AN: Thank you everyone who reviewed and there have been so many of you! I have really enjoyed reading your comments and you have helped inspire me to continue this story. I must admit at several points in the last year I really thought it was time to give up but you guys have just been so supportive!
I have been having a massive writer's block for all of my fics and the manipulator has really suffered. My plot lines are all jumbled up and I wasn't really sure anymore where this story was headed but I'm back on track and speed typing so fast my fingers are on fire!
Watch out for more updates on my other fanfics including Only mad dogs and Englishment, also Harry and Voldemort non-slash!
Also I am looking for a beta reader to make reading the chapters a better experience for everyone. Please PM me if you would like to volunteer.
Another day, another trial, another dull link in the chain that bound Harry more and more tightly to his fate.
The weekend had passed without another incident and Voldemort made no further mention of their imminent sojourn into the muggle world and Number 4 Privet Drive. Their second fishing trip had been cut short by Harry's sullen unresponsiveness and Voldemort, savouring his latest triumph, had sailed the little boat back to the peer with a promise of more adventures to come.
The school holidays were fast approaching, the atmosphere at Hogwarts was alive with excitement and expectations. All around him, his classmates were exchanging animated descriptions of their ambitious plans for the summer but Harry had not made any plans and no one took the time to ask him. They all knew that whatever he would be doing in those long months ahead would not be something of his own choosing.
After the end of year feast, as the hall emptied and corridors cleared of luggage, Harry found his way reluctantly back to the headmaster's office. A full two months stretched before him with nothing but the Dark Lord's company to harass him and fuel his paranoia.
Snape was conversing with an unpleasant portrait of a past headmaster and left Harry waiting tentatively in the doorway whilst they discussed Hogwarts' fiscal situation in low stern tones. Finally, after deciding that the dungeons would benefit most from the ministry's unexpected and very generous contribution, Snape gestured for Harry to step into the fireplace.
Two minutes he was back in Voldemort's study and now, more than ever Harry felt the oppressive weight of the future pressing down on his chest.
"Harry," The Dark Lord rose from his desk, "Severus, another year has ended at Hogwarts."
"Yes, my Lord," said Snape quietly, "with many more to successful ones to come."
"Of course," said Voldemort graciously, "Harry thank Professor Snape for a great academic year,"
Dully, Harry turned to face the sallow potions master and expressed his gratitude in an emotionless voice.
Snape simply leered at him.
"Severus, I shall be holding dinner tonight, be sure to pass my invitations on."
"Of course, my Lord," replied the Headmaster as he bowed gracefully and stepped back into the fireplace. Harry found himself fantasizing that the green flames would suddenly turn red and swallow the evil backstabbing turncoat in a volley of fire.
"Really," said Voldemort, his green eyes glistening with the reflection of the fire, "such evil thoughts…"
"Stay out of my head," snapped Harry, still wallowing in angst.
"Most children would be happy at the end of term," suggest Voldemort, his voice laced with feigned concern.
"Yes well most children don't have to live with the Dark Lord!" spat Harry and turned to leave the study but felt a hand grip the back of his collar.
"I haven't dismissed you," hissed Voldemort, his voice suddenly cold and sharp. Suppressing the ominous sense of foreboding building up inside him, Harry slowly turned around to look at his captor. "I have much to discuss with you, little one."
"Have you finally decided to put me out of my misery, permanently?" asked Harry numbly.
"Quite on the contrary, I do believe I promised you a holiday, to Dorset. We will be leaving tomorrow," stated Voldemort, leaving no room any sort of discussion.
"What?" asked Harry, hardly able to believe his own hearing, "you're just going to upend yourself, leave the entire ministry and go off on a jolly jaunt to the seaside?"
Voldemort smiled, a thin lipped smirk,
"Actually, I sorted everything out months ago,"
"You're not afraid someone will oust you whilst your back is turned? Snape looks like he's just itching to crave up your back…"
The diabolical smile only grew wider,
"Oh, Severus is far too smart to do that…" replied Voldemort cryptically, "Lucius might be tempted but not Severus."
"And by holiday, do you actually mean private torture sessions?" asked Harry flatly, "have you set up a nice unassuming dungeon somewhere filled with imaginable torture implements?"
"Why ever would you think that?" demanded Voldemort, his voice once again sounding dramatically hurt. "I merely feel that we need to spend some more time together than we have been doing over the past year. I've been very busy and you have been at school. Now is the perfect opportunity for some quality bonding time…"
"You want your soul back this badly?" said Harry in his most derisive tone. As twisted as Voldemort's mind must be, Harry found it hard to believe that this little holiday would be any more pleasant for Voldemort as it was for him. After all spending weeks in isolation with nothing but your worst enemy for company was not any sane person's first choice of holiday.
Voldemort merely looked back at Harry, as if waiting for him to supply the answer.
"I suppose I really don't have a choice in the matter," muttered Harry sullenly.
"Very astute of you, my little one."
Dinner was nearly as bad as Harry had imagined it to be. Seated between Bellatrix who wouldn't stop purring at him and Severus Snape who didn't pass a signal opportunity to criticize every aspect of his person, Harry began to wonder if it would be much better for him to just throw a cup of pumpkin juice in Voldemort's face and be sent to his room.
"As I was saying," said Lucius Malfoy from across the table where he sat haughtily beside the picture perfect Narcissa, "we really must to do something about the Department for Transportation."
Macnair, who had bought with him a dinner date that looked even more sinister than he did, leered at Lucius and carried on carving up his steak with deadly precision. Jugson, Yaxley and Mulciber had all come alone, due to what Jugson had eloquently termed: a complete lack of animal magnetism. Harry wished, not for the first time that evening, that he was seated next to Yaxley who never spoke and probably never would seen as an auror had severed his vocal cord during the last battle. Mulciber was politely gnawing on a piece of spare rib whilst Jugson was having a very one-sided conversation with Yaxley.
Roldophus and Rabastan, were both tucking into the golden roast potatoes and somewhat overdone cabbage that Harry was working very hard to avoid eating.
"Potter," snapped Snape, "finished your vegetables."
Harry glared back at Snape, which earned him a clip around the ear that made him wince. Voldemort merely looked expectantly down at him from the seat of honour. Shovelling the slimy concoction of red cabbage and raisins into his mouth and swallowing like a dying martyr did not help things along.
"Swipe that sour expression off your face," snarled Snape, who had taken his unofficial mandate to keep Harry in line, very seriously.
"Sorry," replied Harry sarcastically, "it's just that I'm not used to the aroma of your hair at such close quarters."
Across the table Lucius Malfoy stopped his monologue and Jugson snorted into a glass of wine, which sent large droplets of red liquid flying in all directions. One such drop landed squarely in Snape's plate.
The others, who had not been listening so closely, gradually looked up to see what the sudden smothering of the general hum drum of conversation was about. When Harry finally plucked up the courage to look up at Voldemort, he was surprised to see an amused smirk on his face.
"Well, Harry, if you really can't stand it then come and sit with me," suggested Voldemort, although everyone knew it was a direct order.
Gingerly Harry left his place as every pair of eyes in the room tracked his progress and went to stand beside the Dark Lord. His plate magically transported itself into oblivion taking with it remains of the disgusting red cabbage.
"Now Harry, nostrils all cleared?" inquired the Dark Lord, menacingly. Harry was far too scared to do anything but nod placidly. One hand snaked around his waist and gripped it tightly. Voldemort leaned closer and hissed ominously,
"We will be having words later," One hand tapped Harry on the backside very sharply, causing him to wince again.
"Lucius," Voldemort turned to his right, where Lucius Malfoy was watching their exchange with polite interest and Narcissa engaged herself in conversation with Antonin Dolohov's dinner date, who, judging by her accent, was Russian. "The Department of Transportation insist that they have traced every possible lead we gave them. The poor girl, Orphea, didn't enter any fireplace, apparate with anyone, or even take to air in anything moveable. "
"Then my lord, someone must be hiding something," concluded Lucius decisively. "It would be impossible to transport the child from Surrey where the portkey was found to the woodland were she was murdered by anything but magical methods. The two places are eight hundred miles apart."
"Another portkey, perhaps," suggested Voldemort pensively, "but that would still leave traceable magic."
"My Lord, I do believe someone in the Department has ulterior motives," insisted Lucius.
"Of course they do, Lucius," muttered Voldemort, "but it's far too early the startle our quarry."
"And the criminals Black and Lupin?" asked Lucius, "Have they managed to unearth anything useful?"
"If we had to rely on those two to solve this case, we shall all need the Elixir of immortality," replied Voldemort.
Harry, anxious to hear more news about his godfather and Remus, waited eagerly for the conversation to resume but instead, Voldemort turned to look directly at him,
"Your dear godfather is running out of time, my little one."
"He'll find something," snapped Harry glaring in Voldemort's snake like eyes that were now filled with sadistic amusement. "Besides you all know he couldn't have murdered the girl, or you wouldn't be fumbling to find out how she made it from one end of the country to the other."
Lucius Malfoy gave him a withering look,
"Your dear godfather," he drawled, "is still at the top of the suspect list. It won't be long before we will have him under truth serum."
"Don't waste your potions," said Harry, "you know he's innocent."
"Mmm – well he's currently holed up in a disreputable bar drinking away the allowance we gave him, so I wouldn't be too hopeful," said Malfoy, his cold grey eyes glinting with triumph.
For a moment of sheer insanity Harry envisioned himself hurling the serving bowl filled with slimy red cabbage right into the man's arrogant face and watching the warm sticky thread slide off his horrified features.
Well, what do I have to lose? Thought Harry, the sheer madness of his thoughts fuelling him with bravado.
Before he could reason with himself the cabbage was already flying through the air only to spontaneously vanish before most it had left the bowl.
Voldemort had not even moved a muscle and yet the cabbage had vanished and the rest of the table carried on as if nothing had even happened.
"You look tired, Harry, you may go to bed now," said Voldemort his eyes boring into Harry, promising that there would be hell to pay later.
Two hours later, after all the Death Eaters had scoffed their share of the dessert and Harry had to listen to them leave one by one from the landing, Voldemort's measured stepped stopped outside his room and Harry felt his stomach tightening with dread. His door swung open silently and the Dark Lord looked expectantly into the darkness of Harry's room. The candles suddenly flared to life as Voldemort stepped across the threshold, his face a tight mask of neutrality.
"Harry, come over here," he commanded calmly, waiting for Harry to crawl out from the cupboard where he had been hiding.
"Are you going to beat me?" Harry asked, unable to disguise the apprehension in his voice.
"What do you think you deserve?" asked Voldemort quietly, looking down at Harry from what seemed a great height.
Taking a moment to wonder if this was a genuine a question or just another trap which would inevitably lead to more pain regardless of his answer, Harry stared resolutely back at the Dark Lord.
"They were being mean to me," he snapped petulantly. "I think you should beat them!"
The corners of Voldemort's mouth twitched slightly as if he was holding back a laugh but he remained stern and unmoving,
"Regardless of their actions, they are still your elders and you failed to display the level of respect I expect from you. What do you think you deserve?"
Seeing that stamping his feet and throwing a tantrum was not going to help him cross this particularly bridge, Harry decided on a different tack.
"To be sent to bed?" he suggested tentatively, "like you've already done?"
Voldemort simply raised one eyebrow and continued to stare down at Harry.
"I've already missed dessert," muttered Harry trying to sound pathetic, "and it was my favourite!"
"That must have been very hard for you," replied Voldemort with a lethal dose of sarcasm.
"I'm sorry," said Harry sincerely, "I just hate those people so much, and you let then treat me like some sort of disgusting pest!"
"When has any of my Death Eater treated you like a 'pest'," demanded Voldemort, "Professor Snape merely wanted you to behave appropriately and Lucius Malfoy was telling the truth about your godfather. If you are too sensitive and unreasonable to understand this, that is entirely your own problem."
Harry swallowed nervously as he looked up at Voldemort's stern visage.
"Harry," he continued, "there will be many challenges you must face in the life. Not everyone will like you the way your friends did. Your path will not be strewn with palm branches."
"I wish – I wish none of this had ever happened," whispered Harry feeling tired and defeated. "Sometimes when I close my eyes, I can just imagine what life might have been like had I just been an ordinary boy. Sometimes I imagine a life where that letter never came and I just went on living as a muggle. I wish there was no such thing as magic..."
"Dreaming of what might have been will not solve any problems. It is merely the coward's way of avoiding responsibility," said Voldemort.
"But don't you ever wonder what you could have been if that Hogwarts letter never arrived?" asked Harry his eyes wide with the thought of possibilities. "I could have gone to the local comprehensive and made friends. Maybe I'll be working in MacDonalds now and living in a council flat on my own. Perhaps I'd have a girlfriend and we'd all go out clubbing at the weekend when I got paid..."
"You would sacrifice everything you have been given for a low life as a muggle?" demanded Voldemort, his voice filled with both disgust and anger. Harry hearing the distinct beginnings of something about to turn ugly simply stared at the floor waiting to hear what the Dark Lord planned to do with him. "If you really are so ungrateful, perhaps I should simply strip you of your magic and send you back to those muggles and let them lock you back in that closet!"
"At least I could get away from them eventually," sobbed Harry feeling a overwhelming sadness overcome him all of a sudden. He could not quite believe he was actually missing Privet Drive but as his mind conjured up the memories of his first home he could feel a pain throbbing in his heart, "I could have had a life of my own!"
"And you can't now?" asked Voldemort, "what makes you think you shall never have a life?"
Looking up at his tormentor and the root of cause of all his pain and confusion through a veil of tears, Harry sobbed,
"You! You! You'll never let me have my own life; you'll always be there in controlling me like a puppet master. I'll never be free of you unless one of us dies!"
For a long moment there was uttered silence in the room as the two combatants stared at each other.
"Freedom," began Voldemort breaking the tension, "is merely a point of view. You feel that I have imprisoned you but I believe that I am keeping you safe. Perhaps one day, when you are an adult you will understand what I mean. For now, I do not expect you to be particularly grateful, I do however expect you to behave at least."
Harry wasn't sure whether to continue his angry tirade or simply to stay silent and hope that Voldemort would forget about punishing him.
"Have I made myself clear?" insisted Voldemort, his eyes boring into Harry's.
Harry nodded mutely.
"Now get ready for bed. Tomorrow we shall be leaving for Dorset, and Privet Drive."
"What?" blurted Harry before he could even think of stopping himself, "you're not honestly going to take me -,"
"I thought that was what you wanted?" inquired Voldemort calmly as if he had merely offered Harry a small favour.
"I – well I wasn't really thinking," muttered Harry suddenly realising just what a visit to Privet Drive would entail for the Dursleys. If they insulted Lord Voldemort, and they inevitably would within the first few minutes, their deaths would be horrible drawn out affairs. Harry had hated them as child but now he could not give Voldemort and excuse to kill them for sport.
"You are afraid that I will find your relatives offensive and hence wipe them from the face of the earth," stated Voldemort with mild amusement. "I assure you Harry, I have no intention of breaking the law even if your awful relatives are involved. We shall merely drop by at the appointed time, I have already sent them a letter, via the Royal Mail,"
Harry tried not to look too much like a dying goldfish gulping helplessly out of water.
"You did that?" he asked incredulously, "you really sent my aunt a letter asking if we could visit?"
"Harry," replied Voldemort now sounding slightly exasperated, "I have already told you have been planning this trip for several weeks, do you doubt my organisation skills? Beside your aunt has kindly agreed to see us, so we shall be going."
Stunned into silence, Harry tried to imagine what on earth Voldemort had written in the letter that managed to convince Petunia and by extension Veron Dursley into letting him and the Dark Lord into their house. No doubt after the conclusion of the war, the Dursleys had simply assumed that Harry, then eighteen, had finally decided to stop sponging off them and start parasitizing other people.
"You'll need to dress as a muggle," said Harry suddenly remembering just how many neighbours possessed telescopic vision on Privet Drive, "and you don't have any muggle clothing! Besides you hate muggles? Why would you willingly subject yourself to visiting muggles?"
Voldemort merely smiled enigmatically and as usual his expression belied an undercurrent of malice.
"I want you to put the past behind you. Despite what you might think, you have not yet overcome the trauma of growing up in that awful household. Perhaps a visit to Privet Drive is exactly what you need to move on with your life."
"But," spluttered Harry now lost for words, "but – seriously! They'll insult you and – and make fun of you. Then you'll get all angry -,"
"My temper will not be the problem here," interrupted Voldemort, "you will be polite and well behaved at all time or there will be consequences. Now after this visit we shall be going to seaside near Weymouth. I shall be taking an extend break from work but we shall still have important visitors so I assure you now that I expect you on your best behaviour at all times. If a repeat of what happened today were to happen, I shall be most displeased."
Hearing the tone of finality in Voldemort's voice Harry decided it would be completely futile to argue anymore. Voldemort was going to visit Privet Drive and his aunt and uncle, well they would just have cope with it the best they could. Hopefully, even Veron Dursely would have enough survival instinct to stop himself of calling the Dark Lord a disgusting freak. However, on the bright side at least he had escape punishment for tonight.
"Harry," Voldemort was not quite done with him yet, "come here."
Bewildered for only a moment, Harry quickly realised he had not escaped after all.
"From now on, you shall go to bed at eight o'clock every night until I say otherwise. Your toys will be confiscated until further notice and tomorrow at seven, I shall be waiting for you down the foyer to watch you clean the house from top to bottom before we leave."
Harry almost breathed a sigh of relief, he would much rather have this sort of punishment then the humiliating beatings he had been subjected to in the past.
"And also Harry," continued Voldemort, "every time you misbehave in the future, I shall strike one day off Black and Lupin's allotted investigation time. Just so you know, they do only have one more month left."
The diabolical smile that now adorned Voldemort's features was inhuman and bestial, something that Harry once had nightmares about. The malicious joy in Voldemort's expression made Harry shiver with fear. A whole week with this terrible psychopath was going to test his endurance to the limit.
AN: Finally they are on their way, this chapter is really the dreaded scene transition ones people write so nothing much happens but more Harry/Voldemort on holiday - there will sandcastles, sunbathing and a murder mystery to solve.
Please review, I love reading your reactions, comments, theories, and constructive criticism.