry joined everyone in the Great Hall, his green eyes gleaming brightly. The broach had finally been given back to Umbridge, he so hoped that he was there the first time it activated. He had spent two weeks on it, so that it was totally undetectable even by Dumbledore, they'd never sense anything from it. The short bursts of magic it emitted fused away after a few minutes stopping it from being detected. He'd also made sure his own magic wouldn't be caught either, the spells were his own making so he was not going to let anyone come to conclusions about him.

Sliding into his seat, he automatically began to plate up his food, true to his words to Sirius - he was absolutely starving, so he quickly devoured his food but kept his table manners thank you very much.

"Harry, I made the Quidditch team! I'm the keeper!" Ron said, his eyes sparkling excitedly, his chest puffed out proudly.

"This doesn't make us friends, but congratulations," Harry said, giving him a genuine smile and patting him on the back unaware of the twinkle that re-emerged from Dumbledore's eyes. "Bit of advice, dry toast only before your first match." old feelings stirred, but he refused to let it deter him. This was Ron's greatest wishes, as was being a prefect, he just wanted to be better than his brothers…well it looked as though he was succeeding somewhat. All you need to do is do better at your course work and get the grades to be an Auror."

Ron swallowed thickly, unlike everyone else he understood what Harry was talking about. The mirror of Erised, his eyes dimmed remembering what Harry had seen. His parents. Something he would never be able to get back. "Thanks mate," Ron croaked out, he'd always thought they'd be friends through thick and thin, now look at them, they might as well be strangers.

"Don't worry about it," Harry said, understanding what Ron was thinking about, and it did warm his heart that Ron could think of someone else other than himself from time to time. He always seemed to make it more about himself than anyone else.

The sudden shrill girlish scream caused everyone to jump, the scream continued, everyone was astonished staring at Delores Umbridge in confusion, some worried but mostly everyone watched her with sadistic amusement, especially those who had been attacked courtesy of her damn blood quill.

"STAY AWAY DISGUSTING CREATURE! I AM DELORES UMBRIDGE! UNDERSECRETARY FOR THE MINISTER OF MAGIC! AWAY I SAY! I'LL HAVE YOU IN AZKABAN IF YOU DON'T DESIST!" Umbridge shrieked, backing away, almost falling down off the teacher's platform, her face was drained of absolutely all colour, the smell of urine and excrement filled the air causing everyone near her to ditch their breakfast and back away from the suddenly crazy woman who had her wand drawn.

"What the hell…" Neville muttered, wide eyed.

"AWAY! AWAY I SAY! HELP ME! HELLLP ME!" Umbridge shrieked looking around at everyone, backing into the wall, one hand raised defensively near her head, the other still pointing her wand, but her entire body shook with terror. "DUMBLEDORE DO SOMETHING! DON'T LET IT GET ME! I'M THE UNDERSECRETARY FOR THE MINISTER!" curling in on herself, trembling as the feral werewolf pawed impossibly closer, she could smell its disgusting breath on her face.

It was too much for her, the terror caused her to pass out.

There was only one person not watching Umbridge as she passed out - Severus Snape. He was gazing shrewdly at Harry, suspecting that he had something to do with it. He had been far too complacent about her actions - especially considering just how vindictive he really was.

Harry smirked ferally for all of a second, and if anyone saw they would simply think they imagined it. After all Harry Potter did not go around smirking ferally, he wasn't evil after all; he was the savour of the wizarding world.

Severus suppressed a smirk of his own as Dumbledore swiftly made his way over to the unconscious witch. Waving his wand, everyone watched with bated breath wondering who had done it…since surely Dumbledore would know within the next few seconds. Yet as the spells continued, they began to realize…maybe, just maybe Dumbledore didn't know. The furrow on his brow gave even more credence to that theory.

Dumbledore sighed in exasperation, wondering what on earth was going on. There wasn't a spell on her, she hadn't ingested anything, nor injected with something. He was quite frankly puzzled, conjuring a stretcher; he decided to leave it up to Poppy to figure out. "Go to classes, come on, chop chop!" he said cheerfully enough, waiting until the students had vacated the Great Hall to go to class before he began to levitate her to the hospital wing.

Chapter Text

Embracing His True Self

Chapter 24

Harry stepped into the Goblin's office, the large round table, that could fit up to…with a rough count of the chairs, thirteen people. He had gone to McGonagall with his letter and she had agreed to let him come, not like she could deny him, he was legally allowed to leave Hogwarts whenever he wanted, also legally obligated to attend the will reading, he was the heir (Lord too), and with that became specific obligations. His retribution on Umbridge didn't prevent the witch from putting up more rules, obviously she'd heard what Granger was thinking off doing and had made it so that extracurricular group activities were banned. The look on Grangers face had been comical, cross between scared, furious and betrayed. He knew better than to think she'd forget about it, once Granger put her mind to something she'd do it, it wasn't his problem though so he shoved those thoughts to the back of his mind, occluding to keep all his thoughts safe as he wandered to the top of the table and sat down.

McGonagall had brought him to Gringotts but since she was not invited to the will reading, she had merely dropped him off inside Gringotts before departing once more. He had seen her giving him concerned glances, he wasn't exactly sure why, because of how quiet he was? He doubted it; she didn't exactly listen to him when he actually spoke to her. He was still furious with her over that, a lot of students were being hurt because of Umbridge. Not just Gryffindors either, he'd spoken to them, urging them to go to their head of houses, but they'd all flat out refused to do so, Harry had told them how to best treat their wounds and left it at that. If they didn't want to do it, then he couldn't exactly force them.

Harry glanced up when the door opened again; he wasn't exactly surprised to see Dumbledore coming through, with Severus following beside him. He narrowed his eyes on Severus suspiciously, hatred flashing through his piercing green eyes, he found it rather difficult to maintain it when Severus sneered at him in turn. If one knew Severus well, you noticed the various degrees in which he sneered, there was a 'derisive sneer', 'I think you're a completely idiot' sneer, and the worst 'I wish I could kill you with a rusty spoon' sneer, this sneer he'd describe as Severus' playful sneer, he doubted Severus would agree with that assessment though.

"Professor Lupin!" Harry called out acting surprised, he hadn't seen nor heard from Remus since his third year at Hogwarts. When he left Harry had hoped that the wizard would stay in touch but he hadn't. Hell, he'd found out from Severus that Sirius and Remus were or at least used to be in a relationship for Merlin's sake.

"It's Remus, Harry," Remus informed the teenager a fond smile on his face as he joined him, sitting beside him, giving both Albus and Severus a nod from where they sat at the opposite side, Severus just blatantly ignored his presence.

"Is it?" Harry asked, staring blankly at him, for as long as he was able since his neck began to crap at being in the same turned position too long.

Remus stared at Harry confused; he didn't understand what Harry was implying. Unfortunately before he could open his mouth to enquire further, Harry had turned away from him, and Augusta Longbottom entered the room. The delicate thin woman was wrapped up in a long fur coat, with a large hat perched upon her head. Aristocracy dripped from her every move, as she took a seat perching herself delicately as she stared straight ahead.

"Good afternoon, Augusta," Albus said, giving the woman a warm greeting.

"Headmaster Dumbledore," Augusta said, giving him a nod.

Harry gazed speculatively at Lady Augusta Longbottom, Neville's grandfather; the epitome of a graceful Pureblood, Harry could have sworn it was a dismissive one. She wasn't fond of Dumbledore; it might be why Neville wasn't a stuttering mess when it came to the old man. He knew she wasn't in the will, but considering he knew what happened to Frank and Alice, she must be there representing them. Either that or she treated everyone with the same cold distain. He sincerely hoped that she at least let Neville know she loved him behind closed doors.

At exactly 1 o'clock Coop, the Goblin Harry had been writing to (only twice and in both times he'd taken Hedwig 'a walk' around Hogwarts and let her go with the letter right at the gates of Hogwarts and watched her fly away himself) just to ensure that nobody ambushed his owl. By anyone he meant Umbridge, he suspected she was intercepting the mail, Hedwig had come back all tussled. Nobody could open the goblins letters; to try was to wish for death, so he hadn't needed to worry about the replies.

"It seems there are quite a few people absent," Coop said, observing the mostly empty room as he claimed the seat at the top of the table, next to Dumbledore and Harry. Placing the box he'd carried in with him. "We shall wait a few more minutes then we will have to move on. The room is only free for one hour." he had already known that, Harry had informed him that mostly everyone wasn't going to be able to come.

"Of course," Albus said, still smarting over the fact the goblins had removed all the books he'd had in his possession for years.

Harry rolled his eyes at Dumbledore trying to be the centre of attention as always. He had no power here and he knew it, but it was amusing to see him try. There was no denying Dumbledore could be dangerous, and he was walking a fine line, especially if Dumbledore found out about him not intending to fight for the light side anymore. He was only alive to defeat Voldemort after all, if Dumbledore thought he was a threat, there was no telling what he would do, probably kill him to prevent Voldemort's immortality and continued existence. He wouldn't stand a chance against a duel with Dumbledore, not yet, it would take him years to match Dumbledore.

Coop, having removed the paperwork from the box, unrolled the will, gearing himself up for it, he hated those things, the sobbing and arguing drove him crazy. Wizard's emotions were so weak, it was pathetic really. When they didn't get what they expected at the will reading and others did, the arguing started. It was why these rooms had dampening wards on them, preventing accidental or not so accidental magic from happening.

"This is the Last Will and Testament of James Potter," the goblin started, "I thereby revoke all my former wills."

Dumbledore tensed, knowing what was coming and mentally preparing himself for it.

"I appoint Albus Dumbledore executor of my will, and gift him one thousand galleons to prove my will,"

"What?" Remus whispered in disbelief, utterly confused, why would it have taken so long for the will to be read if Albus was the executor of the will?

"I give the following monetary gifts free of tax," Coop continued, "To Sirius Black, the contents of vault 232," the Potter's had thoroughly prepared for everything. Putting money into individual vaults and the keys for each vault were stored here for him to hand out. "And this box, and its contents." Coop removed the shrunk chest from the box at the side of him. It was almost as if they had known they'd die.

"I shall tak-" Albus started.

"I will give them to him," Harry spoke over Dumbledore, refusing to let him get his hands on anything his parents had given to Sirius or anyone else for that matter. He took the box and dragged it close to him; he didn't trust Dumbledore to take it regardless of his words. He absently used his fingers to drag the tip of his finger over the JFP; this had been his dad's school trunk.

"I give the following monetary gifts free of tax to Remus Lupin, the contents of vault 233, along with this chest," the goblin slid it magically over to the werewolf, the key gleamed brightly on top of the chest, this one was delicately carved and not a school trunk.

"Thank you," Remus croaked, stroking the chest reverently, his heart hurt, even after all these years, he still missed them. The chest had belonged to Lily; it didn't surprise him that Lily had helped James with his will. She had always been the more responsible one in the partnership, it was a good thing really, and James probably took it for granted that they were safe. Yet Lily probably wanted to have everything prepared just in case and thus the wills came into play.

"To Frank and Alice Longbottom the contents of this chest," the goblin said, levitating said chest towards Augusta Longbottom who didn't even move forward to claim it. There was no denying the raw pain in her eyes when her son and daughter-in-law were mentioned. "To my godson, Neville Longbottom, I give the following monetary gifts free of tax, the contents of 234 to use as he wishes and the letter."

"Wait a minute, why isn't Neville here?" Harry demanded, staring between the goblin and Augusta Longbottom.

"I informed my grandson I would stand in his stead," Augusta stated, her tone sharp and strong despite her old age.

"Informed or ordered?" Harry asked, biting his tongue, he shouldn't be arguing about this.

Coop sighed resignedly, here it goes, the arguing, although surprisingly it wasn't about money.

"How I handle my own grandson has nothing to do with you, Potter," Augusta informed Harry haughtily.

"Everyone can see how you're handling your grandson," Harry scoffed, "We've all heard the tales! You let your grandson be shoved off piers! Thrown out of windows! You won't even let him get his own wand; you're affecting Neville's own magic! Didn't you know that the wand chooses the wizard? It's not you who choose which wand goes where! You are responsible for Neville's underperformance! He would do a lot better than he is now if you just let him get a wand of his own! Because let me tell you this, Neville is better than anyone thinks he is, ten times better than YOU think he is." Harry's face was grim and determined; he meant every word he said.

Augusta stood up, her face blank scooping up the chest and her hat then she turned around and exited the room without further word. Dumbledore was staring at her retreating back utterly stunned, Augusta was one strong fierce woman, and she had left even him nameless a few times. She was one of the women he wouldn't dare antagonise for any reason; quite frankly he'd rather take on Minerva McGonagall. He'd expected Augusta to tear Harry a new one. Considering how the boy was being at the moment, he must admit if only to himself he had been looking forward to it, stepping in when he deemed it a suitable time.

"That was extremely unwise, Harry," Albus admonished the teen with a hint of steel in his voice. He was glad however; to see Harry still had many of his Gryffindor qualities despite what was happening.

Harry ducked down, crossing his arms defensively, looking every bit a contrite young man, who valued the Headmaster's praise and hated being reprimanded. He slunk back into his seat, before reluctantly adding, "Sorry, Headmaster," he replied, no guilt in his voice, if there was one true part of Harry's personality that had shone through - it was he was very defensive of his friends. That had not changed, only those he thought of as friends had.

Coop cleared his throat, "If we may continue," he said baring his teeth in annoyance. "The remainder of my estate in the event of my death I leave to my wife, Lily Potter and son, Harry James Potter."

"In the event of my wife passing after me the entirety goes to my son, Harry James Potter to receive upon his majority or coming of age." Coop added, reading only the relevant information to the group. Coop passed over a similar designed chest like the one Remus received, he had not taken them the day he visited, unlike Severus Snape, who had taken his, well one of them at any rate. That chest had all the keys to his vaults, and other items his father had wished for him to have.

Albus felt his heartbeat shoot up; while James had not mentioned Peter Pettigrew, he knew Lily had, she'd always been an extremely smart and talented witch. When it came to her son she had taken every precaution necessary, including naming who the secret keeper was.

"Thank you," Harry said, accepting them.

"Now, for the Last Will and Testament of Lily Potter nee Evans, who Albus Dumbledore was also appointed as executor of the Potter estate."

"Upon the event of my death, should my husband, James Potter be unable to perform his duties as a father, I give custody of my son to his godfathers Sirius Black and Frank Longbottom, and godmother Alice Longbottom, if for whatever reason are unable to perform their duties, the following list of people will be the only ones my son will live with. The list consisted of one person, Severus Tobias Snape."

Harry's eyes widened comically, staring at the goblin unable to believe his ears, shaking them as if he was hearing some sort of static white noise. His cheeks were getting steadily redder each passing second.

"Under no circumstances is my son to be left with Petunia Dursley nee Evans,"

Harry's hands balled into fists, this one was no act, he was still furious over the fact Dumbledore had known both his parents wills and utterly ignored his mother's wishes. He should never have gone to the Dursley's; he should never have grown up abused, unwanted. As much of a hard ass Severus had been in the beginning, he had no doubt that Severus would have raised him right. May have taken a while to warm up to him for sure, but he would have been raised by a man who cared about his mum. He would have grown up smart, powerful, aware of his world and entered Hogwarts with confidence.

Glancing up at Dumbledore allowing the betrayal he still felt to shine through, carefully concealing the hatred he felt for the old man. He wrenched his gaze away before Dumbledore tried any funny business, he didn't want to test his Occlumency walls right now, not when he was feeling so emotional.

"I leave the contents of vault 200 to my son, Harry James Potter," Coop intoned, handing a folder to Harry, with letters from his mother and the key to his vault inside. "To Severus Snape, I leave the trove to you," once more items levitated over, it was merely a transfigured empty box, per Harry's demand, and apparently they did not want Dumbledore to know Severus had been at Gringotts with Harry weeks ago. He had no problem doing this, and he had to admit, the acting going on today was exemplary. Normally he couldn't stand those displays, but he was genuinely enjoying himself, he hated Dumbledore. His constant condescending attitude was grating, every goblin would agree.

"This is for Remus Lupin," another chest floated towards Remus, who took it delicately as if it was the most expensive treasure in the world.

"I assume you wish for Sirius Black's item?" Coop queried, staring directly at Harry.

"Yes," Harry answered immediately, accepting the box from the goblin. He would give them to Remus as long as he promised to give them straight to Sirius after the will reading - he would know since he planned on going straight back to Hogwarts and informing Sirius all about what happened.

"If we are dead, the responsibility belongs to Peter Pettigrew, who is our Secret Keeper, should the Secret Keeper change at any time, this will, would have been edited. Sirius Black has served himself as a decoy to keep James, myself and our son safe from those after him. An official note is to be handed into the Ministry of magic, as well as to Amelia Bones and Alastor Moody respectively." Coop drawled, finally finished - and it was a good job, since the room was needed in less than five minutes.

"W-w-who is the signatories of the will?" Remus croaked amber eyes alit ferally.

"Frank and Alice Longbottom," Coop said, watching Remus buckle under some sort of invisible strain only once that happened did Coop add… "And Albus Dumbledore."

Remus let out an inhumane growl, his amber eyes flashing furiously as he turned on Dumbledore looking ready to tear him to pieces.

Harry noticed that Severus had paled drastically, no doubt remembering what had happened when he was a teen. While Severus knew he could defend himself, some scars just ran too deep, Harry knew that as well. "Come with me, come on Remus," Harry said, urging the furious werewolf up, "That's it, easy, take back control, you can do it, you're strong." rubbing his back as he continued to guide him out of the room, everything they'd been given floating behind them.

Dumbledore told himself it was Remus, not Harry who was doing it - after all, it was a warded room it shouldn't have been possible. Remus was the one furious enough to do it, yes, it was him.

"Are you feeling better?" Harry asked him as soon as they were breathing fresh air outside of Gringotts. Plucking his things out of the air, he shrank them and slid them into his cloak pocket; he would deal with it later. He however, kept a hold of Sirius' things, planning on giving them to Remus. "Look I probably don't have long before Dumbledore comes back out…are you alright?"

"Did you just call him Dumbledore?" Remus said blankly, looking caught between amused and confused.

"It's far too busy to discuss that; can you do something for me?" Harry asked, staring intently at Remus.

"Of course," Remus said as if Harry had to ask.

"Go straight to Sirius, give him these, I'll be talking to him in less than half an hour so I'll know if he doesn't have them by then, please?" Harry said, not giving them over just yet.

"Sure," Remus said still slightly dazed, accepting the items.

"Go," Harry stated his tone becoming darker, seeing Dumbledore quickly making his way over. "GO!" he hissed quietly, but urgently.

Remus then disappeared with a pop, leaving Harry on his own to deal with Dumbledore.

"Come, Mr. Potter, we must return to Hogwarts," Albus said glancing around worriedly as if he expected Voldemort to pop up and begin cursing everyone. Now wasn't the time for Harry's death as relieving as that would be now that so much had gotten out - information he hadn't expected to get out - ever.

Harry allowed himself to be side-long Apparated by Dumbledore; he had to get away from the old man before he lost it though. He was seconds away from saying things that he knew would blow a lid on all he wanted to keep hidden - keep secret.

As soon as they landed, Harry took off, ignoring the Headmaster calling for him.

"Let him go, Albus," Severus stated, watching the boy run, knowing or heavily suspecting the real reason. "The brat needs to deal with it before the weekend is over." unable to sneer fully, but Dumbledore would no doubt chalk it up to the fact his own emotions were all over the place with the mention of Lily.

Albus turned to stare at Severus, only to watch Severus' wince in agony, trying and failing to stifle his reaction to the Dark Mark burning. "Go, be safe, Severus," Albus urged him, turning swiftly and returning to the school, hopefully when he returned it would be with news he could use. He needed to catch Tom in the act, but he realized it was probably Tom being furious that his followers had died in Azkaban. Hopefully, he wouldn't go too far in his punishment, he needed Severus after all.

He despondently and disappointedly made his way up to his office, neither Lily or James had left anything for the Orders continued fight against Voldemort and the Death Eaters. They'd also not left anything for him either, he had expected them to add a clause or two after he signed it, despite it not being strictly ethical, many people did due to the fact they did not want the signatories knowing what they were getting. Money was getting tighter where the Order was concerned, he hated having to dip into his own money.

Chapter Text

Embracing His True Self

Chapter 25

Harry ran as fast as he could, probably looking like a bat out of hell, not that he cared truly. He just wanted to get to his dorm, and use that time getting there to try and exhaust himself enough that his magic wouldn't explode because of his feelings. Even Occlumency wasn't helping his state right now, oh he'd known most of the things Dumbledore had done to him, and he wasn't by any means stupid. He had also read the will and known, but until it was said out loud his anger had been just simmering under the surface just looking for a reason to come out. The will reading and the fact the goblins had said the damned words out loud had obviously been the straw that broke the camels back.

His legs began to strain as he made his way up the stairs, level after level not even bothering to stop - not even when his breath was coming out in pants. He only skidded to a stop and almost bowled over, hands on his knees he rasped out the password, his voice coming out weird due to his inability to breathe normally. The portrait opened, and Harry weakly and on shaking legs stumbled into the common room, using everything he could get his hands on to help keep himself upright, perhaps it hadn't been the best idea, but his magic was no longer feeling ready to explode any given moment.

The stairs he went up this time, he went up one at a time, pausing briefly to inhale sharply and breathe out, and then taking another step until eventually he was on the landing to the dorms. Opening the door to his dorm, glad to see it was completely empty, which of course it would be, nobody spent their weekend in the dorm. Closing the door behind him, he gratefully sat down his entire body sagging in relief at the respite.

Before his body could stiffen completely, he summoned Sirius' mirror, and put a muffling spell around his bed, it was much better than a silencing spell. Well, of course it was, people can read your lips under a silencing spell, but Muffliato was full proof. "Sirius," Harry murmured, his breathing was now getting back to some semblance of normality. His screen glowed blue indicating that the mirror had alerted Sirius that he wanted him in the second mirror he had.

A frown began to appear on his face as the seconds ticked by; he couldn't say he was overly surprised. Sirius was probably going nuts right about now if Remus had already told him. Considering how furious Remus had been, there was no way he had subtlety told him. Nor was he probably able to calm him down, he would just have to wait until Sirius calmed marginally and remembered the mirror. It would be beside him, of that Harry had no doubt, he'd probably been waiting on him coming back from the will reading but Remus will have thrown that in a loop.

Laying the mirror on the middle of his bed, Harry reluctantly got up and moved over to the table in the corner of the room against the wall containing glasses and a large pitcher of water. Pouring himself one, he downed it in a two gulps before pouring himself another before replacing the pitcher and going back to his bed. His parched throat sated temporarily, idly wondering if Umbridge had had a second 'episode' yet. He had made it so it was completely random so nobody could be accused of doing it to her. He rather hoped not to miss an episode, but he didn't want to risk having it activate with his own magic so he'd made it random.

Drinking the glass he absently levitated it back to its spot, trying to decide on what book to read since he had time to pass - which wasn't true as at that moment Sirius' face appeared on the mirror, and unlike the other times they'd spoken Sirius wasn't happy or excited. He was red faced, furious and his nostrils kept flaring as if he was about to lose all control.

"Harry," Sirius said, his voice strained.

"Hey, Siri, are you alright?" Harry asked, picking up the mirror so his face was showing not the canopy above his bed.

"I'm fine," Sirius said, trying to smile but it came out as a grimace.

"Siri, I'm not a five year old boy who needs protecting, I'm nearly an adult, I feel like one too," Harry pointed out, "You're also an exceedingly very bad liar."

Sirius let out a bark of laughter, genuine amusement lighting up his eyes as he stared bemused. "That I am, there's only one thing I really could keep a secret, something I'm sure Remus is grateful for." he had never been able to keep anything from his friends, they'd saw right through him and obviously his godson could as well.

"Yes, I'd say so," Harry said wryly, grinning in amusement, Remus wouldn't have remained at school if the students had found out about the fact he was a werewolf - not even Dumbledore would have been able to keep him there - the pureblood's would have dragged their kids out and the Ministry would have had to interfere. Possibly with the threat of 'putting him down before he harmed the students'.

Sirius just grimaced again, looking very torn and Harry genuinely felt sorry for him.

"What are you going to do, Siri?" Harry asked he wouldn't like to be in Sirius' position right now. He could hear cluttering in the background, it sounded like cups or something, and obviously Remus was still there.

"I don't know," Sirius managed to say, obviously taking Harry's words to heart to treat him like an adult.

"Sirius…close off Grimmauld Place, don't let Dumbledore continue to use you…not after this…" Harry suggested, "He knew this whole time, he let you rot in Azkaban…for what? So he could put me at the Dursley's? So I could grow up abused?"

"Why would you think such a thing?" Remus asked, sounding perplexed, as if he didn't quite believe Harry.

"Don't you know what happened that night before you turned tail and hid in a hole for twelve years?" Harry snapped out in annoyance. "Despite having a best friend, a lover who needed you? Or how about a child who had just lost everything in a single night? You know I have more respect for Pettigrew than I do for you. At least he stood up for what he obviously believes in…whether he was wrong or not doesn't come into it."

Sirius gaped at Harry in shock, his eyes abnormally large, and Harry couldn't help but wonder what had caused it. The fact he knew they used to date? Or the fact he'd just said he respected Pettigrew? Or maybe a combination of the fact he'd called Remus a coward and everything else on top of it.

"Then I'll inform you of exactly what happened, my parents were killed, Sirius shows up, presumably comforts me since Hagrid took me from his arms, and I was transported to Privet Drive with Hagrid in a flying motorcycle. I was taken to Privet Drive twenty-four hours BEFORE Sirius was arrested, when he was my godfather and magical guardian. Dumbledore then dumped me on the doorstep and left, I was found the next day by my Aunt when she put the empty milk container out. Shortly afterwards he had the wills closed as 'executor of the estate' ensuring that Sirius would not go free and I would not gain a magical guardian so I would grow up completely oblivious about my status in the magical world supposedly Dumbledore wanted to ensure I didn't get a fat head." Harry informed them, if this didn't get them away from Dumbledore and the bloody Order nothing would. Harry knew if they stayed with Dumbledore now…he would lose Sirius, no amount of manipulation would help if Sirius could stay on the light side after what Dumbledore did. "He knew when he sent you to Grimmauld Place to 'keep you safe'; also ensuring he had control over you and me."

Sirius swallowed thickly, his shoulders hunching as he was forced to hear what he had just learned from his godson in such a matter of fact way. He was still reeling; the anger had faded by the time he picked up the mirror now a profound sense of betrayal and hurt was thrumming through him. Wondering what he had done to deserve twelve years in Azkaban…why the Headmaster had abandoned him and none of it had made sense until now…until Harry spoke.

Remus himself wasn't fairing any better, the guilt he had been feeling since Harry spoke of seeing Peter Pettigrew on the map and coming to the conclusion that Sirius could be innocent. He had denied it and better denied it until he had been forced to face the knowledge when he saw Pettigrew on the map, right next to Sirius. The worst of it after transforming back from his wolf form, he'd been exhausted for days and forced to face everything as all he'd been able to do was lie down and think. It had been steadily worse seeing Sirius again, all the apologising in the world would not, and could not make the guilt go away; he should know he was living it. To hear Harry practically call him a coward and have more respect for Pettigrew by Merlin it felt as if he was being ripped to pieces. The underlying knowledge that Dumbledore had set this all up, Dumbledore of all people, a man who he felt immense loyalty to for allowing him to attend Hogwarts had completely ripped his life apart. Had stolen twelve years of Sirius' life…had given Harry to a family where he was abused, and sent him back continuously, Remus knocked back the entire contents of whiskey in his glass, the burn was appreciated for only a second as it forced his thoughts on that instead of everything.

"I can't close Grimmauld Place…the Order…" Sirius whispered, "They're going to help you, they're needed,"

"You think I'm going to join the Order?" Harry asked, forcing a curious look on his face.

"You're not?" Sirius asked take aback.

"No," Harry revealed honestly, "It's what painted a target on my parents back, I will never trust Dumbledore again, not after this," he successfully choked out the words as if it was killing him to admit it, if this got back to Dumbledore he had to make sure that he could claim he was just 'emotional' and 'not thinking straight'. As much as it pained him - only slightly mind - he didn't trust either man one hundred percent, so he wasn't going to reveal anything they didn't already know. Especially not his loyalties or the lack of them in Dumbledore.

"You will need help to defeat Voldemort," Sirius told him calmly, as if he had come to a decision.

"Why do you think I must do it?" Harry asked blankly, "I'm not the only one who's lost parents to Voldemort during the war." protesting heavily. "Stop thinking of me and what must be done or has to bloody happen. I will not be joining the Order, I won't be coming to where you are, and so what you do is up to you. I'm not even going to bother trying to convince you, but come tomorrow you'll be getting a trial, mum made sure everyone knew who the real secret keeper was, then you'll be free to do whatever you like. Considering your words, if Dumbledore told you I have to go back to the Dursley's you'd just accept it - when it comes down to it, you'll always put Dumbledore above me…just like my friends." Harry said, not that the Dursley's would ever be seen or heard from again - no need to tell anyone that titbit - it would keep Dumbledore distracted looking for them. He didn't even wait for Sirius to protest he just murmured "Deactivate." the urge to smash the mirror against the wall was strong, but he didn't, he put the mirror in the drawer and used Parselscript to lock it, preventing anyone from getting at it. It was up to them now; he'd done all he could to make them see Dumbledore for what he was. A disgusting master manipulator that did whatever he wanted and used the excuse 'for the greater good'.

Sighing softly, he slumped back against his pillows, life at Hogwarts was just bloody tedious, it always had been but for some reason this year was the worst. Perhaps because he'd had a slice of what life could be like, even if it was with Voldemort. He certainly wouldn't have been Harry's first thought when it came to having a life without the Dursley's in it, but hey, he definitely wasn't complaining with the outcome.

He almost jumped out of his skin when the door opened so suddenly and Neville was standing there, talking, but he couldn't hear him over the muffling spell. Using his wand this time, he undid it and said, "Can you repeat that?"

"What did you say to my Gran?" Neville asked, his tone wasn't demanding in fact he was very confused and a little bit elated.

"Oh," Harry murmured moving until he was sitting on the edge of the bed, his feet on the ground. "Did I get you in trouble?" Neville knew enough occlumency that his immediate thoughts weren't coming in loud and clear to even him - a proficient Legilimens - which meant he was either a natural or he had learned it before coming to Hogwarts. Harry was one to bet that it was entirely natural; Neville was too emotional to maintain the necessary calmness that one needs to erect Occlumency barriers. It was obviously something that purebloods were taught before entering the school, since mostly all the Slytherin's had barriers on their minds too.

"No, no, but what did you say?" Neville queried again, desperate to know.

Harry winced, "Alright, alright, I'll tell you." he replied, "I may have told her she was responsible for you not being able to use magic correctly."

"But how? It's not as if she put a block on my magic, which is illegal by the way." Neville pointed out, believing that was the only way to affect ones magic.

"I certainly didn't imply anything like that," Harry protested, "No I just told her by giving you your fathers wand she was completely derailing your magical progress. The wand isn't right for you; even Ron was able to work his second hand wand better than you could. Ron got better at magic with his second wand; you don't have a wand that is right for you, Neville. I mean…when I went to Ollivander's he said the wand chooses the wizard, not that this particular wand finds you lacking, it's just the magical core inside just isn't a good fit for you. I also told her that you were ten times better than she thought you were."

Neville swallowed thickly, nobody had ever had confidence in him, he didn't even have any confidence in himself, yet those words…a longing desire to prove himself to Harry emerged so fiercely. "S-she's going to get me a new wand."

"Good, I'm glad to hear that, at least something came out of it," Harry said smiling a little, "Did you know we were god-brothers, Nev?"

"W-what?" Neville said eyes extraordinary large as he stared in disbelief.

"My parents were your godparents, your parents were my godparents," Harry explained, something inside of him giving in relief that Neville hadn't kept that information from him for four years. It probably wasn't exactly wise to befriend Neville, especially considering he'd be considered a traitor when it became obvious he had no intention of fighting in the war. No intention of killing Voldemort or stopping him taking over. The magical world was pathetic, and he honestly wanted to see what changes Voldemort would bring - surely anything was better than the way it was now?

"I-I never knew that," Neville whispered, betrayal thrumming through him, another thing his Gran continued to keep from him just because she thought he was a failure as wizard. He remembered the looks he'd got from her before he performed magic, and to this day it affected him. Nothing he did was ever good enough; she always looked down on him so when the letter came he had been so surprised.

"I didn't either," Harry informed him, "It wasn't until I went to Gringotts for the will reading of my parents, and they left you something,"

"Oh," Neville said awkwardly, "My parents…well, they're not dead…"

As much as Harry wanted to lie and conceal the fact he already knew about Neville's parents, he didn't, instead he told the boy the truth. "I already know, Nev, Dumbledore left his pensive lying out…I didn't know what it was of course," he lied, with regret; he had known what a pensive was. "I saw the trial, I know what happened to your parents, and I'm sorry I didn't say anything sooner, but you obviously had a reason for not wanting anyone to know so I respected your wish and carried on as if I didn't know." he also silent apologised for being friends with one of the people responsible for Frank and Alice's torture. Perhaps it was best to distance himself from Neville; Neville would find it a huge betrayal. Surprisingly what the Lestranges had done hadn't been in the newspaper.

"We're doing some homework in the common room, would you like to come?" Neville said, abruptly remembering why he had come up the stairs, to begin with - before receiving the letter - a book he'd forgotten to pack this morning.

"No, I need some time to myself," Harry replied honestly, and he knew Neville would understand.

"Alright, will I see you at dinner?" Neville asked, understanding how overwhelming it could be, Harry like him had no real memories of his parents. Visiting them in St. Mungo's just wasn't the same, he was just constantly reminded of what he lost, but it was the only way he could see them that and he knew his Gran wouldn't react well if he told her he didn't want to go. It just wasn't worth it, so he just persevered as always.

"Probably," Harry sighed, rubbing his eyes tiredly, feeling a little conflicted.

"Alright, I'll see you at dinner," Neville murmured, quickly grabbing the book from his trunk before hastily leaving the room - giving Harry time to himself - something he obviously desperately desired.

Upon touching the Dark Mark, Severus was transported to the Dark Lord's side, which at the moment was his office. The mark as soon as he was in His presence stopped the annoying twinges. He was being called more often now than he had all summer, ironic really, but the Order had been out in full force trying to locate Harry, all the while his Lord had been trying to convince Harry to join his side, and kept him hidden away from even the elite. Although really, he didn't think Harry had needed much convincing. He wasn't alone with the Dark Lord he realized, Pettigrew was there, standing snivelling as he always was, and Severus' lip unconsciously curled, how he hated the loathsome traitorous rat, and couldn't wait until the Dark Lord tired of him and he could finally torture and kill him - with Harry's help no doubt.

"My Lord," Severus said, bowing his head respectfully but remained standing. "Dumbledore is unfortunately, aware that I was called, he was with me when you summoned me. We had just returned from the will reading."

Voldemort faced Severus and nodded curtly, before turning to face Wormtail again, "Leave!" he snapped, the only reason he had called the disgusting pathetic wizard was to summon Severus not listen to his snivelling voice.

"Yes, your lordship," Pettigrew said bowing low, so low in fact his face came into contact with the floor before he quickly wobbled away, his entire body shaking as if he had just been under the Cruciatus curse, he hadn't been, it was just his usual countenance.

"I want you to brew these potions," Voldemort stated, removing a list from his desk and handing it over to Severus.

"When do you require them, My Lord?" Severus asked, knowing better than to think it was a suggestion, it was an order.

"You will brew them here," Voldemort informed him; already knowing Severus would prefer to return to Hogwarts to brew them. "I will give you a time-turner so you do not need to explain your long absence."

"Of course," Severus replied, his eyes glancing over the list, hearing the words time-turner had made him wonder how many potions and how long he'd be there. Fortunately for him he knew he could brew at least four at a time, maybe three with a few of the potions on the list that require near constant supervision. "I have the results of the tests you requested that I run." he added, remembering the paperwork he had been carrying around in his concealed cloak pocket for the past few days for when he was called - which he had been of course.

"Sit," Voldemort demanded immediately, his hand barely twitching as he summoned a chair from the corner of the room, if zoomed over slowing to a stop right next to Severus who did indeed take a seat, as he began to remove parchment from his pocket. "What have you observed so far?" he demanded accepting the paperwork surprised by the work Severus had put into it, he'd gone back further than he anticipated he thought as he looked over the family trees.

"That nine of the Muggle-born students have at least one magical ancestor often time two, the information I gathered regarding the names I found seemed to indicate that they were squibs who were presumably thrust into the Muggle world as soon as it became apparent that they were not magical." Severus explained, "If there are names of wizards in the other family trees they aren't ones I am familiar with, perhaps you or Nott might have more luck with them."

"You tested only known Muggle-born's?" Voldemort questioned him glancing up from the paperwork in front of him but he knew as he asked that Severus would have been thorough.

"That is correct." Severus nodded once, "There is quite a surprise in Hermione Granger's results, apparently Armand Malfoy was not the sole heir to the family, they had another son, Barnaby Malfoy, who was presumably a squib and disowned." Severus explained sounding greatly amused. "I had to refrain from showing Lucius what I had discovered." he chuckled dryly, surprising himself, he never ever let his guard down around the Dark Lord…and he just had.

"Armand was the first of the Malfoy's to arrive in Britain, I assume the son had been disowned as they settled," Voldemort stated thoughtfully, remembering Abraxas revealing parts of his history while they were at Hogwarts. Severus had gone quite far back, 1066 was when Armand Malfoy had come to Britain, it had taken a long time for magic to come back into the family, but if they all married Muggles with no magical ancestors then it made sense. His eyes skimmed over the magical tree, wondering if both parents had squib ancestors. He found himself wishing to investigate further; long lost pureblood names could be renewed. Magic could actually flourish again, there was only twenty families left that could say they were 'pureblood's' and most of them were pathetic, Crabbe and Goyle being a prime example, and look at what had happened to the Black family in a few decades. There was only one heir left, if Black didn't have an heir the Black line would be next to go.

"Yes, I believe Lucius has no idea of this titbit of information," Severus replied, the family tapestry was hand woven, if he hadn't been put on it, it could be very well that even Armand hadn't known about his sibling.

"Crouch will help you with the potions if you require it?" Voldemort suggested, arching an eyebrow at his Potions Master, actually asking a question.

"I will be fine, thank you, My Lord," Severus stated immediately, he didn't like people breathing over his shoulder as he worked, as helpful as Crouch would be he didn't want to end up being there past midnight. If there was a single accident then he most definitely would be.

"Use my potions lab, it will open for you, everything you need will be down there," Voldemort stated, refraining from smirking at the gobsmacked look on his spy's face.

"Yes, My Lord," Severus stated gathering his momentarily scattered composure before standing, giving another nod before swiftly exiting the office, closing the door behind himself and making his way to where he knew the Dark Lord's potions lab was. It was in the wing that absolutely nobody got to go to, not without permission, in fact it was the same wing that Harry had been in, had a bedroom in.

Voldemort's eyes carefully roamed over each of the family trees that Severus had brought him. Slightly amazed that he had so successfully managed to get fifteen Muggle-born's blood from them without alerting them. This Hermione Granger was truly the great-great-great granddaughter of a Malfoy. There hadn't been a female Malfoy in ever, it had been Narcissa's wish to have a daughter, but they'd barely been able to have Draco, it was just too dangerous for her to have another child and Lucius did not want to lose her.

Each family tree uncovered the same thing, all at different times, so there was no set limit to how long it took for magic to re-emerge in certain lines. None of them were quite as impressive as the bloodlines that ran through Harry's veins though but still, the boy was correct. He recognized the names of fourteen wizards, but the fifteenth one remained a mystery for now. He would get to the bottom of it. It was no coincidence that they all had a magical ancestor.

Pursing his lips he leaned back gazing blankly at the parchment in front of him. He had always assumed the Muggle-born's were pathetic, a waste of air, admittedly his belief came from Salazar Slytherin, and the desire to finish what his ancestor had started. They were destroying everything, because of the Muggle loving wizards they no longer celebrated the pagan rites, Yule had become Christmas and they no longer celebrated the solstices and that was just the tip of the iceberg. The fact the proportion of Muggle-born's were on the rise while pureblood's declined also annoyed him. He'd wanted rid of Muggle-born's as well as the sympathisers. Why hadn't he killed Harry again? He thought completely vexed. He did not like questioning the beliefs he'd held for sixty years nearly. Part of him had hoped Severus would tell him the opposite of what he just had. Damn the brat, he thought grouchily, as he had to admit defeat.

He sat up at abruptly when he felt the wards twinge; it appeared as if Fenrir Greyback had at long last arrived. With a wave of his hand everything regarding the tests he'd had done on Muggle-born's flew into the drawer and closed. It was time to talk to his Alpha werewolf; soon he hoped to have the creatures all on his side.

Chapter Text

Embracing His True Self

Chapter 26

Harry stared down at the note that one of the second year Gryffindors had given him - from Dumbledore - just after sitting down for breakfast, a curious mixture of feelings brewing within him. Not even twenty-four hours had passed since the will reading, it was Sunday morning, yet Dumbledore couldn’t leave well enough alone. Was he going to try and explain himself? Had Dumbledore already spoken to Sirius and Remus? Had they betrayed him? They usually did parrot everything he said or wrote back to the old man, but Sirius had insisted it was truly out of concern. If they had gone and repeated what he said at Dumbledore then he was through with the pair of them, he wouldn’t be able to trust them again. Although a biting voice in his head reminded him that they might not want anything to do with him because of his reluctance to fight for the ‘good of the magical world’ Merlin help him he didn’t want to fight, he just wanted to create his own potions and spells and be left alone and not expected to deal with a wizard who had sixty years more magical knowledge than him. Voldemort was fine with that, oh who was he kidding? Voldemort actually wanted him on his side; he could see that clear as day. He would be satisfied with Harry being neutral though, of that he was sure.

Shaking his thoughts off, there was no point to wondering, he would find out soon enough since he was to go after breakfast. Rubbing his eyes tiredly, he’d spent the rest of the day yesterday refreshing his knowledge on all subjects OWLS test related. Just in case he missed anything during the reading he’d done this summer. Hell he had been reading NEWTS material and more but between classes, homework, his actual OWLS exams and getting last minute revision done he wasn’t getting much sleep.

Folding it up, he put it in his pocket before he began to eat his breakfast sedately, taking his time as much as he’d love to put it off he knew he couldn’t outright ignore Dumbledore’s summons he was the Headmaster after all. Glancing around the hall, idly noticing that Umbridge was once again back on her feet, a little cowed but not enough for his tastes even scared she managed to pull of a haughty attitude from where she sat lording over the table as if she owed it. Grimacing in distaste, his eyes sought out those in Slytherin, Merlin help him but they were getting worse, each day that passed, and her little squad was making everyone’s lives hell. Draco was trying his hardest to make his life worse as well, but he wasn’t succeeding which just pushed him to make it worse. It wasn’t just Umbridge that was giving him detention but Malfoy was as well, and for made up offences, with Umbridge out of it he’d been serving with Severus or McGonagall even Filch once.

He had a feeling it would all start back up again, clenching his fist, the words were barely visible, but still there and he loathed the sight of them. Clenching and unclenching his fist, while the detentions weren’t brothering him overly much pain wise, he was just tired of being the constant target everyone picks. Was it too much to ask that for once he wasn’t forced to endure something happening at Hogwarts? Just to have a good year without anything going wrong in his life?

“Up for a game of chess later, Harry?” Neville asked after swallowing his food, he wasn’t Ron thank you very much, even with Hermione’s complaints and admonishing he still hadn’t changed in four years.

“I have to go see the Headmaster right after breakfast,” Harry informed him shaking his head, wiping his mouth with his napkin where residue from his scrambled egg had run down his chin. Knowing Dumbledore he’d be there for at least an hour while he tried to manipulate him.

“I mean after lunch, Gran’s coming in a few minutes to take me to get a wand instead of waiting until Hogsmeade weekend or the holidays,” Neville said, puffing out with a grin. His Gran had written to Professor McGonagall and gotten the permission slip for her to take him out of school for the day. He wasn’t sure what had changed her mind so quickly that she’d written a letter then another a few hours later but he wasn’t complaining. If what Harry said was right…he might not be so useless after all…it might have been the wand that made him unable to do many spells right.

“Sure,” Harry agreed, picking up another piece of toast, “After lunch then,” he could get some reading done in-between.

“Great!” Neville replied, “You don’t mind if Luna comes do you?” here he added that hesitatingly, a red flush appearing on his face.

“Not at all,” Harry answered, as long as she wasn’t like everyone else, mocking him because he’d told the truth of Voldemort being back. Neville fancied her; it was obvious by the way just mentioning her name caused him to blush like that. He wondered if Luna already knew or if Neville didn’t have the confidence to ask her. He would need to find out, see what he could do about it, and make sure Luna felt the same; he didn’t want to embarrass Neville but help him.

Ron chewed on his bottom lip that was something he and Harry usually did at the weekend, play chess. It was one of the few things he was better at Harry at. Despite the fact he always bet Harry at the game, they still played, Harry was much better than he’d been when he was eleven and playing for the first time though. Not having Harry as his best friend was awful, hanging around with Seamus and Dean just wasn’t the same, he felt like an outsider most times since when they joked or reminiscent on past occasions he hadn’t been there to really understand their amusement. “Harry?” Ron finally said, his breakfast finished, already nabbing a few things from the table to eat a second helping.

“What is it?” Harry asked, turning to Ron.

Ron relaxed a little, he’d honestly half expected Harry to ignore him, “W-would you like to fly after dinner? You know…maybe help me for my first game?” he was extremely nervous about it, but he really wanted to do well.

Harry grinned, Ron was acting like he had at the age of eleven, honestly, and you wouldn’t think Ron had grown up with the sport the way he was acting. “You want me to throw a Quaffle at you repeatedly?”

Ron gulped audibly, “Er…yes?” not sure if he should be agreeing…Harry was mad at him still. He probably deserved it; he had listened to Hermione and Dumbledore and ignored him.

“What do you think, Neville? Should I help him?” Harry said turning to the teen that looked as though he’d been caught in the headlights.

Neville shrugged, he honesty didn’t want to get in-between them although Harry did look as if he was just kidding around. “Depends do you want Gryffindor to win the Quidditch cup?” he bravely said.

Harry laughed, “Alright, Ron, I’ll help you, do you have permission from McGonagall to practice?”

“Professor McGonagall,” Hermione reprimanded unable to stop herself.

She was promptly ignored by the three conversing wizards.

“That’s only for when the whole teams practicing, I checked,” Ron confessed blushing red, “We can play anywhere really,” he just wanted to practice.

“You probably should get permission to use the pitch though,” Harry commented idly, glancing at the teachers table to make sure they were all still sitting. They all were, with one notable exception, Dumbledore was already gone. “You know what will happen if Umbridge catches us without permission.” he didn’t relish getting another detention, at least not for another fortnight by then he should be through with his OWLS or close to it.

“Good point,” Ron admitted his brow furrowed as he thought about their newest Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher. Who would have thought they could hate anyone more than Quirrell or Lockhart? Hell even Moody was better than Umbridge and they’d been taught by a lunatic all year. Not getting to use magic in defence classes sucked, practical classes were always the best, hands down, which Professor Lupin did a lot of during their third year. “I’ll speak to her after breakfast.” he decided, he didn’t want Harry mad at him again like he had been after their first Defence class.

“Alright,” Harry nodded before finishing the remains of his now cold breakfast, wiping his face again before placing the cutlery down and the cloth napkin went on top. There was nothing else he could do now to stall the inevitable meeting between him and Dumbledore. Surely it was unethical to call up students to your office all the time, when it rarely ever had anything to do with school. Scowling at the thought of the oncoming event, he murmured quietly to Neville, “I’ll see you later,” with that Harry left the Great Hall not even waiting on Neville’s reply, ignoring the looks he could feel boring into his back.

Harry didn’t meet anyone wandering the halls as he ambled towards the Headmaster’s office, looking for all the world as if he was merely taking a stroll around the school.

“Fizzing Whizbee,” Harry stated confidently as he finally reached the Headmaster’s office, the password had been written down on the letter under post-script, he couldn’t be anymore obvious about it, how nobody had snuck in and killed Dumbledore in his own office yet he had no idea. Once the gargoyle had stopped moving, Harry stepped on and casually made his way up, until he was right in front of the large oak door with the lion handle.

Knocking only once on the door, knowing Dumbledore liked to call out after the second knock, he always knew who was knocking, between the portraits that constantly reported to him and the spell on his door, there was nothing mysterious about it. Harry pursed his lips in amusement when after a few seconds pause when it became clear he wouldn’t knock again, Dumbledore’s voice called for him to “Come in, Harry!” his voice slightly confused. He obviously wasn’t used to people not playing along with his games.

Turning the handle, Harry entered the red and gold office, standing there with a bored mask on his face, “You wanted to see me, Headmaster?”

Dumbledore’s eyes twinkled as he observed the teen, “I did, please sit down, Harry, we have much to discuss,” Dumbledore said, his voice calm and soothing, as if he wanted nothing more than to reassure Harry that he could be trusted. “Tea? Coffee? Lemon drop?” he questioned, dipping a spoon into a cup of coffee already on his desk and stirring it. The small bowl of lemon drops were in the centre of the desk, where they always were, offered to anyone that stepped foot in the office.

“I’ve just eaten breakfast,” Harry stated bluntly, as he took a seat, hiding his resignation at having to even be near Dumbledore. He ensured his mental barriers were at their top efficiency before even looking anywhere near Dumbledore.

Dumbledore’s twinkle dimmed at the way Harry was speaking to him, he wasn’t sure how to fix this distance between them. Harry had to trust him for everything to go according to plan; he had to believe him when he said he would need to die at Voldemort’s hand at the right moment for the good of the magical world, the good of his friends. Which still wasn’t fixed, Harry was still continuing his friendship with Neville Longbottom. He was going to have to try something a bit more drastic to pull the trio together again; perhaps an attack on the Weasley’s would pull Harry back in line and strike the friendship up again. He would have to think it through, plan each detail carefully he didn’t want to risk killing one of them. “My boy…I’m sure you have so many questions regarding everything that had happened recently…perhaps we should have a frank and honest conversation, don’t you? We don’t want Voldemort to win after all do we?”

Harry blinked at him, his face blank; he not talking to Dumbledore was letting Voldemort win was it? That attempt at manipulation was the most pathetic he had seen from the old man yet. The thought of Dumbledore having an honest conversation was amusing; he had to fight to keep his lips from twitching out into a smirk. Did Dumbledore even know what it was to be honest with someone anymore? “I couldn’t agree more, Headmaster,” Harry said, glancing at the floor, trying to look a little abashed or ashamed of himself. His heart really wasn’t in it though, he was tired of the constant masks he wore here, harder still because he’d acceptance to the real him during the summer…a friend in Barty too. Regretfully though needs a must he really had to keep himself in check, he could say all he really wanted to say to the old fool when all was said and done and he left Hogwarts for good. Putting it this way, if Dumbledore didn’t get rid of Umbridge he didn’t think he’d last the year, hence his reason for getting his exams done as soon as possible.

“I’m glad you agree,” Dumbledore said giving Harry a beaming proud smile, which had never failed yet.

‘I’m sure you do,’ Harry thought with derision, his wide green eyes innocently staring up into Dumbledore’s was if he hadn’t envisioned the old fools death in every possible way imaginable. Instead of giving him a verbal answer, he just smiled a little; he wasn’t going to make it easy on the Headmaster.

Dumbledore seemed to deflate before his very eyes, “I do hope you can forgive me, Harry,” Albus informed the teenager, “I have been such a blind old man, I understand it must look bad as the situation stands, but let me reassure you, everything I’ve done was for your benefit.” the guilt clearly showed in those baby blue eyes that were for once not twinkling at all.

“Situation, Professor?” Harry asked, clenching his hands into fists under the table, straining to keep his face from showing just how furious he was for Dumbledore having the gall to use him for the decisions he’d made over the years.

“It was a tough time, Harry, very tough time, Voldemort had just gained the allegiance of the Dementors and his forces were close to taking over both Hogwarts and the Ministry of Magic.” Albus’ eyes glazed slightly. “I admit I signed the wills but I did not look them over as I should, between Wizengamot meetings, Order meetings and trying to keep the population as well as the students at Hogwarts calm…I was busy day and night and I trusted your parents to sign them without looking them over.”

Harry bit his tongue, stopping himself from gritting his teeth.
“Then that Halloween it was over, just like that, your parents were gone, you only had the Dursley’s for family and you needed the blood protections that came with it. It was a good thing too otherwise you may not have survived the encounter during your first year.” he said admonishing the boy as if he hadn’t set the entire thing up. “I made a decision to hold out on the will reading until you were old enough to attend; regretfully I kept putting it off, wishing for you to be a child just a bit longer. You already had so many responsibilities burdening your shoulders I wished to save you from some of it.”

Harry said nothing, remaining stoically silent as Dumbledore lied through his teeth. He’d heard it all in the past, and honestly, he would rather be doing something else rather than listening to this. Part of him believed that Dumbledore was quick to threaten the Dursley’s into taking him in because he was worried what could become of his potential weapon if he grew up in an orphanage environment, probably terrified of actually creating another psychopath. He needed Harry malleable and to look up to Dumbledore and the teachers, see them as saviours taking their sides in any situation for getting him out of an abusive environment.

“I knew you wouldn’t be happy at the Dursley’s, I had hoped they would take you in and love you as their own, with the Death Eaters after Voldemort, looking for him and you as well, I couldn’t risk your life, your mother had died to save you and doing so cast the ultimate protection against any and all who would do you harm. The protection will keep you alive.” Dumbledore continued on a roll, the silence was daunting; Harry was usually predictably easy to ire. “You see, Harry, I didn’t want you to grow up troubled like Voldemort did in an orphanage.”

“I understand,” Harry replied seeing that Dumbledore was evidently waiting on him saying something - anything - at that point.

“Why did you not come to discuss your Lordship with me, Harry?” Albus asked after over five minutes of silence, during that time he‘d found his coffee was at the correct drinking temperature and had a few sips. Deciding to change the subject sensing he wouldn’t get more of out of Harry. He was obviously not going to forgive him easily for that, if the Dursley’s weren’t found perhaps letting him spend time with his godfather would earn him some brownie points. Perhaps even suggesting that he go there over Christmas break. “I would have been more than happy to give you your things back, they are after all rightfully yours.” making it seem as though he’d had every intention of returning them. All the years of having the Potter Grimoire he still hadn’t successfully found a way to override the charms on it, thus he had been unable to read it. He had been convinced he was getting close though, regretfully its secrets were now lost to him. He’d been specifically wanted to look for information on the Invisibility cloak.

“It was summer holidays,” Harry said simply, “I had no idea the Dursley’s had ran off, I knew you’d just try and force me back, I’ve made it more than clear what they do but it doesn’t matter what I say, Sir, to me the protection isn’t ultimate, if it was it would have protected me from my aunt and uncle.” having to stop himself from spitting out what he really thought of them ‘Filthy fat Muggles’ that they were. “The Goblins suggested they could get them for me, I thought it was a win-win scenario.”

Of course, Albus thought in annoyance, he should have thought it was the goblins idea from the beginning. It meant things weren’t as dire as he had thought, this was good. He just needed Harry to forgive him for leaving him with the Dursley’s, he was a teenager, it was just a simple matter of teenage rebellion, all teens went through it, once the rebellion ended he was hopeful that Harry would go back to normal forgive him and his friends he would need them before the end after all.
“Do you have any questions about your Lordship?” Albus questioned, digging for information, trying to find out what Harry had learned about it so far. He would also discuss it with Sirius Black when he went through to Grimmauld Place after this meeting. He needed to piece absolutely everything together.

Harry shook his head, “I’m not really interested,” he said, rolling his eyes a little, watching in interest as Dumbledore relaxed just a tad, if he hadn‘t been watching very closely he wouldn’t have noticed. Now why would Dumbledore be happy about that?

“If you like I can retake the mantle until you finish school,” Albus suggested, it seemed to him that the goblins may have initiated the entire thing; perhaps the Potter seats weren’t lost to him as he had believed. Not that it mattered right now with him being on shaky ground within the Ministry of magic, his status as chief warlock of the Wizengamot was gone, and he’d been told in no uncertain terms that he wasn’t allowed back until this ‘phase’ passed.

“That’s okay, Sir, I’m sure you’ve got enough on your plate without adding to it,” Harry said gesturing towards the large pile of mail taking up one side of Dumbledore’s desk. “It’s just money, it can wait a few years maybe then I’ll learn what I have to.” shrugging, making himself out to be completely unaware of the laws and ways of pureblood’s, heirs, Lordships. While he didn’t know everything, he was still learning, Severus kept handing him a large black bound book on laws and regulations of a lordship society, the seats, the Wizengamot and what they did whenever he saw him unoccupied either while he waited for the examiner or waited for the potions to be finished.

“Very well,” Albus said sitting back thoughtfully, giving in for now, but knowing the boy didn’t care about his status meant he might be able to convince him to sign the seats over to him as proxy. He was sure informing him that it would help with the war efforts would see to it that Harry hands them over. For now he decided to leave it, at least until he was back on the Wizengamot when Voldemort made his inevitable appearance amongst the magical world - he had patience and time - so yes, it was merely a waiting game. “If you change your mind, my door is always open to you.” it hadn’t gone the way he’d hoped but it could have gone a lot worse. He was beginning to realize it would take a while to gain Harry’s forgiveness.

“How would you like to spend some time with your godfather?” Albus enquired, ‘got you’ he thought in satisfaction as Harry’s eyes lit up for the first time since he came into the room.

“Really?” Harry asked joyfully and not having to feign it, he would like to spend time with Sirius, work on manipulating him face to face instead of through a mirror. He wanted his godfather on his side, so he was going to do everything he could to ensure that. Or at the very least make sure Sirius wouldn’t remain in the Order, it would make him a target waiting to happen.

“Say over Christmas?” Albus suggested he was sure Sirius could get the child to open up even if he didn’t manage to do so. Maybe even find out where he had been staying, something just didn’t feel right about the ‘hotel’ to ‘hotel’ story Harry had given them, no sign of lies but Albus just couldn’t point it out, something was bugging him about it. Perhaps it was just Harry’s newfound confidence?

“I’d love that, Sir,” Harry said grinning in genuine delight, he definitely didn’t want to remain at Hogwarts - not that he’d intended to no matter what Dumbledore said - whether it was in session or not he had a feeling Umbridge would somehow find a way to give him detention and make his life a misery.

“Good!” Albus beamed, “Now go on, I’m sure you have other things to do than talking to an old man on a Sunday morning.”

“Yes, I’m playing chess with Neville,” Harry said standing up, letting the old man think he was getting through to him. He’d just turned his back when he started speaking again, much to his irritation.

“Ah, yes, I had noticed your falling out with Ronald and Hermione,” Albus said looking at Harry over his half-moon glasses in disappointment. “Both of them have stuck by you through thick and thin, I don’t think you could get better friends than them, you should forgive them, my boy, before its too late, trust an old man with many regrets under his belt.” he said solemnly.

Harry turned and nodded absently, wondering what the hell made Ron and Hermione so important to Dumbledore that he felt he needed to interfere with who he accepted as a friend? Was it possible that Dumbledore already had them picked out before Hogwarts? Or decided after he came? It seemed to him that Ron had accepted their friendship wouldn’t be the same and was taking what he could get…and Hermione she’d been compelled - whether it was willingly or not he wasn’t sure - to become his friends again by suggesting an illegal defence club.

Seeing Dumbledore distracted perhaps by his lack of enthusiastic answer? Or maybe thinking about his plans either way, he saw an opening to leave without answering more questions and he took it. “Goodbye Headmaster,” Harry murmured just loud enough that the portraits could say they heard him. As he was opening the door he noticed one of the Headmaster’s smirking at him, he blinked at it, it looked a bit like Sirius, the eyes and dark hair gave away an obvious Black heritage, he’d been in Slytherin too judging by the silver and green scarf he wore, but unlike Dumbledore he didn’t have his office painted in his house colours he observed seeing the office and how it had looked while this wizard was in it.

He’d have to ask Sirius later, he gave the portrait a grin causing it to laugh before he closed the door behind him. Only once he was out the room did he allow himself to relax fully, mentally and physically. Well, it looked as though Sirius hadn’t said anything to Dumbledore, he supposed that was something, he really didn’t want to leave Sirius behind but if he was betrayed by his godfather then he would have to. He’d do all he could to make sure Sirius survived, but even at that he didn’t think there was much he could do.

Glancing outside the window longingly, before grudgingly trudging up the stairs, he needed to get a few more study sessions in before tomorrow since he had another exam to prepare for. He supposed he should just thank his lucky stars he wasn’t being forced to do the exams at the weekend as well. He would need to get an early night tonight, not only was he going to be up early for class, he wouldn’t get to the common room until around ten or eleven o’clock at night.

--------0

Albus was startled out of his thoughts when the door closed with a loud click and Black began to laugh in his portrait. Giving the dead Headmaster a disapproving look as he pursed his lips. He honestly didn’t know what to do with the boy, all his plans had been screwed up at one point or another, he had never expected (or wanted) Harry to become a Lord, the only saving grace was the boy had no desire to use his influence. Rubbing his fingers over his lips, he was so sure he would have all plans back to normal at the end of the year, once Umbridge was gone, Harry would see him as a protector once more. If he deviated further then he would have no choice but to get him to toe the line again.

Now it was time to speak to Sirius and Remus, unfortunately they wouldn’t believe him when he said he signed without reading, since they were wizarding raised, and knew nobody signed anything without reading it over. He would need to be cautious, since if they did discuss it his lies could be known. Not that Black really mattered, or his thoughts, he was useful for now; he had given them a place to hold the Order meetings.

Standing up, mulling over possible ideas, he grasped a handful of Floo Powder and stepped into the intricately designed, marble fireplace that had stood the test of time. “GRIMMAULD PLACE ORDER HEADQUARTERS!” Albus called out, throwing the Floo Powder at his feet, the lurching sensation of falling through the Floo met him only to be jarringly slammed into the back of a fireplace before yanked back and spat out into his own office.

Dumbledore coughed and spluttered up ash out his mouth, gaping at the red and gold rug in front of him as if he couldn’t believe his eyes.

Chapter Text

Embracing His True Self

Chapter 27

The weekend went far too quickly for Harry's tastes; he'd played chess with Neville and actually got to know him better, Luna as well actually. Although he did worry about that, Ginny and Hermione had taken to glaring at Luna hatefully, Ginny more obvious about it and Hermione just had that irritated 'I've been replaced' look, out of them both he'd say that Ginny could be the bigger problem. Although to be honest he didn't understand why Ginny would be threatened by Luna and Neville, it wasn't as though he and Ginny had been friends before he decided enough was enough with Hermione and Ron. Merlin he actually missed the uncomplicated life he'd had while at Voldemort's base.

"Harry you've got an owl!" Neville called into the communal bathroom, unsurprisingly not bringing the letter with him, since you never really knew how owls would react to someone other than the intended recipient trying to remove the missive. Some owls had been trained to attack interlopers.

"I'll be out the now," Harry called back, a few moments later he shut off the shower and stepped out of the cubical with a towel wrapped around his body, putting on the bath robe before proceeding forward. "I'll wait in the common room for you," he added closing the door behind him to give Neville some privacy, like him, Neville preferred not to get changed in front of the others he'd always had a self conscious problem.

Absently wrapping his robe around his waist he wandered back into the common room, unsurprisingly Ron was still snoring away, Dean and Seamus were already gone down to breakfast. His window he observed had been opened, probably Neville trying to see who it was from. Harry undid the tie around the owls leg, claiming the letter giving it a few strokes before it hooted loudly and took off into the sky, Harry watched the majestic creature take off, they were beautiful, none more so than his own owl but he might be just slightly biased.

Harry recognized the writing immediately, sighing softly, rolling his eyes he sat down on his bed and opened the letter. Wondering what Sirius wanted now, he'd made his feelings pretty damn clear. Which irritated the hell out of him, why the hell would Sirius want to remain in Dumbledore's sphere of influence when he knew what the old fool had done? He didn't know if he would ever understand Sirius…but as he read the missive a bark of incredulous laughter left his throat, well that was unexpected to say the least.

Sirius had removed the Fidelius Charm on Grimmauld place, the one in which Dumbledore controlled, and Remus had cast the spell for Sirius to be the Secret Keeper of the new spell, which kept the place secure. Not that they were living there, they were using it as a decoy, instead Sirius had withdrew money from Gringotts and bought a place in the Muggle world using a fake name, magically procuring the documents they'd need the Muggle none the wiser that they were fake credentials. Sirius begged Harry for another chance, insisting that he truly only had Harry's interests at heart. Adding that if he wanted to be neutral in the war then he would support him. Harry meant more to him than anything else, and to please just answer him over the mirror or a letter. That he didn't want to lose Harry in his life that he'd been all he thought about all those years in Azkaban.

"Alright," Harry sighed in exasperation, putting the letter on the bed he quickly got dressed in his school uniform. Buttoning his shirt, cursing when he got to the top and realized he'd missed one somewhere. Grumbling under his breath, he more carefully undid and redone them, only once he was done did he open his drawer and remove the mirror, which he'd forgotten about, and it had been silenced as well hence he'd had no idea how many times Sirius had called.

"Sirius?" Harry called into the mirror after casting a silencing spell around his bed to prevent Ron from overhearing anything.

Slowly the blue shimmer gave way to a brightly lit room, so different from Grimmauld Place that it was jarring to see actually. Sirius blearily stared into the mirror obviously having been asleep when the mirror went off. More importantly, there was a lump in the bed alongside him, he'd bet his fortune it was Remus. Sirius' eyes widened and he threw a look over his shoulder before hastily vacating the bed and making his way out of the bedroom, his face flushed red.

Harry just smirked at him causing him to flush further; honestly he was acting like a bloody teenager caught by their mom or dad…at least to his imagination since such a thing would never be a reality for him. He had come to terms with his loss a long time ago, if it could really be called a loss since Harry had never known them. Perhaps that's what made his decision not to participate in the war at all. "What age are you again, Siri?" he asked him amused.

"Funny," Sirius grumbled as he sat down in what was obviously the kitchen, which was done in tasteful blue with silver appliances.

"It is to me," Harry grinned, "Sirius…promise me that you cut off access to Grimmauld Place because it was what you wanted and not because of me. To either make me happy or because I told you I wasn't going to follow Dumbledore?"

"You know I hate Grimmauld Place, Harry," Sirius answered grimly, "It was the safest place for me while I was on the run, I won't be on the run for much longer, and after my pardon I'll officially be a free man. Remus talked me out of burning Grimmauld Place to the ground…so it will just remain under the Fidelius Charm to stop any of my relatives from gaining access to anything in the townhouse."

"Also talked you into something else," Harry said pointedly, oh, it was quite fun winding Sirius up, he was so easy to embarrass honestly.

"Er…are you alright with that?" Sirius asked, moving his arms a little cramping up with keeping the mirror eye level.

"What, why would you think I'd have a problem?" Harry asked giving Sirius a penetrating look, as if trying to gauge what the hell he was thinking.

"Well…you did grow up with the Dursley's and they aren't very tolerant," Sirius grimaced just discussing the disgusting fuckers. He'd begged Dumbledore to let Harry come to Grimmauld Place after Voldemort returned and the school ended. He was repeatedly denied, being told that the wards were too important and they could save Harry's life. How could he argue with something like that? He had, for a little, which resulted in basic blackmail, Dumbledore promised to let Harry come after a few weeks ONLY if he didn't write to him since Voldemort knew about the Black residences he could be leading the evil wizard right to Harry's door.

"That would be another reason for them to hate me then," Harry said dryly, wondering if Sirius would get it.

"You're…" Sirius gaped, "But…Hermione…Ginny," he stuttered out.

"What about them?" Harry asked blinking in confusion. "Can't a guy be friends with girls without fancying them?"

"Uh, I just thought…never mind, it's not important," Sirius said shaking his head, "You are aware though that it isn't just friendship that Ginny wants from you?"

Harry screwed up his face, "I don't have an Oedipus complex thank you very much!" Harry rasped out shuddering violently at the thought.

"Oedupeus what?" Sirius muttered his brow furrowed.

"She looks like my mother, Sirius, do the math," Harry said rolling his eyes heavenward; honestly, the magical world was too behind compared to the Muggle world.

"Oh, OH!" Sirius grimaced a heaving shudder leaving him as well, "That's just disgusting!"

"And she is very much the wrong gender," Harry informed Sirius, nobody else knew this about him, he kept it a closely guarded secret, much like he did with all his other secrets. He did ponder on the thought that Sirius didn't tell him because he was afraid of his reaction…sounded stupid to him but Sirius had probably been mentally around nineteen years old still before the potion. Then again with him being the oldest male heir, they probably expected Sirius to marry and have an heir, being gay was probably unacceptable. "Did any of your family know?"

Sirius scoffed, "No, they would have disowned me completely if they'd known, instead of just striking me off the family tapestry and saying I was 'disowned' without legally and financially cutting me out, if they had I wouldn't have the Black vaults." Sirius admitted ruefully.

"Because they needed you to have the next Black heir?" Harry summarized.

Sirius narrowed his eyes on Harry speculatively, "Did you take the sex education class last year, Harry?"

"There's a Sex Ed class? Um, no, and speaking of class I'll need to go very soon or I'll end up missing breakfast." Harry said bemused.

"Maybe they cancelled it with the tournament on, either that or it was held while you were in the hospital wing," Sirius said thoughtfully, "Wizards can get pregnant, nine times of out ten it's potion induced, its very difficult for it to happen naturally, by very difficult I mean next to impossible, you have to be a natural carrier, there's never been a documented one since the founders time."

"So why would your family be against it?" Harry asked perplexed.

"Well there's a belief that a child born from a male carrier leads to the child being weaker magically," Sirius informed him, "But really they didn't like much of anything, and were strictly traditionalists."

"Prejudice then," Harry simplified it.

"Pretty much," Sirius nodded grimly in agreement.

"Dumbledore called me up to his office," Harry said, catching movement out of the corner of his eyes, he nodded to Neville before refocusing on Sirius. "He suggested that I could stay with you during the winter holidays, trying to get back in my good books after stealing from my vaults and what he did to you. He tried to tell me that he signed as a signatory on their wills without looking at it because he and I quote 'trusted them' he'll probably either try to get to Grimmauld Place to see you and if he can't then he'll write to you with the same nonsense."

Sirius laughed, "If he does he'll be spat out in his own office."

Harry laughed as well at the image that presented.

"Wait, did you say steal? What did he take from your vaults?" Sirius asked perplexed.

"The Potter Grimoire, my invisibility cloak which he insisted my father gave him before he died when I was in my first year he returned it, and a lot of other books and items, no money, just things probably worth a lot of it." Harry explained, seeing Sirius' eyes darkening, "I got it all back, the goblins did it for me."

"Good," Sirius said grimly, Grimoire's were extremely private, handed down from parent to child, decades upon decades of information packed into them from potions they'd created, hexes, charms and even notes and letters for the descendants. He wasn't sure whether James had been able to write anything in it, but if he had then Harry should be the first to see it, then again if it was like all other pureblood started Grimoire's it will be spelled to prevent anyone other than those of their own blood from glimpsing the wonder in its pages. He had long suspected that Lily had gotten some sort of ritual from it that saved Harry's life, but it was guesswork, who knew what really happened that night?

"I have to go, Sirius, I'll write to you after Classes," Harry explained, barely waiting for Sirius to reply before he muttered "Deactivate," and the mirror went blank, Harry then shoved it in the still silenced drawer and hissed in Parseltongue keeping the mirror secure.

Removing the silencing spell, "Sorry, I got sidetracked," he informed Neville without being sheepish or actually sorry, merely giving him the cutesy.

"It's alright, ready to go then?" Neville said, having stayed and waited for Harry to finish his conversation which he couldn't hear and had no desire to even if he was a little curious to know who he was talking to.

"Yes," Harry said, grabbing the letter from Sirius, he shoved it in his bag as he picked it up, ready to face the day whatever it would bring. Which included bloody Umbridge today, since they had Defence. "Let's get going then," and with that both boys headed down the circular staircase. Not feeling the need to talk, quite content with the silence.

Harry shoved open the portrait door and both of them climbed out, it closed automatically behind them. "So, have you even asked Luna out?" he asked Neville, as they descended the stairs, nobody was around since the Gryffindors bar Ron was already at breakfast. Ron last he checked was still sleeping.

Neville flushed red, staring at the stairs as they went down them, shaking his head negatively, no he hadn't got up the guts to tell her how he felt.

"Neville, you should tell her, I mean come on, what are you waiting for? What's the worst that could happen?" Harry stated, "Life is too short, both of us know that better than most." his eyes glimmering sadly, their own parents had died or may as well have at the age of twenty-one. Alice and Frank, Neville's parents had been just a few years older, twenty-two or twenty-three. Luna he had learned had lost her mother when she was just a little girl, nine years old.

"I don't want to spoil our friendship if she doesn't feel the same," Neville murmured embarrassedly.

Harry didn't laugh like Neville obviously expected him to, "I can understand that, but Neville, trust me, she likes you…she will not say no, she's waiting on you making the first move because she thinks the same as you are right now." and he knew that for a fact, Luna was a very refreshing person to meet, she honestly couldn't care less about the whole Boy-Who-Lived thing, her parents hadn't mentioned him, the only time Luna had heard of him is through the damn history books.

"You think so?" Neville said relaxing a little unconsciously, stepping off the last marble step and turning towards the large doors of the Great Hall, he could hear the sound of the rest of his peers talking, laughing and eating but it didn't drown out what Harry told him.

"I know so," Harry said firmly, he was doing everything he could to give Neville a backbone, it would take a long time to undo all the damage his damn family had done. He hoped that when all was said and done that Neville could understand his decision and not hate him for it. He knew it was a futile hope, especially after what the Death Eaters had done to his parents.

"Thanks, Harry," Neville said, he'd never really had a friend like him before, sure all his room mates spoke to him but that wasn't a friend and he was beginning to realise that. Ron and Hermione were stupid for letting anything get in-between their friendship with Harry, he was a true friend and Neville was ever so grateful to him for it. He'd never seen or heard of anyone stepping up to his Gran, but Harry had, and it resulted in him getting a wand that actually worked! He and Harry had practiced spells for hours after he got it, and it was so much easier for him, he'd been right, all he'd needed was a wand suited to him.

"It's alright," Harry shrugged; he was just doing what anyone else would do for a friend, that didn't require thanks. Plus if he left he wanted to know that Neville would be okay. Luna would make sure of that, she was a lot stronger than anyone gave her credit for. Walking half way down the bench, Harry and Neville sat down and hastily began to fill their plates, barely pausing before they began to eat.

"I don't know if I can endure any more of her classes," Seamus groaned, noticing the pink clad woman at the Head table. "Can't someone just kill her already?"

"How much is it worth?" Harry said, glancing at Seamus who paused for a moment before he burst out laughing, those in the vicinity that heard as well, except Neville, began to laugh. As if their hero would ever hurt anyone, let alone a Ministry worker, even if she was disliked by the majority of the students at Hogwarts.

"I didn't think anything could be more boring than Binn's class…she's proved us all wrong." Dean scowled into his porridge.

Neville watched Harry closely from the corner of his eye, he had a feeling that Harry hadn't been kidding around. Surely he had to be? Nobody really wanted to see Umbridge murdered, despite the fact she was a crappy teacher that drove them all crazy. Shaking off his thoughts he made a noncommittal agreement that the class was boring as he speared the sausage on his fork, dipping it in yolk before eating it.

As one everyone glanced up as the flapping of hundreds of owls was heard descending upon the now quiet hall, some people were hastily moving their food when the spotted their owl or perhaps even their friends ones so their food wasn't ruined. The owls either dropped their burdens or had to land so the letters or shrunk parcels could be removed - like Harry's letters - before the owls took off again.

Harry glanced at the front of the three letters he'd received; he didn't need to open them to know who they were from. Barty, Voldemort and one from Gringotts, probably a normal statement he'd get every month now or word from his account manager. He kept the Gringotts letter on top just to be on the safe side before sliding them into his pocket after glancing at the time. The bell was going to ring any minute now so he wanted to at least eat as much of his breakfast as he could. He just swallowed a piece of toast when he glanced to the side hearing Parvati speaking.

"Why isn't Dumbledore doing anything?" Parvati complained, in a rare move joining in the boys conversations.

"Because he can't," Hermione butted in, as always rushing to defend the teachers from her ignorant peers. "Didn't you hear what she said at the beginning of term? The Ministry is interfering at Hogwarts! The Ministry." she repeated it as if it was necessary.

Harry cocked his head to the side, "Have any of you thought about writing home? Telling your parents exactly what's going on at Hogwarts? That your teacher is using a dark illegal blood quill? And how you're going to be completely unprepared and way over your head during both your practical and written DADA OWLS exam? Send them a copy of the work you've done so far, proof of what is going on."

Silence met his question, none of them had thought about writing home about what was happening.

Harry rolled his eyes, of course they hadn't thought of it. It was going to be an extremely long day, he realized noticing that Umbridge wasn't wearing the broach; she'd either figured it out or wasn't wearing it today.

"Luna suggested you get interviewed for the Quibbler," Neville whispered quietly, wiping his mouth with his cloth napkin before putting it on the table since he was finished with his breakfast. Just in time too as the bell went, he guessed he'd have to wait and see what Harry thought of getting an interview with Luna's dad.

Harry had no idea just how long a day it was going to be, between Umbridge finding a reason to give him detention, serving it way until after curfew, leaving for Severus' room to sit one of his OWL exams, by the time he returned to his Dorm it was well past midnight and everyone was asleep, he didn't even take off his uniform, he rolled under his covers and fell into a deep sleep without even reading the letters that had come at breakfast for him.

Chapter Text

Embracing His True Self

Chapter 28

Sirius paced restlessly uncharacteristically biting his lower lip, feeling extremely on edge and worried, so much so that his stomach was churning. There was two open letters on the table, both of them had been read but only one was causing him so much worry. One was official, from the Ministry of Magic, the Department of Magical Law Enforcement. Amelia Bones wanted to see him, it was the beginning of proving him innocent. He should never have doubted his best friends for a moment, he owed Lily everything, smart, intelligent witch that she was she thought of everything.

"Sirius? What are you doing up so early?" Remus asked so suddenly that Sirius jumped almost a foot in the air, Remus' lips twitched a little at the sight. He hadn't seen Sirius so jumpy in a while, he didn't think it had anything to do with the new place, they were very safe here. Wandering over he gave a nudge getting Sirius to sit down, before he sat down himself. "Hey? An answer please?"

Sirius leaned forward and grabbed the letter passing it to his partner, the warmth of him calming his anxiety each passing second. It hadn't been easy in the beginning for both of them, due to the mistrust they'd had in each other. Sirius worried that Remus would go dark (who could blame him with how their so called own side treated him) and Remus thinking he had actually joined the Dark Side killing both of their friends and his godson in one fall swoop. They'd both admitted their mistakes and desire to try again, they'd already lost so many years together that it seemed so damn pointless to continue to deny what they wanted more than anything else.

"This is good," Remus said, perking up, the last dregs of sleep leaving him. "Why does this have you so worried? This is what we hoped for! What we've been praying for…it was a miracle that Harry got the will read otherwise Dumbledore would have made sure it was never unveiled…you would have remained a wanted man." hell Sirius had been put under a multitude of glamours to get this property with him, having fake names and credentials only got you so far, since the Muggle authorities were looking for him too.

"Nothing works out for me, you know that," Sirius sighed, elbows on his knees carding his hands through his long hair. "I get away from my parents then almost get myself expelled from Hogwarts in disgrace, nearly killing you in the process…Snape too." this was added grudgingly he didn't like the wizard, but it was entirely mutual. "I decide to be a bloody decoy to keep James, Lily and my godson safe and what happens? My best friends die and my godson is taken away from me to be abused by the damn Dursley's and I end up in Azkaban. To top it off I almost get free by getting Pettigrew only to lose him and have to go into hiding…I guess I'm just waiting for the shoe to drop."

"No, Sirius, this is nothing to worry about, Lily wrote to the authorities, they know you are innocent." Remus said grimly. "More than one person got a copy of it, it was written after Peter became the Secret Keeper. Undeniable proof that will see that your freedom is granted." as always the level headed one that kept Sirius from doing something stupid - most of the time. Sirius' own worst enemy was his overactive mind.

"It's going to be just fine," Remus added after a few minutes of silence, "Come on, let's get some breakfast, you're due at the Ministry in an hour, why don't you go and get a quick shower and get dressed? I'll have breakfast ready for you when you get down." he suggested, kissing him on the cheek, "You'll be fine, I won't lose you again." he whispered before withdrawing completely. That being the only show that Remus was just was apprehensive as Sirius was.

"Alright," Sirius said breathing evenly, perhaps he should talk to Harry….but it was too early, if anything happened to him he wanted his godson to know he wasn't to blame and that he loved him. He'd proven that by severing all ties from Dumbledore and quite possibly the light side. They wont take it well when they learn that Harry had no desire to fight. He and Remus had spoke about it for days after Harry dropped that revelation on them. As always Remus was able to understand Harry and make him see he truth too.

Harry had been abused by Muggles, thrust into the spotlight, everyone just expecting him to fight Voldemort. It wasn't right, at least they'd made a conscious choice, nobody had forced them into it. Yet everyone was trying to force Harry into it? Including Sirius himself? Who did that? If Harry didn't want to fight that was his choice end of story. He'd already been forced into a confrontation with Voldemort before.

Sirius had argued that Voldemort would just keep coming after Harry. Then Remus dropped another bombshell, it was not really Voldemort…not until last school year. Each time it had been a sheer coincidence and it had been Harry himself who revealed that during their conversations in his third year. That maybe Voldemort could be bargained with, that Harry has nothing to do with the war, then he has nothing to worry about. They knew the reason that Voldemort was so worried, a stupid damn prophecy made by the so called seer.

Even back then Harry had been planting seeds, just waiting on them taking hold at the right moment.

Remus wandered into the kitchen, he was trying to show Sirius how to cook without magic or even with - it wasn't going well. At least he wasn't burning the toast, and could make cheesy toast, or make beans and soups. He was no means going to reach gourmet chef any time soon. Glancing at the time, deciding against a proper English meal, he napped bacon out of the fridge and began to cook it up, buttering the bread at the same time, Sirius would soon be free, by Merlin he felt as though he was on pins and needles.

He was just as worried as Sirius that things might not go as well as they hoped. Neither of them trusted the system as far as they could throw it, Sirius more so than anyone else he had been illegally detained for twelve years without a trial.

-----------------0

The Ministry

Amelia Bones waited on Sirius Black inside her office, having given the wizard her private office Floo Address so he could get to her without having to stop at the atrium. He would need to keep his head down until this was all sorted out and the public were told he was innocent. Normally she would add - if they were innocent - she wasn't one for believing what she was told. She just didn't see how this could be lies, the will was written after the Potters had gone under the Fidelius Charm to keep safe, Lily Potters letter and will spoke the truth of that she had no doubt.

Nonetheless just to be on the safe side, she'd told Cornelius she was meeting him two days from now, she didn't trust for something to go wrong just like she'd been informed of Bartemius Crouch Junior at Hogwarts far too late to act. It wasn't Cornelius' jurisdiction, she had tried to uncover what had happened but no success so far. So today she'd safely meet with him, get a few of the Wizengamot members up and have him declared innocent before anyone could stop it. She also had quite a few questions for him about how he'd managed to escape too.

Straightening up when the Floo pinged, righting her monocle she stared at the two figures who stepped out of the fireplace. She blinked in surprise, it seemed as though Black had at least somewhere to stay and had been eating healthily, since he was no means a stick figure that most are when coming out of Azkaban. Standing up, she put out her hand, "Mr. Black…" shaking his hand, before staring enquiringly at the other wizard with him, "Remus Lupin," he answered her unasked question.

"Mr. Lupin," she said, greeting both of them, noticing how nervous they were. "Please take a seat," which all three of them did.

"Would either of you gentlemen like some refreshments?" Amelia asked kindly but still holding her no-nonsense attitude.

"No, thank you, we've just eaten," it was Remus who spoke, his hand in Sirius' squeezing it reassuringly.

"Would you consent to the use of Veritaserum, Mr, Black?" Amelia asked getting straight down to it.

"Yes," Sirius agreed, anything to help prove his innocence.

"I would like to bring two Wizengamot members into this meeting, that is all that's required to declare you a free man." Amelia continued, glad that Sirius would take the potion, it made it less complicated and allowed her to deal with this in a timely manner.

"Please, not Dumbledore," Sirius begged, completely forgetting that he wasn't a member of the Wizengamot now.

"No, Mr. Black, not Dumbledore, he has been fired from his position as Chief Warlock," Amelia replied, "Give me a few moments." with that Amelia wrote to the two Wizengamot members who were in the Ministry at the moment, flicking her wand at them they formed airplanes and zoomed out of the room. She had been very vague in the letters, she was taking no chances.

"Tell me, Mr. Black…how is it that you and Bartemius Crouch successfully escaped from Azkaban?" Amelia asked seriously. The very first two do succeed in getting off the island too, it was a security problem a severe one.

"You don't know?" Sirius asked surprised, she was one of the most resourceful witches he'd ever seen, trusted her to an extent, it was why he was here.

"Pardon?" Amelia blinked in mild confusion.

"Um, haven't you spoken to Harry?" Sirius asked, surely he was one of the first people she would have spoken to. "I mean he was one of the last people to speak to Barty before he got away thanks to Dumbledore."

"He was?" Amelia sat up straighter at that news.

"Yes," Sirius said slowly.

"And did he reveal this information to you?" Amelia then asked.

"I didn't ask," Sirius replied honestly, "Harry has a knack for getting information out of people." he added wryly with a grin, shaking his head ruefully.

"Interesting, I wasn't aware that Mr. Potter was involved in anything to do with Crouch." Amelia sighed in exasperation.

"Everyone at Hogwarts did, Crouch posed as Moody for an entire year, it was Harry who uncovered who Crouch was." Sirius explained baffled by the fact that the Ministry were so in the dark about the happenings at Hogwarts. "It was also Harry who unsealed his parent's wills after Dumbledore sealed them."

"That I am aware of," Amelia stated, she had started an investigation into Dumbledore, what she had wouldn't even see him in court, so she would have to dig up more. Apparently, she was going to have to talk to Harry and find out what he knew. With this new information, she completely forgot to ask Sirius how he had gotten out of Azkaban himself.

A knock at the door broke any further conversation.

"Come in Gentlemen," Amelia called, unlocking her door and removing the silencing charms for only a moment before placing them back on once they were in her office. "I'm so glad you could make it, Mr. Black has consented to the use of Veritaserum to prove his innocence. Before you ask why he isn't escorted by Auror's we received a letter from Lily Potter that proves that Sirius Black wasn't the secret Keeper to the Potters. Obviously what happened that night isn't what we fully believed."

"Even if he is innocent of that he still took the lives of several…." the wizard did not get a chance to finish.

"I didn't do that!" Sirius said breathing harshly through his nostrils in anger.

"Easy, Sirius, you knew they'd have to ask about it," Remus said, a warning clear in his tone.

Huffing quietly, he slumped further into his seat, uneasy.

"Go ahead and administer the potion, I will set up the dicti-quill," the Wizengamot wizard replied moving around her office picking up supplies as Amelia did as she was told. She didn't give him three drops, just two, so he would answer their questions truthfully but wouldn't go fully under the influence.

"What's your name?" Amelia started off, not able to get around that since they needed it on official record. She noticed that the names of everyone present in the room was already written down, even Remus' so the wizard knew who he was.

"Sirius Orion Black,"

"How long did you spend in Azkaban prison?"

"Twelve years,"

"Did you betray your best friends by revealing their whereabouts to Lord Voldemort?"

"No, I wasn't their Secret Keeper," Sirius answered.

"Who was?"

"Peter Pettigrew,"

"Did you attack a street full of Muggles when you cornered Peter Pettigrew and blasted him?" it wasn't Amelia who asked but one of the Wizengamot wizards.

"No, I didn't attack the street," Sirius replied.

"What happened that night?" Amelia stepped back in giving the wizard a pointed look. In the background the dicti-quill was recording every word that was said.

And so Sirius went on to explain monotonously, not even able to express his grief over what happened. Telling them about the bad feeling he had that night when he got to Pettigrew's to see it trashed. How he'd hopped onto his motorbike and raced there as fast as possible only to see the house in flames, with the roof folded in. How he found James dead on the ground floor, Lily on the top floor in Harry's room. How he's just managed to get his godson quiet before Hagrid showed up and demanded Harry, taking him from him and insisting Harry was to go to Dumbledore despite him being his godfather and magical guardian. How he'd blown into a rage without any anchors and hunted Pettigrew down, not stopping until he found him and was about to demand answers when Pettigrew began wailing that he'd done it. Then the horrifying moment that Pettigrew let loose a blasting curse, and turned into a rat going down the sewer and how he'd just laughed incredulously that he'd been deceived by the son of a bitch.

There was complete silence in the room when he was finished, all bar Remus were sitting there in horrified silence. An innocent man had been in Azkaban for twelve years, for the first time it truly hit them. They were aghast at what they'd allowed to happen. What had happened, it was a disgrace, and they were going to have to inform the public which would make it ten times worse for them.

"I believe we have more than enough, don't you gentlemen?" Amelia asked both wizards grimly.

Neither spoke, they just nodded their heads in agreement.

"Then Mr. Black you are free to go, truly an innocent man, but please give us until the end of today to get it into the newspapers so the public doesn't panic." Amelia informed Sirius.

"That's fine," Remus said speaking for both of them, Sirius just stared at them truly overwhelmed that he was actually free.

A few moments later Sirius had the paperwork to prove it, then both were gone leaving Amelia and the others to deal with the fall out this would cause.

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At Hogwarts

"Er…Harry that's Hedwig! She looks hurt," Neville said his eyes wide as he observed the owl who was flying erratically towards them. He, Harry and Luna were sitting in the courtyard, just wanting to get away from the rest of the students and Umbridge since they had a free period after breakfast. Neville noticed the way Harry's eyes darkened every time she was mentioned. It probably should have scared him really, but Neville understood that kind of anger.

Harry abruptly stood up, moving down the last of the steps in the courtyard holding his arm out for Hedwig to perch herself upon. Her wing was at an odd angle, feathers completely ruffled, with a hoot she swooped down almost falling to the floor but Harry kept her from falling completely, worry consuming him for his familiar.

"She's been attacked," Neville observed worriedly. "You need to take her to Hagrid,"

"Is he back?" Harry asked in surprise.

"Yes," Neville nodded, "I heard a few first years talking about their lessons with Hagrid weeks ago,"

"But he's not been attending the feasts," Harry mused, stroking Hedwig softly, wondering if he should take her to Hagrid…he'd honestly prefer to have Severus see to her. "She's getting on my last nerve." Harry growled angrily, knowing who had done it.

Neville blinked at Harry's abrupt shift in temperament, but it didn't take him long to figure out what was going on. "Normally I'd say are you sure she'd do something like that," Neville admitted, "But she's a real piece of work, makes me glad I only have Trevor and that he's safe at the manor."

"Daddy could help her," Luna commented, she adored animals and Hedwig was no exception to that rule. She was absolutely beautiful and she loved petting and talking to her when she had the opportunity. "I don't think her wing is broken though,"

"It's alright, I'll try someone else first," Harry said shaking his head, "I'll see you both later, alright?"

"Sure," Neville replied as Luna nodded in understanding.

"Bye," Harry added, his arm straining to keep aloft with Hedwig on his arm, he didn't want to move her to his shoulder just in case, she was still slightly wobbly hooting in distress occasionally. He hoped Severus could help her, he'd lost enough in his life without losing the one thing in his life that had been there for him - unconditional support - Hedwig didn't care about whether he was light or dark, or whether he decided to be neutral in the war she was just there for him.

It was risky actually going all the way down to Severus' quarters without his cloak on, but Hedwig wouldn't remain quiet wrapped up in an invisibility cloak and he didn't want to risk her punching holes in the priceless piece of magical shroud. Groaning, Harry finally couldn't keep the weight up on his arm so held out his other hand and Hedwig stepped onto it, chirping softly. He stroked her belly with his fingers, finding it extremely soothing as always.

"What the…" Pansy Parkinson's muttered her eyes sharpening in on the figure at the bottom of the corridor, cutting the conversation she was having with Daphne, Draco and Blaise. "What the hell is he doing down here?" this was Slytherin territory, no Gryffindor should be here.

"Potty," Draco spat after turning around wondering what Pansy was dithering on about. "You don't belong down here, go back to the trash you consort with," insulting both Gryffindor and his friends in one go, feeling rather smug about it too.

"I would suggest you move out of my way," Harry bit out through gritted teeth, "I am not in the mood to deal with your dramatics right now." he hadn't since Hogwarts started back up but that was life. Bloody Slytherins honestly, it was as though they never had anything better to do.

"Draco, let's go," Blaise said, giving him a shove out of the way, there was a time and place for everything but Potter looked furious and given some of the things that happened around Potter when he was angry he didn't want to be in the vicinity. If the rumours were true he had blown up his aunt for mentioning his mother. He could see that the owl was hurt, and Potter and his bleeding heart probably would lose it over the thing. Even he wouldn't disparage the bond between a wizard and his or hers familiar, it would be like mocking his own traditions.

Draco threw Blaise a furious glare for interrupting him, but by that point Harry had already swiftly walked passed them and down the darkened corridor. "Don't be stupid, his familiar was hurt, you'd do the same if it was your hawk." Blaise rolled his eyes, plus he'd heard through the grapevine that Lucius had warned Draco against antagonising any of the Gryffindors. Lucius Malfoy wouldn't say anything like that without a reason or purpose.

"There's nobody down there except for Professor Snape," Daphne pointed out, staring at the corridor where Potter had turned out of sight. Suspicion churning in her gut, why would Potter go to Professor Snape for help? Potter hated Snape! You'd think he'd go and take his owl to Hagrid before anyone else. He had a soft spot for the damn half-breed, it was disgusting to see.

"Probably been told by Dumbledore to go down," Pansy sneered, "Potter wouldn't deny Dumbledore anything, pathetic little puppy that he is."

"I don't know about that," Daphne said speculatively, were they blind to how Potter had been acting since school resumed? There was more than met the eyes, Pansy and Draco were just too blinded and prejudice to see it. Blaise knew something, or suspected as much otherwise he would have happily watched Draco tear into Potter…or try to at any rate, he hadn't been successful before now. The detentions or loss of points didn't seem to bother him at all.

Hogwarts Severus' Quarters

"Get in here," Severus hissed in annoyance, seeing Harry standing at his door without his damn invisibility cloak on. Anyone could see him, the last thing he wanted to do was try and explain himself to Dumbledore of all people. Thankfully though his Slytherins should know not to say anything, key word should know, and there were hardly any portraits down this way, he'd removed them all when he took on the position of Head of Slytherin house. He wasn't going to help Dumbledore spy on the students within Hogwarts. He closed the door behind Harry quickly, "I assume you have a good reason for showing up here?"

"She attacked Hedwig," Harry said, his mask nowhere to be seen, leaving a face that promised retribution in its wake.

Severus sobered up, glancing down at the owl in Harry's hands, he should have guessed, Harry didn't make a habit of carrying Hedwig around with him. He was glad to see she was alive, if Umbridge had killed Hedwig he was afraid there would be nothing he could do to prevent her death. "Put her on the bench," Severus demanded, already knowing why Harry had come to him, making a little nest for her by transfiguring a few pieces of paper.

Harry did what he was told, watching Severus mutter quietly in Latin, so low that he couldn't even begin to hear what kind of spells he was using. A light blue glow spat out of his wand and encompassed Hedwig gently, it didn't seem to bother her as she sat and preened her good wing.

"Don't just stand there like a spare end, you know where the book is, go read," Severus stated firmly, glancing up briefly, not surprised to see Harry was worried. Hedwig was probably one of the few things that could elicit true emotion from the wizard in front of him. "I'll come to you when I have healed her." and he would heal her, he wasn't a professional and only had basic training in even Medi-wizardry which was required as part of his Potions Mastery.

Harry just rolled his eyes, before skulking off to the couch grabbing the book he'd been reading whenever he came down here. Crossing his legs, he opened it at the bookmarked page,

"Did you have anything compromising in a letter you just sent out or had being delivered?" Severus asked thrusting a cup under his nose half an hour later.

"No," Harry answered, his green eyes glinting sharply in the firelight, Umbridge had gone too far.

Chapter Text

Embracing His True Self

Chapter 29

Harry woke with a shout, shooting up in bed, panting but not in fear but rather exertion, as he came to himself his face flushed redder than a tomato, groaning in complete embarrassment and disbelief. Grimacing, Harry flicked out his wand and cleaned himself up, of sweat and the stick residue of cum again. His mind reeling over the fact he'd just had a wet dream over Tom Marvolo Riddle, otherwise known as Voldemort yet again. Bloody hell, he thought, the dreams were getting more and more erotic to say the least, and he'd thoroughly enjoyed every second of the dreams especially this one…what did it mean for him? He could still feel the phantom feelings of the silky rope biting into his wrists, and just thinking about it elicited another reaction from him, desire. His only experience at being bound was never good to say the least, and it was always Voldemort or on Voldemort's behest ironically enough. From his first year with Quirrell to being bound in the graveyard.

There was no denying that Voldemort was attractive as he had been as a teenager, in reality he now looked like barely over twenty years old. He was powerful, smart, determined, and cunning; all things Harry valued and displayed himself. Shaking off those ridiculous thoughts, it would never happen. His mind however, didn't seem to agree as pictures of his dream flashed through his mind, causing him to shiver once more, licking his dry lips he flicked his wand requesting the time.

It was nearly time to get up, he realized, he still felt sweaty, it was best to go and get a shower. Part of him didn't want those dreams to continue, another bigger part desired them to. Who wouldn't? He was hot, no matter whether it would go anywhere or not, which it wouldn't. Why the hell would Voldemort want to be with him? He was a teenager for Merlin's sake, so the dreams would be as far as it went and what dreams they were.

Shivering in cold as he got out of bed, grabbing his shower bag he made a beeline for the bathroom, he contemplated going to the Prefect's bathroom but he nixed the idea he just wanted a quick shower and to get down to breakfast. Severus had warned him against making a move on Umbridge so close to Hedwig being attacked, especially since he was being watched so closely by Dumbledore. Only because Dumbledore hadn't been able to find Sirius, despite the fact he'd been on the front of the newspapers going shopping in Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade a few times. Everyone knew he was innocent so of course, everyone had believed he was and were all quite quick to say as such. Hypocritical shits that they were he loathed them all. So Harry for the past few months had bid his time, he knew exactly how he wanted Umbridge to suffer, which unfortunately he couldn't do with both of them on Hogwarts grounds.

Speaking of professors, he'd had to stop himself from laughing at Umbridge when she'd been so thoroughly insulted without even realizing it by both Severus and Professor McGonagall when she sat in on their classes. The broach he'd enchanted continued to do its work, but she was still causing havoc all around the school much to his consternation. Including putting Hagrid on probation, which he'd found out overhearing Granger screeching about it and the unfairness in January, Harry was just glad he wasn't taking the class anymore.

As he stepped under the spray, Harry was unaware that something would happen today to change everything.

Closing his eyes he groaned in relief at the warmth spreading through his bones, warming him completely. The pendant he'd received from Barty at Christmas was safe from the water, it just repelled it and rolled on down. It would stop any minor and most major hexes directed at him some that even his Lordship ring wouldn't detect. He actually missed Barty a great deal, as nice as his friendship with Neville and Luna was…they didn't know the real him Barty did.

Grabbing his shampoo he stepped back and lathed it into his hair, letting it sit for a few moments while he scrubbed the rest of himself with some mint shower gel. Stepping back under he thought of the only other important thing that had happened in the past few months. His owls. He had completed them with ease. He felt as though he'd been the last to learn his scores, Clarence of course, his examiner who made sure he completed everything himself and didn't cheat. Then Voldemort, then Barty then Severus before he'd been able to see them. Twelve Owls, all Outstanding he'd taken every subject and passed with flying colours. Hardly surprising the way he'd been taught by Voldemort, he'd long ago surpassed O.W.L; with some revision he could actually take his N.E.W.T's which he was tempted to do.

He took the results of his tests with him everywhere, despite the fact it could blow up in his face, he didn't care though he was extremely proud of himself. According to Clarence only five people had achieved twelve O.W.L's, and only one had achieved all Outstanding, Tom Riddle (Harry wasn't sure if Clarence even knew if he was talking about Voldemort but considering he hadn't used the Dark Lord's title he was going to say no to that one). The others who'd taken all twelve exams were Barty, Percy Weasley and Bill Weasley.

Wrapping up in a towel, Harry grabbed his shower bag after he finished. The towel had a warming charm it in, so that he didn't get completely cold. Sliding his feet back into his slippers he made his way back to the dorm. He had Defence this morning, now that was going to be fun he thought sarcastically.

"Is that you, Harry?" came Neville's voice from his bed, sounding tired still, he knew it was Harry nobody else got up early, Dean and Seamus got up when they had to but Ron more often than not ended up late if nobody woke him up. Since Harry wasn't doing it anymore, the others had to remember lest they end up with more lost house points.

"Yeah," Harry commented drying himself off and beginning to get dressed.

"You're up earlier than normal," Neville said peeking out from his beds curtains.

"Bad dreams," Harry said sarcastically, but one look at Neville it seemed as if his sarcasm had been lost on the boy. Instead he had a look of understanding on his face. Well, it could be considered a bad dream, a very, very bad dream. Yes, that's what it had been.

"Do you still have those Skiving Snack boxes from the twins?" Neville asked hopefully, as he realized just what kind of day he was going to have. Defence with Umbridge then Potions with Snape although that was just before dinner, the last class of the day.

Harry gave him a knowing amused grin, "Only if you want to end up in the hospital wing, they haven't perfected them yet." speaking of the twins they seemed rather troubled. He wasn't sure if it was Umbridge or something else, but he'd seen them staring looking perplexed and a little sad. When he went over to try and talk to them they disappeared.

"Too bad," he sighed resignedly, as he went to the bottom of his trunk to gather his own shower supplies.

"Least you don't have detention with her," Harry snorted derisively, the evidence was on his bloody hand, even with the potions and the help from Severus he could still see the lines on his hand. She wouldn't dare try anything with Neville, not with the connections his grandmother had…or the fact she was his grandmother! Everyone seemed to be utterly terrified of her, including Neville.

"I'll see you in a bit," Neville said with a sympathetic smile, it wasn't the first time Harry had said that, and probably wouldn't be the last either.

Harry made a noise of agreement, as he piled everything back into his own trunk magically drying his hair before straightening it so it didn't look like a birds nest anymore. He was so bored here at Hogwarts, he didn't dare take any books (well any he'd actually want to read) out of the library, and he hadn't been able to bring any reading material with him…it was mind-numbingly tedious. He often thought of leaving but in the end he didn't. Although if anyone made him want to run for the hills it was Ginny, one minute she was sleeping around with Dean the next she was trying to seduce him. It was like she was dipolar or something.

Shrugging it off, he grabbed his tie and began to do it up, his Gryffindor tie; he thought in distaste, how he often wondered what his life would have been like at Hogwarts had he not fought the sorting hat's decision. It was for the best though; he would have been watched a lot more closely in Slytherin that he knew without a single doubt.

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The day went quite fast all things concerned, especially considering he had Umbridge, and the foul woman had found a way to give him 'detention' for yet another imaginary crime. Apparently not falling into her trap and speaking back was 'ignoring' the teacher and her authority. He had icily wondered if he'd end up with Severus or Filch in detention if she couldn't take it oh, the urge to spit two words at her 'Avada Kedavra' was strong, to see the look of shock, horror and surprise written across her face.

Herbology went quite fast and then he'd had lunch with Neville and Luna, all of them just picking up something to eat before leaving the Great Hall. None of them wanted to see the smug look on Umbridge's face as she lorded over her position. It quite frankly turned his stomach and vanished his appetite. Then after lunch it was Transfiguration and then last but no means least, his secret new favourite class Potions, especially since he wasn't learning anything in Defence.

He decided to forgo blowing up any potions today; or rather it was decided for him as he worked on automatic brewing the potion. He was brewing the potion with Neville, and doing it all himself, Neville would just mess it up and he knew it. So the boy let him do it at his own pace quietly relieved. Making it look like he was actually helping whenever Severus was around.

"You coming, Harry?" Neville asked speaking lowly, worry coming off of him in droves; he hated Potions class…or rather was completely terrified of their Potions professor. He had already packed everything up and was just itching to get as far away from Snape as humanly possible now that the bell had rung.

"I'll see you in the lunch hall," Harry said, shoving his thumb in Snape's direction rolling his eyes. Taking his time in packing everything away, doing it with precision through habit. The potion had been expertly brewed, and he intended to take the rest of the batches with him and leave only one.

Neville's eyes widened and he squeaked before he nodded and quickly scampered out of the room throwing his bag over his shoulder with his tail between his legs. Assuming he must have missed Snape giving Harry detention or something, which wouldn't surprise Neville, he sort of shut down in Potions, it's probably why he did so badly.

"Just exactly what was I supposed to have done?" Severus asked dryly, after closing the door with a loud bang and putting up a silencing spell so they weren't overheard.

"How's Hedwig?" Harry asked, he missed her, he'd sent her off to Voldemort's just to keep her safe, which wasn't helping his urge to kill Umbridge, which he would one day, of that he swore.

"I'm sure she's well," Severus stated, he didn't visit the Dark Lord every night, even then he wouldn't see her, he was sure the Dark Lord was taking good care of her though. He wanted Harry on his side, so he would do what was required, Harry wasn't like the rest of the Death Eaters, wasn't easily swayed, and he'd have to have a true reason and desire to join. Harry was dark there was no doubt about it, but just because you were dark it didn't mean you had to join the Dark Lord. Many just practiced their crafts in secret and were content with that. He had hoped that Harry would join; with two of the most powerful wizards in the magical world they could change the world.

"Can I stay here and read a book?" Harry asked, his face showing just how bored he was.

Severus' lips twitched, "Very well," he agreed, moving over to his desk he muttered under his breath and released a secret compartment that even the Dark Lord would have trouble finding. Plucking out the book he held it out taking his seat at the same time. He began to correct the homework the fifth years had just handed in.

It wasn't even fifteen minutes later that they heard screaming.

"What the hell?" Harry muttered staring at the door, his wand already in hand, he noticed that Severus too had his wand out a perturbed look on his face. "It doesn't sound like Umbridge." he added thoughtfully, so it wasn't as if she was having another 'episode' so to speak. Sliding from his seat, he gave Severus back the book, before he exited the Potions classroom, vexed that he couldn't read a damn book without something happening and also a little bit curious.

The noise, he quickly realized was coming from the Entrance Hall, squeezing back the students until he got a clear view of what was going on. He blinked at the sight in front of him; Trelawney was out of her classroom, a rare occurrence by itself. She was utterly drunk, sherry by the look of the bottle, she had two trunks nearby, her belongings? It dawned on him what was happening quite quickly. No doubt Dumbledore had the woman terrified out of her wits that Voldemort or the Death Eaters would kill her if she left Hogwarts…and right now she did look utterly terrified. For once Harry felt a smidgen of pity for the woman.

"No, No! This cannot be happening…it cannot…I refuse to accept it!" somehow despite the fact she'd been drinking she was coherent.

"You didn't realize this was coming?" a girlish voice immediately let him in on the fact it was Umbridge to no surprise. "Incapable though you are of predicting even tomorrow's weather, you must surely have realised that your pitiful performance during my inspections, and lack of any improvement, would make it inevitable that you would be sacked?"

Harry winced as Trelawney began to howl and drawl with tears streaming down her face, screaming at Umbridge that she couldn't sack her that she'd been a teacher here for sixteen years. 'Hogwarts is my home!' yes, pity was what he was feeling at the moment and understanding. For so long Hogwarts had been his home too, for he had known no other, despite all the bag things that had happened here it had still been better than the alternative of being at the Dursley's.

"It was your home," Umbridge said, the glee on her face made Harry grit his teeth in fury, he would see that she was dead before the end of the year, of this he vowed to himself most vehemently. "Until an hour ago, when the Minister for Magic countersigned your Order of Dismissal. Now kindly remove yourself from this hall. You are embarrassing us."

Harry's eyes sharpened when he noticed movement towards the front of the crowd to see McGonagall marching towards Trelawney. He knew McGonagall hated her, called her craft 'a load of tripe' he watched her hand over a tartan handkerchief from her robes and comfort her. He raised an eyebrow at her words, not have to leave Hogwarts? How curious.

"Oh really, Professor McGonagall?" Umbridge asked her voice going serious. "And your authority for that statement is?"

"That would be mine," it was Dumbledore, his voice was unmistakable.

Harry clenched his fists together; even the sight of him was too much to bear these days. The old fool was still looking for the Dursley's and had asked him to write a damn letter telling them that Sirius Black was innocent. Stating it was only a matter of time until they found out as it had been plastered all over the Muggle news. He shook his head; he couldn't lose his composure here. Not now. He observed Umbridge explaining she had the most power within Hogwarts, that Trelawney was sacked because she wasn't performing to standard.

"You are quite right, of course, Professor Umbridge. As High Inquisitor you have every right to dismiss my teachers. You do not, however, have the authority to send them away from the castle. I am afraid, that the power to do that still resides with the Headmaster, and it is my wish that Professor Trelawney continue to live at Hogwarts."

Trelawney gave a bitter laugh and proclaimed she'd seek her fortune elsewhere.

"No," Dumbledore stated, "It is my wish that you remain, Sybill."

Harry glanced down at his hand, which had the faint outline of words imprinted on it by this bitch. He was paying the price between the Ministry and Dumbledore who were playing a game that he had no interest in playing. What the hell was he doing here? Dumbledore and McGonagall both knew what Umbridge was doing to everyone, knew it was illegal, yet they made no move to protect the students as they had sworn to do. Looking around at the sea of relieved faces at the sight of Dumbledore he sickeningly felt himself beginning to heave inwardly.

He wasn't going to do anything for them, he realized, he was content to let this go on but for what? And for how long? What was Dumbledore's end game? Why let her get away with it at all? Dumbledore didn't let anything happen he didn't want; then again his power had been reduced significantly in the magical community with the loss of his position in the Wizengamot and the ICW. Was he as helpless as he appeared or was he content to let Umbridge think she was winning while he did what he wanted for his side in the war?

An image of his own bedroom flashed through his minds eye it solidified his decision.

He was leaving.

"Hey, Harry, you alright?" Neville asked, "You coming?" he had seen the entire fiasco but everyone was now returning to dinner now that it was over.

"Yeah," Harry said, he would miss Neville's friendship but that was no reason to stay. Turning around both of them made their way to the Gryffindor bench and claimed their seats. Instead of eating, Harry removed a clean piece of parchment from his bag and began writing. Anyone that tried to pry found themselves looking away courtesy of a well placed spell to stop anyone reading from Harry. It was much like the anti-cheating tests on the O.W.L parchments; in fact that's what had given him the idea.

Once he was done he folded it in half, then proceeded to copy his O.W.L test scores and placed it within and folded both parchments once more. He glanced at Neville and wondered if he should say anything, he should really, but what? He wasn't sure Neville would understand.

Standing up thoughtfully he bent down and whispered to Neville, "I'm sorry, Neville. Look out for a letter tonight." the boy gazed at him wide eyed in confusion.

"Wha…" Neville began, but stopped when Harry tightened his hand on his shoulder, telling him to stop talking without saying anything.

"Remember what I said," Harry informed him, before he marched up to the Head table, the eyes of every student watching him go. Wondering what was going to happen next, until the beginning of the year, Harry had always been easy to anger, always standing up for what he felt was right. So many began to wonder what Harry had up his sleeve now.

"Hem, hem, Mr. Potter go back to your seat," Umbridge demanded, "I would hate to have to give you another detention so soon."

Harry barked out a sardonic laugh, "Hate it would you? You're a sadistic bitch using a blood quill on whoever you want, but you will not use it on me again…not only will I not allow it but it is illegal." he stated loudly, hoping against hope the idiots would understand.

"Detention, Mr. Potter, I will not tolerate lies in my school!" Umbridge shrieked girlishly.

"I'm afraid I won't be attending any detention you give out," Harry stated standing on the platform opposite her, he flung the letter down on the table. "I'm done; I withdraw my attendance from Hogwarts School of witchcraft and wizardry."

"Then by rights I must take your wand," Umbridge said, her eyes gleaming victoriously, her voice even sweater than Harry had ever heard it.

"Mr. Potter, please accompany me to my office," Albus said loudly, standing up, his blue eyes hiding a stern warning.

"If you had looked in the letter you'll find a copy of my O.W.L results," Harry added, his own voice imitating Umbridge's voice, completely ignoring Dumbledore. With a smirk of satisfaction seeing her deflate and then go red in fury, he turned and began to stalk back down the students benches who were all standing up cheering and clapping, stomping their feet and hooting in celebration that someone had managed to get one over the pink toad.

"MR. POTTER!" Dumbledore called out moving after him, fast for his age, but not as fast as Harry, who slid out of the Great Hall doors before Dumbledore could command them to close, if he would have done such a thing in public. "MR. POTTER!" he roared out again, hastily making his way to the doors, by the time he had opened them there was no sign of the boy.

Panic and fear began to consume him as he hastened as quickly as he was able, calming himself somewhat, he must be at his dorm collecting his things. That was until he heard the students calling out about Harry's 'awesome Quidditch move' he was outside on his broomstick. Blinding running down the stairs, breathing harshly by the time he got to the entrance hall…all he could see was a dot on the horizon; Harry was fading rapidly from view.

Harry Potter was gone.

Dumbledore gaped, completely blindsided by this occurrence, he had never expected anything like this. His heart thumping loudly in his ribcage, he turned around, making his way through the thong of students that had appeared for the second time around the Entrance Hall to watch a spectacle. He returned to the Great Hall, making use of the Floo network to get to his office…he had to get the Order alerted to this problem NOW. Damn Black to hell, because of him he wasn't able to use Grimmauld Place, they'd not found a new Secret hideout yet, instead they'd been using The Burrow for now.

He had to get Harry back in Hogwarts, he was too important to the war for him to go off in a fit of teenage rebellion.

For the first time in five years…Harry felt free and he continued to soar to freedom.

Chapter Text

Embracing His True Self

Chapter 30

Dumbledore sat in his office, he stared blindly at the O.W.L results belonging to one Harry James Potter. To say he was utterly bewildered was putting it mildly, he couldn't believe the boy had successfully taken his exams early and to such an extent that he had gotten all Outstanding in each subject, outdoing even his own scores. The boy had been mediocre in most classes, barely scraping by in most subjects according to test results, especially in History of magic yet his O.W.L results said otherwise.

"Albus, any sign?" Minerva asked her tone concerned as she entered the office, Severus followed behind her a sneer twisting on his lips as expected whenever Harry was brought up into a conversation. Nevertheless, he was there and no doubt worried about the teen just like the rest of them were. Both of them took seats, Minerva almost crippling in guilt, she knew of course, about the blood quill but there was nothing she could do other than protect the students.

"I haven't heard back yet," Albus said, today hadn't been a good day at all, he was completely vexed.

"Just what exactly do you intend to do once you've managed to catch up with the boy?" Severus inquired, upper lip curled.

"Albus is his magical guardian, Sirius is his godfather, I'm sure they can convince him to return," Minerva turned to say to Severus, blue eyes still shadowed in a deep concern.

"He's legally an adult in the eyes of the law, he cannot be forced to attend Hogwarts since he has withdrawn it's legally binding, which won't matter if the Dark Lord gets to him first." his tone changing just enough to show a smidgen of concern.

Minerva's lips became one drawn line, as she pursed them; she had forgotten Albus had said Harry had taken his Lordship. Harry loved Hogwarts; as soon as Umbridge was dealt with she was sure Harry would be amendable to the idea of rescinding his decision to leave the school. They just needed to find him first; no doubt the students had already written home, Harry was in danger each minute that he was out there. "Have you contacted Black?"

"I have written to him," Albus sighed, placing the copy of Harry's exam results on the desk in front of him. "Unfortunately since the Will reading I haven't been able to find him and he has yet to respond to any of my letters. I believe Remus is with him since I've tried to contact him as well but gotten nowhere."

"Is it true?" Minerva asked once Albus gazed up, she added, "That he has taken his exams? He hasn't slipped a fake in there?"

"I contacted the Ministry, they are real, as are his results accurately portrayed," Albus told her; he had hoped that they were fake but unfortunately not. He couldn't contest them either, especially since he didn't know the circumstances in which Harry had set his exams, he may only end up making a fool of himself, which he didn't want to do. Since he was person non-grata at the moment…he doubted anyone would take him seriously and investigate anyway. "Twelve Outstanding results in each and every subject he took."

"Twelve?" Minerva croaked trying to swallow, her throat suddenly dry. "That's impossible, he didn't take Ancient Runes or Arithmancy!" and those were just two of the examples of the classes he hadn't taken. He doubted even Hermione Granger would achieve twelve O.W.L's and most certainly not all Outstanding either.

"It seems there was more to Harry than met the eye," Albus informed his deputy Headmistress, his brow furrowed.

"Potter cannot have passed potions with an Outstanding, he was barely scraping by in my class, he would not have achieved the results required to get into my N.E.W.T's class." Severus sneered derisively. It was somehow demeaning to say as such, especially considering he now knew just how smart Harry was, and regretfully he couldn't break character. Unlike Harry, he couldn't just decide enough was enough; he would be spying until the war was over.

"These results say otherwise," Albus said, giving Severus a disappointed look as if he hadn't encouraged the enmity between them. Severus had an important job to do, and he wouldn't and couldn't do it if he grew attached to the boy. He hated sitting here while the Order searched for Harry but there was nothing he could do. He could only hope that they were successful in finding him and taking him to the Burrow.

Severus merely turned his nose up at it, giving the impression that he couldn't care less what the paperwork said he wasn't going to believe it. He hadn't had a second to alert the Dark Lord what was going on, and he knew Dumbledore would be watching him closely, mostly just to see if the Dark Lord did call, which he would have done if he 'caught' Harry in order for all of them to see his 'downfall' but that wasn't the reality anymore. It was a reality that Dumbledore believed, however, so he would definitely need to be careful. Pinching the bridge of his nose, he was tired; it had been a long day.

"If there is nothing else, Albus, I will take my leave," Severus stated, just about to stand when a Patronus trotted on through the outer wall into the office. It was a horse, Clydesdale Horse in fact; the Patronus belonged to one Alastor Moody. From the horse alone, Severus had deduced that Moody had grown up in Scotland and most likely grew up around horses, probably had one as a familiar. Something his mother had done he would guess as Moody came from a line of 'distinguished' Aurors, his father and grandfather had been head Auror's in their time. He paused and waited, tense and alert, worried that Moody had in fact caught up with Harry.

'Caught up with the boy in Culloden, he got off his broom at a Hotel roof and Apparated, I kept his trail for five minutes before I lost it, we have no idea where he is now, Albus.' the Horse began to fade after Moody's voice trailed off grimly.

"Culloden? That's in the other direction in which he left," Minerva insisted perplexed. It was still the Scottish highlands though so it wasn't that far out that it bordered incredulity that he was there.

"He must have circled around," Albus deducted, the boy was smarter than he anticipated, it was a surprise Alastor had managed to find him at all at this rate. His mind was spinning trying to think of where the boy would go did he know where Sirius was? Had the teen managed to lie to him without him any the wiser? If he wasn't going to Black then where was he going to go? He may have been in charge of the Potter vaults but that didn't mean he knew every single building owned by the Potters. In fact, he hadn't even been to Potter Manor, James hadn't used any of the Potter homes when he went into hiding until Godric's Hollow a year later. There were just too many spies for James to risk his family in any of the homes, regardless of the wards. Only then did Moody's words penetrate, "He Apparated?!" a sinking feeling sank into his gut immediately.

The summer holidays, the new knowledge, the sudden desire to learn, taking on his Lordship…Apparating…Harry had help, someone magical was helping him. Sitting up in his chair truly alarmed once more, who could be helping him? If there was someone unknown out there helping then finding Harry might end up even more difficult. Who was it? If they were going against him it was someone either neutral or worse still dark.

Severus had to refrain from smirking, oh he knew what was on the old fool's mind, and he had spent over a decade in his company. He had finally realized someone was helping Harry, he would never figure it out until it was too late. He'd never be able to conceive the idea that Harry would join Voldemort. Harry had done his part well; too well, in fact, nobody would want to believe it. Oh, but to see the look on his face, he sincerely hoped he was there the day it all unveils. Perhaps he had been a bit hasty in wishing to leave, this was anything but boring watching dread and worry seeping into those blue eyes of Dumbledore that were usually twinkling horrifically.

Arching an eyebrow, feigning concealed curiosity, "Albus?" he prompted, if this was any other situation he would want answers.

"Yes, yes, you may go, Severus," Albus said, coming out of his thoughts, unwilling to share them. "I believe both of you have your rounds to make tonight." dismissing them without actually saying the words. He mumbled a goodbye absently after they both said good evening to him; drawing his index fingers together he pressed them both against his mouth as he sat there deep in thought.

Ever since Tom had been resurrected everything had gone to hell, in perpetration of his return, he hadn't taken into account the blind fools reactions at the Ministry or how far Fudge would go. He wasn't happy in the slightest with Umbridge in his school, especially the blood quills but other than Harry nobody else of importance was targeted. Evidently, he had let it go too far, he had expected Harry to come to him, and instead he pulled this. No doubt there was a hoard of angry parents reading the news of Harry's vanishing act and more importantly Umbridge's usage of a quill. Cornelius would have a lot of explaining to do, he just wished he could have prevented the students from blabbing about Harry, news would reach Tom soon enough and he would send out his Death Eaters.

He could only hope Alastor found his trail again and picked up where he left off.

Unfortunately for him, that didn't happen, those outside looking for him all stopped by ten o'clock, it was just too dark they couldn't see anything and couldn't risk exposing themselves.

-----------------0

Harry breathed a momentarily sigh of relief as he landed in a very familiar place, Moody had gotten a bit too close for comfort three times. He'd had to bolt three blocks before daring to Apparate again, only when he was positive Moody hadn't appeared yet so he couldn't see him, damn his magical eye it was annoying. Letting his guard down proved to be a very bad idea indeed, as he heard a curse which he had no doubt was aimed at him being cast.

"Lacero!" was spat out with a slashing move of the wand.

Harry automatically ducked, knowing he wouldn't be able to get the shield charm up in time, he had not anticipated being attacked. Unfortunately he wasn't quick enough, as he felt heat blaze over his cheek, blood immediately began to gush out of the wound, leaving Harry dizzy momentarily. Fortunately, this wasn't his first brush in a duel, so he immediately went on the offensive.

"Confringo!" Harry spat back, his grip on his wand tight, the unknown wizard, who had the very distinctive mask of a Death Eater on his face, ducked out of the way but Harry grinned viciously when the curse hit his shoulder blasting him back, blood and bone splattered the hallway, as the wizard cried out in pain, clutching his shoulder from where he had fallen to the floor, the wizard too was used to pain as he got back to his feet.

"Flipendo!" Avery spat out, knowing he wouldn't use any lethal spells that was in his arsenal, his Lord would kill him if he accidentally killed the boy of that he had no doubt. He stuck to other dark curses and hexes hoping to bring the boy down, still reeling over the quickness in which the boy had used the blasting curse on him. "Bloody hell!" he spat jumping out of the way when the curse was rebound on him, crashing his good shoulder into the wall to prevent more severe injury to his injured shoulder. "Oppugno!"

"Protego! Sanguinem ferventis!" Harry chanted, deflecting the spell, and using one of his own spells, but anyone well read in Latin would understand what this particular spell did. The spell itself was non-lethal -but extremely painful -immediately, but if kept on for an extended period of time it would cause death in the end.

Harry ducked when his own spell was flung back at him, only to have the Death Eater cast "Crucio!" it hit its target and Harry went down, "Stupefy!" Harry managed to cast out, as pain wracked his form, like a puppet on a string he relaxed somewhat once the wizard let up the spell to deflect the stunner.

Scrambling to his feet, sensing weakness, although he was feeling woozy himself now due to the blood loss. "Expelliarmus!" Voldemort wouldn't be impressed if he killed his precious Death Eater, and he definitely didn't want to rock the boat so soon, as amusing as that would be. There was a difference between winding Voldemort up when they were alone…doing it in front of his Death Eaters was just asking for trouble.

The spell was overpowered, it didn't just remove the wand from the wizard's hand, it sent him veering into the wall, ironically enough in the same place as before judging by the blood coating the paintwork. Breathing out in relief, he leaned against the wall for support staring dispassionately at the wizard.

Avery stared back maliciously yet pained but a chuckle left his lips. "You've breathed your last, Potter," he spat the others in the inner circle and the Dark Lord stood behind him; he had no chance of getting back out. The Dark Lord, of course, gave them all a single look and they stood back, it was him who would end the boy, and he'd made that very clear to everyone. What irked Avery was the fact the boy didn't even look the least bit intimidated or pained for that matter.

Lucius wanted to shake his head at the stupid idiot, to make matters worse Avery Senior was watching on in pride under the wrong impression that his son would be praised and held above all others for bringing Harry Potter here. Which of course, didn't happen, he'd bet that Potter had either Apparated in or used a Portkey. The others in the inner circle were all looking ready to celebrate as well; they had no idea that Potter was now considered untouchable as his Lord himself. In other words, he would need to be careful with the boy; he didn't want to see who was more important himself or Potter. He knew who would be picked; Potter was the number one desirable any side would want to have.

"It took you long enough," the Dark Lord spoke in dulcet tones, often used deceptively. Quite enjoying the looks of shock and incomprehension on his elite.

Avery gaped blinking rapidly, feeling his head wondering if he had suffered some sort of blow to the head. He didn't dare say anything for fear of angering his Lord.

"It's only been seven months," Harry said wryly, "Miss me?" he added with a grin reminiscent of the time he'd asked Voldemort that down in the cells. He didn't even flinch when Voldemort's wand slid into his hand and pointed it at him, everyone else held their breath still reeling with what was going on. The Dark Lord was speaking to Harry Potter as if they were on the same side…and to make things more interesting the boy wasn't even slightly scared at the sight of the Dark Lord's wand. If it had been them they would have been scared stiff.

"Tergeo, Episkey," and just like that the wound on Harry's cheek and face began to ooze out the small debris inside it before it sealing closed. Harry himself was watching everyone's reaction with vicious amusement, too bad the masks they wore also masked the majority of their reactions.

"Thanks," Harry said, sighing in relief as the majority of the pain faded leaving only mild stinging in its place. His eyes catching sight of Tom's fingers and the way they held his wand. Long and dexterous, just like they had been in his dream, clearing his throat, praying at this face did not give away his thoughts, thanking Merlin for his ability to close his mind off. He had to stop thinking of him as Tom; it wouldn't end well if he ended up saying it out loud. Voldemort hated the name almost as much as he hated Dumbledore for some reason.

Harry caught sight of what was probably the biggest guy he'd ever seen, what the fucking hell did they feed him? He thought, staring at him, he had blue eyes, set into a stern angry face, long hair, which was going white he must have had dark hair since it was more grayish than white overall. When he saw him looking he growled at him, bearing his teeth animalistic like causing the others near him to flinch at the sound. Harry smirked in realization, this must be Fenrir Greyback the werewolf, he did cut quite an intimidating figure but Harry was well aware that size didn't mean everything.

Greyback eyed the wizard with a little respect, he knew he scared most of the people he met, and mostly due to his reputation and the fact he was a werewolf. He did wonder if the boy realized what he was, but heavily suspected he did. Surely he knew what he had done to Lupin; no doubt the pathetic man had told the boy in something touching attempt to make sure the wizard protected himself. As if he could do such a thing if an Alpha werewolf decided to go after him. He re-entered the meeting hall with everyone else after the Dark Lord swiftly made his way back inside with a non-verbal indication for them to follow. His thoughts regarding the wizard temporarily forgotten, in a bid to hear what Voldemort had to say.

Harry glanced at Avery on the floor; it seemed as punishment his injuries were to remain either that or to be healed after the meeting. He didn't have very much luck, he was the only one cursed during the rebirth, now this he knew they all revered Voldemort, would do absolutely anything he asked. That sort of loyalty was…amazing, he was slightly envious of all the people that he had following him who would do anything. He would probably be cursed some more if he didn't get back inside.

Sauntering over, Harry held out his hand, grasping a hold of Avery's semi good hand, "You owe me one." he told the wizard, stopping the bleeding and mending any bones that had been broken before healing over the wound.

Avery just stared back utterly baffled, "Why?" why had he just helped him? Was this really Harry Potter? Had the Dark Lord truly converted Potter of all people to the Dark side? It was beyond comprehension.

It was a good question, but Harry didn't answer, he just grabbed his fallen broomstick and moved away from the stunned wizard. Sliding into the room, remaining by the doorway, watching the free show curiously. He didn't even spare Avery a glance when he re-entered the room and took his place, minus his mask which had fallen off in the duel Harry noted, also wondering what a Death Eater meeting was like when it wasn't Voldemort's 'rebirthing' party as he'd coined it. Voldemort had sat back down looking extremely comfortable, as he eyed his people with a speculative look as if wondering if he could trust them.

"Mr. Potter is remaining here for the time being, he is to be treated with the utmost respect," Voldemort stated, his tone cold and harsh, he didn't even need to elaborate on what would happen should they disobey it was all in his voice. He paid no attention to the responses his words elicited. "You will treat him as you treat me, is that understood?"

Harry was surprised there wasn't a momentarily drop in pressure as everyone in the room inhaled sharply in what was probably disbelief at what they were hearing. This was fun, he thought in amusement, the only one unaffected was Lucius Malfoy, but that wasn't a surprise since he already knew and had been warned.

"Yes, My Lord," they all responded confusion bleeding into their words.

"Good now leave," Voldemort dismissed them, it wasn't just them he had to tell either, and he had his other Death Eaters to inform the ones he had not called, since they were not needed. "Not you, Fenrir, I want you in my office in twenty minutes." he demanded, having a need of him.

Harry observed that none of them Apparated from the building itself, they were leaving through the door. They weren't keyed into the wards like he was evidently. All of them were gazing him in either curiosity or anger as if they were stopping themselves from strangling him. Harry paid them absolutely no mind, wondering if the Lestrange's were amongst the people here.

"Is it true you can change forms without the aid of the full moon?" Harry questioned Fenrir arms crossed as he observed the werewolf, no Dark Mark, no cloak or mask, he briefly wondered if it was normal or if Greyback was the only one.

There went the question of whether the Potter boy knew he was a werewolf or not. A sadistic smirk stole over his features as he changed on the spot, baring his teeth he approached the boy, having no intentions of hurting him of course, but he didn't need to know that. Yet Harry wasn't reacting normally, he had an eyebrow raised and his head cocked to the side, his green eyes roaming over his form as if he was inspecting it carefully for something hidden, something only he could see.

"You can't turn anyone when it's not the full moon, the only thing I'd end up needing is a tetanus potion," Harry said, knowing without a doubt what the werewolf would be thinking. Trying to scare him no doubt but he was not prejudice against werewolves so it would not work. "I wonder if it's your magic turning your wolf form into an Animagus form of sorts, you're different from the only other werewolf I've seen at any rate."

"And just when and where did you come face to face with a werewolf?" Voldemort asked eyes narrowed in warning, silently demanding an answer and no cheekiness in front of his followers. Better yet what had made Harry decide enough was enough now? Had his decision to leave Umbridge paid off? It had served two purposes, to let Harry see how far the corrupt Ministry would go, and of course to give Harry the incentive to leave after seeing just how useless everyone was under Dumbledore's thumb. The longer he remained the higher the possibility that he might stay on the light side. Something he wouldn't and couldn't condone.

"Pettigrew didn't tell you?" saying the name as if it disgusted him to even utter the word. "Or better yet, you didn't get everything you could from his mind?"

Voldemort waved his hand, "I got everything of importance from him, he was very forthcoming," especially with the threat of a curse hanging over his head.

Harry snorted ca