Voldemort was suddenly very glad that he'd already keyed the Floo system in his home to allow those in Harry's trust. Tricky bit of magic, but not impossible. He was, however, startled as the Potions Master and werewolf stumbled gracefully from his library fireplace. His wand was out immediately, his wings poised for attack, but he backed down as he recognized the intruders.
Quickly, he regained his composure. "Severus, what a pleasant surprise. And you brought a guest! Remus Lupin, am I correct?" he asked in a smooth, confident manner.
Amber eyes locked with his own crimson orbs, and Voldemort could see several emotions flickering through that wolfish gaze. A great deal of caution, worry and distrust waged war in the Lycan's mind.
Severus stepped forward. "Sir, I have chosen to inform Lupin of the situation, and he wishes to see Harry. How is he doing?"
Voldemort smiled tenderly. "He's doing fine, Severus, Lupin, considering. He woke up briefly about twenty minutes ago, needing another pain potion, after which, he was sleeping again. His breathing sounds just about normal now."
"Where is he? Where is my cub?"
Voldemort raised a slender eyebrow nearly to the hairline. "Your 'cub'? So the little one is a part of your pack, then?" Remus nodded, still wary of the Dark Lord.
"Well, while the wolf in you sees the little one as the pack's cub, the serpent in me sees Harry as my Life-Mate." Remus nearly bristled visibly, imaginary hackles raised, and Severus nearly growled like a great predator cat. Voldemort chuckled softly.
"That's only if he accepts me."
Both wizards calmed down visibly and Voldemort walked out of the library, expecting and fully knowing that the other two would follow him.
He realized, absently, that the night of the full moon was fast approaching, a few days away, which was probably why the werewolf was so on edge... well, more on edge than the situation called for.
Reaching Harry's room, Voldemort grabbed the door handle and paused, glancing back at the Lycan barely a step behind him. "You can probably already smell the blood and the pain in this room, even though the blood is gone, and we are doing our best to stop the pain. I must warn you; it's much worse inside. Do not panic, or rage, or I will be forced to lock you away in the dungeons beneath the Manor until the full moon passes." It was clearly a threat.
A threat the wolf in Remus wisely decided was a serious threat that would probably get him killed if he chose not to heed it.
Remus nodded, awed by the power the Dark Lord had, and also awed by the creature between himself and the door to Harry's room. Somehow, the Dark Lord seemed more intimidating with his human form and black wings than he had been as the serpentine monster.
Voldemort opened the door and Remus had to fight the urge to gag on the scents that saturated his best friend's son. He could still smell the rape that had nearly broken Harry; he could still smell the blood and rain on his body, despite that the actual liquids he scented had long since been gone. His moon-heightened senses easily picked up on Harry's distress, his fear, even though the young man lay peacefully asleep.
Remus marveled at how the sleeping wizard before him had changed physically, as well. While sill overly thin, far too thin, Harry had grown several inches in height, his scrawny frame now lean and sinewy with hidden muscle. His hair had lengthened a bit, framing his face better, and his facial structure was sharper, more angled.
"He looks a lot more like you, Severus." His voice was low, trying not to wake Harry. He moved to his bedside, sitting on the edge as he took the younger wizard's hand in his. "Oh, Harry. Why is it always you?"
Voldemort spoke up quietly. "Because he is who he is. He lives with complete honesty and modesty, pure and with an unusual amount of compassion despite his past experiences that should have at least jaded him, and that is why he was chosen for Fate's twisted entertainment."
Harry stirred in his sleep, waking slowly as his subconscious sensed the others in the room. He blinked his eyes, sleep still clouding him, and he smiled as he recognized Remus.
"Oh, Little Lightning, what have you gotten yourself into THIS time?"
Harry snickered quietly. "Just the usual, Moony; and this time, I didn't even try to find trouble."
"I know, cub, trouble finds you," Remus replied softly. "How are you feeling?"
"Like a hundred Bludgers developed a grudge at the same time."
Voldemort winced. "That imagery hurt, little one. How are you really feeling?"
Harry sat up a little with a small yawn. "Sore. Most of the pain's gone, probably from the potions. I'm breathing better, and I'm able to move a bit more. I'm doing better, but it's going to be slow."
"That's good, then. You just take it easy, and I'll see if the wolf can't make Voldie here obey your every whim." Remus smirked, then laughed at the Dark Lord's indignant squawk. "But really, kiddo, don't push yourself. Take it easy."
Harry nodded. "Okay, Moony. It's good to see you."
"You too, kiddo."
Severus approached the pair, grabbing a vial from the bedside table. "Harry, drink this. It will help to bring back your energy." He passed the potion to Harry, who drank it obediently. "You get some more rest. Read the letter, if you're ready."
Harry nodded, picking up the letter from the bedside table, and the three older wizards left the room, convening in the library, and settling into different chairs around the fireplace. Remus observed the two Slytherins carefully.
Severus was greatly distraught about recent events; he could see that, like everything had changed too quickly, which was probably the case. The Potions Master didn't seem to know what to make of the Dark Lord either, only seeing that the Dark wizard was completely honest in his words, actions and intentions concerning his son. But as to what those intentions were, neither Severus nor Remus could figure out.
Voldemort, on the other hand, was the most surprising in regard to the recent events. Remus had obviously seen the Dark Lord's human self, intrigued by the transformation and awed by the wings. Remus had only met the Dark Lord once before, years ago in a battle, and he observed the different, more... peaceful look in the Dark wizard's crimson eyes. It truly appeared that Voldemort's sanity HAD returned, which cleared a lot of things up. But was the Dark Lord still eager to go to war, and if so, what would Harry do, now that he owed the other wizard a life debt.
If Voldemort did continue the war, would he change anything in considering his goals? Remus considered this as the three of them continued to watch each other, each deep in thought.
Severus' thoughts were of a similar nature, but focused more on Harry, now that he knew the boy was his son. He knew that the boy was bound to break down soon, probably soon after he was healed physically. He truly wished to know his son's feelings, so that he may be able to start forgiving himself, but only if Harry forgave him.
He also wondered what Voldemort planned to do and why, both with regards to his son and with the war. He wanted to get back at Dumbledore for abandoning Harry, and himself, in a way, but he was unsure as to what he should, and could, do about it. Severus let out a small sigh, breaking the silence that had settled in the room.
"Care to share your thoughts, Severus?" The Dark Lord asked, raising one slender black eyebrow in question.
The Potions Master shook his head. "No, not particularly."
"I suppose not," Remus joined in. "But perhaps we should be looking for and discussing the answer to a very important question, or rather, several questions."
"And those questions are what, exactly?"
"Well, a few questions, really, with more formulating as I speak. What do we do now? How do we go about it, and what about the war?"
Voldemort nodded. "Excellent questions, Lupin. I believe I can answer the third question. I will continue my war, but the reason behind it has changed. I've realized that the muggles continue to save and develop our race as wizards. It seems that muggleborn children are just as powerful, if not more so, than Pureblooded children. I will fight this war until Dumbledore is dead. He is my enemy. He has betrayed the wrong wizard, and I will not allow for Harry to be hurt again." He smirked. "This war is not to be about blood; it is about betrayal."
"Well said," Remus said quietly. "But how, exactly, are you going to conduct this war? Will you change anything in your attack plans? Who are you going to target? What will happen to Severus and myself, now that we know of your goals and ideals? What about Harry? There are these questions and more that you must consider and answer."
Severus blinked, the only indication of his astonishment. He had always known that the werewolf had been the brain behind the Marauders, but he hadn't truly realized that Remus really was a genius, thinking of all the considerations, planning things five steps ahead in as many different ways.
A low chuckle brought him back to the present and he stared at Voldemort as the Dark Lord allowed the chuckled to explode into full-bodied laughter. He and Remus exchanged furtive glances, but neither of them had a clue, nor did they say anything.
The Dark Lord got himself under control, tears of amusement leaking from his crimson eyes. He was still chuckling as he composed himself. He straightened in his chair, still grinning as his gaze swept over them.
"Mr. Lupin, would you ever consider working for me? If I had more people like you, I would have won the first time around. I was doomed to fail from the beginning." He said, highly amused at the astonished look currently settled on Remus' features.
"Mr. Lupin, I promise you, for Harry's sake, that neither of you will come to any harm under my authority. My target is Dumbledore, and only Dumbledore. He has gone too far and I will not stand for it any further, and I intend to keep Harry safe. If he so chooses to fight in my war, I will do my best to protect him, even if he chooses to side with the old coot. I have decided to treat this war like a corporate take over: striking only when and where it is necessary. My methods will changes according to Harry's wishes, but if he's being ridiculous, I'll ignore him in that respect, and only to a point. I will stress that Harry is my main priority, my main concern. He has become more important to me than life itself." His smile became very tender and gentle. "I believe I would do anything for him."
"For Harry?" Remus had to ask, just to be sure.
Voldemort nodded, leaning back. "Yes. He is extraordinarily strong, not only magically, but emotionally as well. Nothing can stand up to his will, his determination, his very heart. He has been through so much, the vast majority of his suffering is my fault, but he pulls through stronger than ever. Physically, he is unique; nearly completely unblemished from his pain, and his features are rare, too. How many witches or wizards do you come across with eyes that green? Not even Lily Evans Potter was so blessed with a shade that green. He looks so young, to make anyone protective, to stir that parental instinct that exists in every being, but he exudes an air of gentle, but strong power, and he gains trust so easily. He is one of a kind, someone to be appreciated and cherished as the special person that he is. He will change the world, and it's peoples, and for the better." His voice trailed off, but the emotion and truth to his words still there, hanging in the air. His eyes had partially glazed over, and Severus had to wonder what was going on in the Dark Lord's mind. He decided he didn't want to know.
It was obvious the Dark wizard had fallen for his son, and had fallen pretty damn hard. Remus had a small smile on his lips, probably having to smell the emotion seeping from the Dark Lord's declaration.
Voldemort suddenly stood from his chair and brushed invisible crumbs away from his robes. "You'll both have to excuse me; I'll be with Harry. Stay or go, do whatever it is you wish; I don't care. Good evening to you both." Then he was gone, leaving the Potions Master and the werewolf alone in his personal library.
The two men exchanged looks. "Well, that was interesting."
"Not a word of this to Dumbledore."
He was asleep, and this time, that sleep was peaceful, and quiet. That was good. Voldemort reached out and lightly traced the scar he had created all those years ago. The gesture brought a smile to Harry's lips.
The Dark Lord sat on the edge of the bed, his thick cloak removed to allow his wings some freedom. He watched as Harry slept in his Potion-induced sleep, ever watchful of the boy's inner demons and nightmares.
Voldemort knew the boy would crash soon, the shock of his ordeals, and of the revelations made recently would catch up to him, overwhelming him. But he, and the others, would be there when it happened.
A small whimper brought his attention back to Harry. The boy's face lost its peace, his brow furrowing with lines, and his mouth turned into a grimace.
"Oh, Harry, even in sleep, you are plagued." He moved closer, lightly caressing Harry's cheek. He leaned in and placed a feather-soft kiss on his scar, and was relieved when Harry calmed at his touch. "Sleep well, little one. I'll protect you from your demons."
"But you are one of my demons," Voldemort didn't show it, but his heart had lurched into his throat.
"What woke you up this time?"
Harry kept his eyes closed. "You touched me, but it was nice."
"I see. Please forgive me for disrupting your sleep, little one." He moved back a bit, putting some distance between them. Harry frowned at this, but he didn't mention it.
"What happens now? What happens to Remus, and to Professor Snape? What about me, and the war?" He asked, secretly fearing the worst.
Voldemort smiled gently. "Your wolf asked me the same questions only minutes ago. I will wage war on Dumbledore for betraying the most important people he has within his trust: mainly you, and Severus. You may do whatever you wish, and those you care about will come to no harm from me, simply because you care for them. I will do everything within my power to protect you, even if you are against me."
"You know the answer to that. Because I love you, almost obsessively." At Harry's startled look, he grinned. "Do not worry, little one; I do have a modicum of self-restraint."
"Why do you love me?"
"Because I do. You have given me my sanity back. You have gifted me with my wings, my second chance. And I will not waste that chance. I will do what I can to change the magical world, for it does need a change from the 'traditions' it has created over the centuries, and this time, I will not allow power to corrupt me again. I can recognize the signs of corruption, having witnessed them first hand, and I will not allow myself to be corrupted again. Because that would hurt you." Voldemort leaned forward, placing a feather-soft kiss on Harry's forehead before standing from his place at the side of the bed. "I should leave you to your recovery. Do you need anything while I am here?"
Harry looked away from Voldemort's crimson gaze, a brief almost smile flitting across his lips. "No. I should be all right. Thank you, though."
Voldemort nodded and started for the door, but he reached out to grab the door handle, he paused, and turned to face Harry, a speculative gleam in that crimson gaze.
"Would you allow me to... try something?" he asked, the question soft and barely heard.
Harry took a moment to think it over. He had a feeling, a hunch that whatever the Dark Lord wished to try was connected to his emotions for him, but he had his own emotional conflict as well. Harry knew that he was responding to the Dark Lord in a way he hadn't responded to anyone before, and he was confused, because he had a few emotions tied to the older wizard, as both a result of the positive and nurturing actions of the older wizard and his new insights he'd gained from the last few times he'd been conscious and aware, that he couldn't identify on his own. But he was quite willing to explore those emotions, to feel for a change, instead of pushing everything to the side.
He nodded and the Dark Lord smiled, moving closer to the bed. He helped Harry to sit up and settled at his side, slowly bringing a hand to gently caress the younger wizard's jaw. There was nothing but gentleness and love in his expression and in his eyes.
"Stop me if you feel the need to. I will not pressure you into anything you are not comfortable with." Again Harry nodded and Voldemort brought them closer and closer, until their lips met in the barest touch. The kiss was soft and careful as Voldemort kissed him, waiting for his reaction.
He didn't pull away, so the Dark Lord applied more pressure to the gesture, swiping his tongue across Harry's lips. The younger wizard's eyes fell shut as the sensations of the kiss aroused the emotions within him, bringing them into sharper focus.
Soon, he started responding to Voldemort's touch, as the Dark Lord was running one hand down his back in a rather soothing manner, keeping his other hand gently in place on his cheek. He pushed back against the man kissing him, returning the kiss as best he could. It wasn't like he had any experience before this.
Voldemort couldn't help but smirk at his inexperience, which was nearly painfully obvious, but he continued the gentle kiss, swiping with his tongue again across Harry's lips, this time slipping between and deepening the kiss with his tongue, tenderly exploring the small space that was open to him, drawing soft sighs from the younger wizard.
But soon, he knew that this small reprieve would have to do, because if he did anything else to the younger, still-recovering wizard, this very pleasant scenario could turn very ugly. So, reluctantly, Voldemort ended the kiss and drew away from Harry, and watched as the younger wizard regained his composure.
He stood up and leaned forward, catching Harry's forehead with his lips, placing a rather chaste kiss on his scar before bidding his guest good night and leaving the room. Harry could only stare after him, even as Remus and Severus came in.
"Harry? Is something wrong, cub?"
It took a moment before Harry turned his focus on Remus, a smile lighting up his features. "Everything's fine, Moony. I think... I'm going to be okay. Really."
Remus smiled fondly, and Severus seemed profoundly relieved, though he did well hiding most of his relief. "Is there anything you need right now? Anything at all?"
"Could you stay here until I fall asleep again?"
"Sure thing, cub. I can do that for you."
Severus stepped forward, a potion in hand. "Before you settle down to sleep and rest again, I just need to administer this to your chest and throat. It will help heal the damage done to your lungs and vocal cords."
Harry nodded, and allowed Severus to apply the potion across his chest, although he flinched a little at the first touch of the Potions Master's hands on his bare skin. He felt ashamed suddenly, because he knew that he was safe here, with his father. Although the idea of Severus being his father was still new to him, he knew the man would never hurt him, not even by accident.
It would still some time before he could get over his reflex, though.
It was all too soon that his thoughts started to blur as exhaustion crept up, forcing a yawn from him, and Harry succumbed to the blissful dark of sleep, with the soft strong touch of his father's hands soothing his injuries firm in his memory.
A/N: PLEASE KEEP IN MIND THAT MOST OF THIS CHAPTER HAS BEEN TYPED OUT FOR AT LEAST A YEAR AND A HALF. I REALLY ONLY HAD TROUBLE WITH FINISHING THE CHAPTER, AND NOW I HOPE TO HAVE AN EASIER TIME WITH WRITING THE REST OF THE STORY WITH POSSIBLY LESS TIME BETWEEN UPDATES.
ON ANOTHER NOTE, I WOULD REALLY APPRECIATE CONSTRUCTIVE CRITICISM IN REVIEWS, AND PLEASE DON'T LEAVE REVIEWS ASKING ME TO UPDATE, OR WHEN I'LL UPDATE. REAL LIFE GETS IN THE WAY OF MY WRITING A LOT, SO UPDATES WILL HAPPEN WHEN THEY HAPPEN.
THANK YOU ALL FOR YOUR ETERNAL PATIENCE.