A premise: What if the Horcrux hadn't quite been as contained by the Blood Wards as Dumbledore planned. Rather than influencing Harry's personality, but it darkened his aura. An aura already rather grey, despite his innocent nature; grey with the darkness of his parents traumatic deaths, grey with his status as the last living primary heir of the Peverells a child of Death - and that made him something warm, endearing and adorable to the dark creatures from an early age.

Man, wouldn't that suck for any other wannabe dark lord.

No Competition

The bowing and scraping was pleasing. It was a feudal sign of homage given to the Lord. There, in this modern age, it was combined with soft murmurs of awe arising from the dark-robed crowd as the stayed on their knees, a murmur their Master indulged this one time, as he enjoyed their impressed awareness of his immense power. That he was the greatest and strongest magical being in their lives. And he was, truly, the most powerful alive. After all, from the cold fingers of death, he had escaped. HE had returned to flesh, and stood before them ready to reclaim his throne.

No other could show such glorious power! After all, HE, alone had triumphed over the cold fingers of Death! Well, if you subscribed to fables, the brothers Peverell had too defeated the Grim Reaper, but Voldemort was quite content to discount the myth. Especially when he considered where were the family Peverells were now? Extinct! HA!

Thusly, bow and scrape the Death Eaters rightly should. He was their Lord. He was their Master. And they were the slaves to his very being. Clustered around him on their knees, in a half moon, they were the beginnings of his legion. This was merely the start. Soon, all magical beings would bow their head to him.

Soon, the Wizarding World would feel his might.

But first, before Dumbledore and his crowd could do aught to stop him, they would lay low, and he would bring together all his mighty forces of Darkness. 'And the time was now to begin such', Voldemort thought as he looked over his Death Eaters with something akin to pleasure. "MacNair – what news of Greyback – will the werewolves align themselves to my regime?"

Silence reigned for a long tangible moment, and in the gloomy environment of Riddle House, a sepulchral feel stretched through the aged house, with the mould, mildew and other signs of abandonment staining the former ebullient lavishness his muggle father had enjoyed in life. The murder of that bastard and his family had tainted the house forevermore.

It was an environment that the Dark Lord enjoyed. Proof his darkness could destroy any site of joy and happiness forevermore.

"MACNAIR! SPEAK!" The Dark Lord roared, eyes roaming the sea of dark robes, looking for his servant.

"Ah, Master..." The hesitant voice of Titus Nott spoke up, muffled somewhat as the man's head still faced the floor.. "MacNair is no longer with us."

"WHAT?" Voldemort spun a half circle to glare in the direction of the voice. With them all scuttling their faces at the ground, one back looked much the same as the other - except in the case of Bulstrode. There was no mistaking that hunched back. Fortunately, serpents had excellent senses for sound vibrations - that and his hearing was good, he hadn't quite figured out how to do away with the necessity of EARS, per se. "Has he betrayed our cause, Nott? Strayed from your ranks during my absence? Fear not, my faithful, for such treachery has a price. He will feel my wrath..."

"Ah, no milord." Not interrupted him. "Begging your pardon, Master. I meant, MacNair is no longer alive to be with us. He... well... he went off on the wrong werewolf, and is.. well." Nott stuttered, but since the Dark Lord was looking in the right direction, he narrowed in on the cowering robe that had spoken.

"Soulless." Malfoy muttered.

"You speak out of turn, Malfoy." The baleful serpentine glare shifted to the bowed head of the blond. "Bearing only fortune that Nott did as well spares you from punishment. Mind your tongue lest I remove it."

"Apologies, my lord." Malfoy murmured.

The Dark Lord's mind swum, processing Notts news. Soulless? What did Malfoy mean? What had happened that MacNair would fall prey to the Dementors kiss as punishment, for it must have been Dementors for the Executioner to lose his soul. Had he foolishly attacked the wrong wizard at some inopportune moment, and been caught? He frowned, turning swiftly, and his robes fanned behind him in the same fashion of a great Emperor.

"What crimes did the Ministry accuse him of?" He asked after a moment of consideration.

Silence again rained down. Dammit. He'd never admit it, but he missed the olden golden days when the idiots had spoken up after he had issued a statement. Sure, cowing them into silence had seemed a good idea back then, but when he needed information, someone HAD to speak up.

"Someone had best start explaining, or my wand shall be felt." He hissed.

"He wasn't tried for a crime, Master. He was… it… MacNair spoke badly about the Potter boy, a werewolf there took exception, MacNair attacked the werewolf, and a Dementor kissed him for harming his Euchre buddy." Nott explained in a rush.

Red eyes widened. That was the most ridiculous thing he had heard since his student days at Hogwarts. Had Nott taken a knock to the head? "Summon to me the L'oc Dama of the Dementors." He ordered abruptly. "I will have the truth of this!"

"Ahh." Nott stuttered, spittle hitting the stone floor. "That might be a bad idea, My Lord. They are in service to Potter, and would likely attack any emissary we send."

The Dark Lord blinked – a fearsome achievement for a being who no longer had eyelids. "I...what did you say?" He didn't stutter. That was NOT a stutter. He had simply changed his mind on what he was going to say, that was all. "The DEMENTORS are in service to Harry Potter?"

The bowed head seemed to totter side to side, waffling. "Well, "service" may not be the right word, per se, My Lord. But, it sounds bloody awkward to say they worship the ground the boy walks on, glory in the air he breathes...and well, have giving their loyalty to him. Sadly, kid actually enjoys being around them."

The Dark Lord didn't stumble. He had struck his toe on a protruding marble stone. However, in light of the fact this conversation was going downhill fast, he thought it best to re-assume his seat on his throne. Had he damaged the Potter boy that much with his killing curse? There had to be some sort of mental deficiency in oneself to enjoy being around Dementors.

Still, being around a child, versus having power in a new world order. "I will speak to the L'oc Dama." He decided. "I will learn the truth of what befell MacNair. And, we will free our brethren incarcerated in Azkaban at the same time."

"Ah." Nott muttered sotto voice.

"Again, Nott? Speak!" Voldemort ordered.

"The L'oc Dama isn't at Azkaban, anymore. He's in Surrey." Nott cleared his throat.

Had he eyebrows, he was sure they would have ridden up to his former hairline. Not that he had hair. "SURREY?"


"Privet Drive, Little Whinging, to be precise." Malfoy muttered. "Bloody residential Knockturn II"

"MALFOY! You forget yourself again, in my presence. Speak only when you are addressed." The Dark Lord hissed, his wand emerging from the folds of his robe. One more little comment from Malfoy – wait – did he say a residential street in a muggle city? What in the name of Salazar had been going on in their world? "Nott. Rise. Speak. Tell me everything about this situation." He ordered.

Titus swallowed hard and rose, eyes dropping to the wand clenched in his masters fist. "Well. It started with the werewolves, or a werewolf, to be honest." He said after a long moment. "Apparently, Potter lives on Privet Drive..."

"We shall attack immediately and end the thrall he has on our servants!" The Dark Lord decided, rising to his feet. He froze as Nott winced.

"About that, my Lord – perhaps you should wait until I explain it all – ah - our attack would likely go very badly… for us… without all details being provided to you. Your plans are brilliant, Master, but as you have taught us in past, we must provide all details for your plans to truly show their glory."

Eyes narrowed into mere slits of glowing redness. "What?" He hissed. "Quit blubbering nonsense. Speak!"

"Its just.. well..."

"Spit it out, Nott."

"Ah, the ah, well, the darker creatures of the magical world have decided to claim Potter as their Dark Lord." The man said in a rush, scarcely allowing for breath.

Voldemort gaped. POTTER? "WHAT?" Clearly, beyond a shadow of a doubt, Pettigrew had screwed up the ritual. He was trapped in a coma, or an alternate universe, or he was dead and this was purgatory - which means his horcrux had failed and that was untenable. "Speak slower. Repeat"

"Potters the new Dark Lord." Nott said succinctly. He caught the Master's scornful expression. "It's true, Master. See, it started with a werewolf, like I said. Apparently, he moved into Surrey, after he found he couldn't get work in the magical world, and found a job in muggle construction – horrible, I know, he should have chosen to die first - but, that's what happened, Master. So, one night, apparently when Potter was about four or so, according to the information my sources gave me, Potter's relatives locked him outside for a night - at winter-time– and this wolf happened to have escaped his cage on that same night. Went on a hunt, as werewolves do, and found the Potter boy."

Voldemort sat down with a near 'thud' onto his throne. "Potter's a werewolf?" He asked incredulously.

Nott made a small considering face, "No." He said after a moment. "Not so we can tell. I'm told the wolf never bit him. It just... well… thought he was the best thing since featherbeds and cuddled up to the boy. Kept him warm."

The 'You're Shitting Me' went unsaid, but the look on the Dark Lord's face was vocal enough.

"Well, the next morning, the werewolf in question was horrified, convinced he'd bitten the kid, and went back. Kid knew he had been the wolf right away. The wolf's wife started babysitting for the Potter boys relatives – said the elder cousin was a tubby bastard, but the Potter kid was sweet. He just... well... it's just..."


"Well, when it happened again, this time the wolf hunted down a rabbit and brought it to the kid for food." Nott wrung his hands. "I'm told the kid was very kind, but rejected the offer because he doesn't like his food furry. Well, I gather the werewolf was talking to a schoolmate, and before you knew it there were a few werewolves moving into the area."

The soft snort of disbelief was impressive for a man with no real nose.

"Yeah, well, then the kid had a pack keeping him warm at night. A pack that went out before moonrise to pick up food for the kid, package it in a bloody doggy-bag, and then bring it with them when they went to check on the kid. Bottom line, the wolves are in cohorts with their other halves where the kid is concerned. Most of 'em can transform at will now, because wolf and man have found harmony."

The dark lord blinked. This time, Nott saw it (unlike his other downward-facing dog compatriots), and he marvelled. Snakes couldn't blink, could they?

"So… I guess it only made sense that someone in Knockturn would notice a change. Do you know the hag who runs the Shoddy Inn?"

"Do I, perchance, look like a being that would associate oneself with a hag or a run-down disruptable inn located in Knockturn Alley?" The Dark Lord drawled, his warning unspoken but clear.

Not blinked, and gave a quick survey of the room around him, taking in all its wretched decay. "No, then. Huh. Alright… the Hag who owned the Shoddy Inn noticed, and asked around. Went snooping, because obviously her clientele was dropping, despite the fact she'd not poisoned them. So, I'm told she quite lIked the ambiance of Privet Drive. It was ripe with darkness, but warm, family oriented, if you were raising a litter of werewolves. She… ah… saw opportunity of a reduced tax rate, sold her old Inn, bought a property at the end of Private Drive, renovated, and opened up a bed and breakfast."

The Dark Lord reached up for the bridge of his nose - or where the bridge of his nose would have been if he had not modified his bone structure. Pinching flesh wasn't nearly so satisfying, he noted absently.

"Well, logically, it only made sense that a vampire or two would rent out a room at some point. I'm told it was Judas who took a room first. Liked the area, and decided to buy in."

"The Damned? The first true blood vampire has moved into a residential sector of England?" The slight shrill notes in his voice were just the effects of bad acoustics in the run down house. They needed a better venue, the Dark Lord noted. At least, for sound quality reasons, and no other. He gave himself a mental shake, if the Damned was in England, perhaps he could yet sway the vampires to his banner...

"It seems Dark creatures are drawn to Potter. And they tend to stay after meeting the kid. They really like being around him. A lot." Nott shrugged, as if unable to relate. Truth be told, with Voldemort's fondness for the unforgivables, none of his people wanted to be a square mile in his vicinity, so relating to Potters dark creatures was difficult. Nott sighed, "So, after Judas took up residence, there was a flood of other covens of vampires moving in. The flops and hanger-ons, who like to toady up to their Lord, of course. Started a whole renovation upswing in the neighborhood, which brought out more werewolves in looking for work - they've opened a construction firm in the muggle world, I'm told. Given their heightened strength and instincts, and reduced rates, they are making a killing. Well, monetarily, not literally. And I suppose that is when the Goblins got into it, financing it all."

"You guess?"

"Please, my Lord, I'm using second-hand information, and doing this recap on the fly. It's not easy. So, where were we... ah, we have werewolves, hags, and vampires all living in Little Whinging, the nexus of the site being Privet Drive. What next, what next… Oh! Then came the lich." Nott rubbed his head. "The retired headmaster of Scholomance. I'm told he, and I use that pronoun cautiously given that 'he' wears robes over 'his' body, so examination of the pelvic region is impossible, and confirming gender from a skull simply untenable; at any road, 'he' was curious about this new dark neighborhood in England, and during a poker tournament in Transylvania, the vampire Lord Judas was raving about this up and coming little dark prince to everyone and sundry, so 'he' came to investigate. Met Potter. Liked Potter. Bought the house next door."

'A lich lived next door to Potter.' Voldemort pressed his thumb hard into his forehead, feeling the echo of his heartbeat in a throbbing vein. Oh, sweet Merlin. A lich who had been privately tutored by the Prince of Hell at the legendary demon school, and had rumoured to serve as headmaster for three thousand years at said demon school. Oh, merlin's saggy balls!

"Ah, I should add? Yes… I'd best. Well, after the whole farcas last year, what with the 'Heir of Slytherin' nonsense that went on at Hogwarts, Potter was quite unhappy at Hogwarts. And so too were his dark creatures. The lich withdrew Potter after the end of year exams, and enrolled him into Scholomance for this past year. He actually was awarded a scholarship by the Prince of Hell. I'm told he's done exceptionally well. In the top three for marks."

Truth be told, the Dark Lord loved his scaly appearance. He took pride in it. It was physical proof to the world that he was genetically miles above the plebeian muggles from which his father's legacy came from. At this moment, what he loved most about his facial features was other than the widening of his eyes (and the small sounds he was inadvertently making, but would deny utterly), no one would know he was gobsmacked by looking at him. Which none of his servants, save Nott, were doing.

And Nott was mercifully expendable. He had an heir, after all, who could take his place.

"It was a case of happy neighbors after that at Knocturn II - err, Little Whinging. But that seems obvious doesn't it? I mean, who was going to piss off a powerful three-thousand year old, tutored by the devil, lich? No one - weeeeeell, there was a few small incidents at first. The... uh... vampires took exception to Potters relatives a few years back, and they would have killed them, but the lich got involved. Apparently, that's when he became magical guardian to Potter. For the record, his relatives really didn't like them, the vampires, I mean, and were antagonizing some of the vampires – something about their gardens being unnatural. I don't get it. I mean, I've seen the nightblooms vampires use in the gardens, they are breathtaking, which is probably why they use them. Bottom line, though, vandalizing a vampire's garden is never a good idea, muggle or no." Nott paused. "I digress, and I know you don't like that. So, after the lich moved in, it was about this time that all the rest of the muggles, excluding Potters relatives, completely moved out. If we were to attack, there's no muggles, just your run of the mill angry werewolves - who can change at will, bloodthirsty vampires, a few rather nasty hags, and of course, a very powerful lich. Nothing a well construed plan can't work around, my Lord."

Voldemort leaned forward. "Right." He said drily. "Potter is surrounded by werewolves, vampires, hags and a lich, and from your rambling tale, outnumbers us five to one." He summarized. "That there aren't any signs of friction I find doubtful. There must be a weak link, a chink in their armor. Has there been any rumors of dissention at all?" It was unfathomable that a vampire would coexist peacefully with a werewolf. And hags? No one felt comfortable around a hag.

"Well. No, frankly." Not scratched his chin. "I can't say I've heard anything bad at all, other than they are tiffed off with the Ministry and Dumbledore for sticking his long whiskered beard into things he ought not. I mean, unless you try to remove Potter from the neighborhood, it's very ah.. darkly zen. Some of my mates and I theorize it's to do with Potter. They're all so focused on the boy, you see, that there's no time for infighting. The wolves and hags can watch the Potter kid during the day, but the vampires take up night duty. And Merlin help the sod that makes Potter bleed a drop. They bought out two potioneers for all blood replenishers and healing pastes, one day. Because the kid fell off something called a bi-cycle? The lich has Potters relatives trussed up in runes. Overall, they are all very focused on the boy, and terribly protective." Nott paused, thoughtfully. "You know, I suppose the Dementors moved in shortly after Potter went shopping for school supplies in Knockturn, just before his first year."

At this point, the Dark Lord's brain short-circuited. This had to be a joke. He glanced around, and found none of his other servants were moving. Not even a twitch. Oh dear. "Albus Dumbledore let the hero of the light go shopping in Knockturn?" He asked dry-mouthed.

"Oh, no! Not at all, my Lord." Nott hastily assured him. "I'm quite certain the Headmaster had NO IDEA that Potter was in Knockturn. I daresay, he didn't have a clue until Potter left Hogwarts. As for hero of the light, that's pure propaganda by the Ministry."

Maybe getting rid of the eyebrows had been a bad idea. He couldn't arch them to show his displeasure, or to make enquiry. Hrm.

"Ah,anyway, as I understand it, it was the Vampire Lord, Judas, and the Hag, Baba Yaga, who took Potter to Knockturn for his school supplies."

"Baba Yaga is a myth." Voldemort cut him off abruptly.

Nott made a small face. "Yeah. You know, I thought so to. But Greyback proved us wrong." He rolled his eyes. "Not that I've seen evidence, but apparently the former alpha is now a carpet in front of Baba Yaga's fireplace."

The Dark Lord's jaw ached from hanging so low, sure being able to disenstand his jaw seemed like a great idea originally, some of those stacked burgers were daunting. A serpent would be able to swallow whole, he had thought, but right now, it HURT to hold it so low, so long – even if it was an unconscious action. "A hag killed Greyback?" He sought confirmation, the information being too, well, ridiculous. Greyback, a fierce werewolf capable of shifting outside of the moon, and used to taking a half-form capable of savage attacks. He took joy in being a feral beast. Dead?

"Well," Nott muttered. "He hadn't met a hag like Baba Yaga before. She boiled his bits and pieces and made stew. The wolves loved it. And she adores Potter. Seriously. Fawns over him. I saw it myself at Gringotts. It's bloody sickening."

Sickening indeed, in so many more ways than just one. A hag fawning over anything was an experience left for those of stronger stomachs. They were hideous creatures, deformed, tainted and horrid smelling. Their fetid breath was enough to curdle milk.

"So, Potter was in Knockturn before his first year, and coincidentally the Ministry sent a few Dementors on a search for a werewolf. Ah, I guess the Dementors found their mark, and Potter stood up for the werewolf. Well, the Dementors are pretty single minded, so whether it's kiss one body or two, they don't really care. They swooped and gave Potter the kiss…"

"He's soulless and still lives?" The Dark Lord openly squawked. He, who had walked further down the mystical road than any other was still searching for immortality,and a mere child already HAD it without any work?

"Ah. Well. You see, Master, we figured out how it was you preserved your incredible life, because of that moment. The Dementor swallowed the horcrux you had imbedded in the child's scar. We suspected, then, you had used a soul jar to preserve your life, but feared it destroyed. After that, the kids aura took a big upswing. I can't fathom how Dumbledore missed it. His eye prescription must be off."

Red eyes goggled, and a choked yip escaped his throat.

"But back to speaking on the subject of your multiple phylactery method of great immortality, My Lord. Last year when Potter encountered Slytherin's basilisk - well, it was the destruction of your diary that confirmed to us that our Great and Terrible Lord had made multiple horcruxes. And so we searched for the rest of them, found the one in that awful shack down the road from here - Slytherin rest Flint's soul, how he screamed, Master, that was a truly nasty curse on it - and of course you mercifully returned this summer to guide Pettigrew in how to use a horcrux to restore you to your Greatness." Nott gushed. "But to mention the Basilisk… ah, it, ah, relocated itself. Moved into the sewers of Privet Drive to be closer to Potter."

"It hunts Potter?" The Dark Lord sought hope. Any hope.

Notts head wobbled side to side. "Well, no, it would hunt FOR Potter, if the boy asked of it. I'm not sure how it's feeding itself, but Potter told my contact that the creature decided the cold north of Scotland sucked, and in it's old age, it sought a more temperate climate. Felt it would be far more beneficial. How Surrey is considered more temperate frankly baffles me, but it, ah, well, like all other residents of Knocturn II, it adores the boy. And after some research, our scholars, and some Gringotts curse breakers out of India have concluded that if the boys aura is dark enough to sustain a community of dark creatures, that ambiance would sustain a Basilisk regardless of other environmental factors."

"Oh, bugger me." The Dark Lord again tried to pinch the bridge (missing) of his nose - and again failed. No relief was to be his. There had to be another way to ease the mental headache growing. His eyes glanced upon the bent blond head, and an idea glimmered in his mind. A good idea. A pleasant idea. Well, insomuch as it would exercise some of his ire. He was NOT pleased that another of his horcrux had been destroyed. That represented three gone. Sure, one had been made unintentionally, but still.. "Malfoy," He hissed, letting anger bleed into his voice. "How is it the diary I entrusted into your care, and that you pledged to guard with your life, came to be destroyed at Hogwarts?"

"Master?" The Malfoy patriarch squeaked. "I… I…. I… it… oh… My Lord, please…."

"I'm waiting." The Dark Lord growled. Still the blond was stammering nothing of merit. Voldemort sighed silently, and cut to the chase, raising his yew wand. "Crucio."

The sound of Malfoy screaming was the most soothing music to his ears. He let the sound rain down for a few minutes, and then let up. "Let this be a warning to all of you, those that I entrust with my precious possessions are to guard them with your very LIVES." For good measure, he hit Malfoy with another Cruciatus. It felt good. Worked a few kinks out. He was willing to bet Potter never had done this before. Potter a natural dark lord, his arse!

"Nott," He turned his attention back to the only Death Eater standing. "What of the Dementors who kissed Potter? Can they be swayed to our cause?"

"Ah, no. They moved, almost immediately after kissing Potter, to Privet Drive to take up roles as guards to Potter." Nott rocked back and forth on his feet. "They actually reside in Potter's basement. It's been magically expanded."

"Guards?" He was perplexed. "How do they feed, cut off from the horde?"

Nott blew out a breath. "Ah, well. See, the whole horde is there. In the basement. The L'oc Dama terminated the agreement with the Ministry, and set up shop in Little Whinging. Something like the basilisk where the boy's aura is enough nourishment for their kind."

Inarticulate disbelief squawked from the Evilest of Dark Lords throat.

Nott shrugged. "I'm not making this up, Master. Were it that I could, but I'm very sorry, it's all true."

"What else? Trolls? Giants? Dragons? The Fae?"

"Now, technically," Nott shoved hands into the folds of his robes, "Dragons aren't dark creatures. They are just, magical creatures."

Voldemort narrowed his eyes. "He has a dragon." He concluded flatly.

"No, no, no... Potter doesn't have a dragon." Nott assured him jovially, before blithely continuing, "He has at least a score of them. They took the park attached by the street, the lich bathed it in muggle repelling wards and other things to protect the Statute of Secrecy, of course,… and yeah, that sums that up. A few dragons moved in. They hunt off of local farms in the wider area of Surrey. But, they always come back to the park." He gave the wide-eyed look of 'what can you do? Argue with a dragon? Ha!'

"How many? You said a score. Define that." it could be said the tone was conversational. It could also be said that the Sahara was in want of a little rain.

"Oh,well, ah… more than ten less than thirty. It's awful hard to get an accurate count." Nott was looking up at the ceiling, as if the flaking paint was the most entrancing thing he'd ever seen. "The Ministry sent some people to investigate. They never returned. It's rather hard to say definitively that it was the dragons that got them. It could have been the basilisk. She seems to think the dragons are her grandchildren or some such. Or, perhaps, the vampires. They get tetchy about interlopers who show up at night. or it was the lich, who really dislikes the British ministry. And since the ministry agents prefer to do census counts on dragons when said dragons are sleeping, so at night..."

"I see."

"As for trolls… well. They sent an apology for the one that Potter had to kill in his first year. Well. They sent a herd of cattle by way of apology. Potter gave the cattle to the dragons. Did I mention they let him go for flights on their backs? No? Ah." Nervously, Nott licked his lips, sensing the flat glare of the Dark Lord wasn't conducive for his continued good health.

"The giants - we believe Potter hasn't encountered any. But, Master - he's already got werewolves, vampires, dementors, hags, a basilisk, lich, dragons, succubi, incubbi, and inferi. I did mention the boy is in Scholomance now, right? The Prince of Hell offered Potter a scholarship - and the brat took him up on it. Started his third there, heading into his fourth, now. Ah, now this is unsubstantiated, well, except it came from a letter Potter sent to my source, but Lucifer is considering making the boy his heir on earth. Keeps calling the kid his "nephew". Knowing Lily Evans, anything is possible, I suppose. Fortunately, Uncle Luc hasn't moved into Privet Drive too. Not enough brimstone, I gather. So, with all that said, I don't think we want to squeeze Giants into that mix. And sure as it rains in England, if they have stray chance of meeting Potter, it'll happen."

Voldemort rose from his throne and stalked out of the room. A door slammed deeper into the house. And then another. Still, no one dared to twitch for the longest moment.

"Bloody hell, my back is killing me. Could he not just…" Someone groaned.

"Shut up." Travers hissed. "Do you want to be the next one to dance to his cruciatus? Just… stay there. If he wants us to lick the floor, we lick the bloody floor."

Silence reigned for a long moment.

"Potter doesn't ask his people to bow and scrape. Or lick floors."

"The wolves were licking the floor long before Potter came around." Alecto Carrows hissed scornfully.

"I'm just saying, he treats all the dark creatures with respect. Courtesy." The robed, bent over figure said. "He's not asking his sworn followers to act like dogs."

"Hey, Is it true he can remove the… you-know-what from our you-know-where?" Someone else muttered.

"I heard about that." Montague muttered. "Nott, your contact say anything."

"Remove the stick from your arse? Just reach behind yourself." Nott said blandly, still not moving from where he had stood before the Dark Lord. Frankly, he'd rather had been sitting in his own study at home with a big mug of something hot and comforting in his hand, but self-preservation said, until the anti-apparition wards dropped, wards that Voldemort himself had set up, Titus was stuck catering to the whack-job he called Master.

Ah, the indiscretions of youth. If only the consequences hadn't lingered.