Disclaimer; I do not own Harry Potter or any of his friends.
Harry woke from his sleep feeling the tug behind his navel of a portkey. He landed on a hard stone floor. He was winded from landing wrong but tried to look around. His vision was blurry and he didn't have his wand. Through the haze he could see several figures in black and a dimly lit dungeon. Then he heard a voice he knew all too well.
"At last our guest arrives. The great Harry Potter has joined us my friends."
Harry got to his feet and looked in the direction of the voice, "Why hello Mr. Riddle. So good to see you again. I'd curse you, but I must admit you have the upper hand. I seem to be without my glasses or my wand."
"Yes well, we could hardly allow you just hit the ground cursing. I applaud you, you seem to have learned some manners since last we spoke. Please, take a seat."
"Well the meddling old man has annoyed me one time too many with his little nicknames. I know you don't like your name, but I'm not one of your followers so I won't be calling you "My Lord". By the way, I realize you were my age when you changed your name, but did you realize "Vol de Mort" means "flight from death" in French? By saying "I am Lord Voldemort" you are almost claiming to be afraid of death."
"Actually it means "flight OF death" not from. It was the best I could do with the letters I already had."
"Oh, well that can be a bit scarier then. I understand about not liking your name. My birth certificate actually reads "Harry James Potter". Harry is a great name for a kid, but it lacks respectability as you age. I can't drop it, James Potter was my father and from everyone's descriptions he and I are almost nothing alike except for our looks. Would it have been so hard to pick Harold and then shorten it for a nickname? I often wonder about my parents."
"Have you considered an anagram?"
"Yes I have, but the best I can come up with is "Mr. Troy, a phaser jet." I have thought of that ever since my second year after learning of what you did. It seems owls can find someone if their new name includes all the letters from their old name. There's something magical about names."
"Have you considered Jerry "A-Hater" Stomp? It comes with its own nickname, Acceptable really isn't when it comes to grades."
"I must agree, and one of your options was Lord Oliver Dammot. There are so many ways to rearrange letters, but I get the feeling this isn't why you've gone to the trouble of bringing me here tonight."
"I rarely get the chance to engage in polite chat, but if we must get down to business, I suppose we will. I sent my servant out tonight to kidnap you so that we can settle things between us. You mentioned earlier that you've had a falling out with the Headmaster. Because of this, I will give you one last chance to join me. You're obviously learning something."
"I am going to have to decline. Just because I don't like Dumbles doesn't mean I've decided to start practicing dark magic and killing people."
"The killing is entirely optional most of the time. Well, since you've turned down my invitation, I'm going to have to have you killed. You keep getting in the way of my plans for domination and it's starting to look bad. Do you have any last words, maybe a final request? I'll give you this, you were an honorable opponent. That's pretty rare these days on either side of the war."
"If it's not too big a threat to your system here, I'd like an honorable duel between us. I would like to die on my feet, and there is no shame in losing to a better opponent."
"How can you trust me to give you an honorable duel of all things? Surely you've been told I cheat, murder, and lie."
"I've been told as much, but I haven't seen it. This scar isn't just for decoration as you well know. I've seen every death you've been involved in since your return. I've even felt your emotions some time. In the two years I've been watching, since the summer before my fourth year, I've never seen you kill someone who was already down. They usually die on their feet with a wand in hand if you do it yourself. Your death eaters might have no problem killing the helpless, but I know you like the challenge. The graveyard proved that to me more than anything else."
Voldemort chuckled, "It's good to see you can use your mind better than Severus claims. Tell me, since as you say I like a challenge, why I should give you your duel. Do you honestly expect to be a challenge?"
"As I am now, no I don't. Unfortunately there is a prophecy between us that can only be settled like this. It's the only thing I can think of that explains my damnable luck."
"The prophecy was lost to us two weeks ago, which is why you are here now. I am going to settle this once and for all."
"No, the ministry's copy was lost two weeks ago. Would you like me to recite it for you? It will explain a few things I believe."
"Please do. I would have gone to retrieve it a long time ago but those damnable spells protected it."
"I thought that the people named in the prophecy could remove it from the shelves."
"Normally yes, but who was named on the shelf? It was "Lord Voldemort and Harry Potter." They left out part of my name, I couldn't retrieve it. Even though it's an anagram, so long as the entire anagram is present the spells hold. Be glad they didn't put "Harold Potter" or neither of us could have retrieved it."
"Interesting, well down to business I suppose. The prophecy was '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 ... And the Dark Lord will mark him as equal, but he will have power the Dark Lord knows not ... And either must die at the hand of the other for neither can live while the other survives.' "
"Thank you. Now I'll admit, that intrigues me, but I want to hear how this explains your luck in your mind."
"The first bit pretty clearly identifies who I am. It mentions my scar as a mark. Specifically it marks us as equals. In none of our past meetings have we approached each other as equals. I was just a baby. You were possessing someone. You were a memory about to become whole. You had me at your mercy. I was being protected by Dumbledore. Neither one of us can kill the other unless we meet face to face on equal ground. That "power the dark lord knows not" doesn't particularly excite me much. All things considered it doesn't mean I'm better it means I am different. I am dead certain you have multiple powers I've never heard of."
"Clever, I can see you've thought this over carefully. It certainly explains why you want that duel. But what of the bit that claims neither of us can live while the other survives? Are we both not breathing? Does the same blood not flow in our veins?"
"Do you call this living? Your plans are constantly being thwarted, and I live in hell. There is very little difference in the ways you and I grew up. Can you call that living?"
"Actually there is quite a bit of difference. While the orphanage I grew up at was full of people who disliked me, there was always food to eat. I was never physically abused. The verbal abuse only came from other children, not the people who were supposed to care for me. No I suppose I can't call that living."
"So shall we find me a wand and duel? I'm beginning to suspect death is better than returning to my relatives' tender loving care."
"No, we will not duel tonight. I must consider the prophecy on my own. If we return your wand and glasses, will you try to escape?"
"So long as no one tries to curse me or kill me, I think I will wait for our duel. I meant what I said about preferring to die in our duel than return home. By the by, if you wish to avoid having Dumbledore and company trying to break down your front door, I'd make sure Snape doesn't leave."
"Snape is my spy in the Order."
"He's also the Order's spy here. I don't think even he knows who's side he is really on."
"He lies my Lord! I have always been faithful." Snape called from the corner.
"Strange I can sense the conviction in his mind. Far more conviction and certainty than I have felt in yours in a very long time. You will stay here Severus, I have a job for you that needs to be done immediately."
"As you wish my Lord. I still live to serve." Snape was mentally cursing the world.
"No, you still live because you serve." Voldemort surveyed his followers, "Mr. Clark, escort Mr. Potter to a guest room on the third floor and return his things. Mr. Potter, no one will harass you while you are here. If you have need of anything, call on Trippy. The library is at the end of the hall on your floor but I must ask that you not enter any room with a closed door or wander unescorted."
"Thank you sir. You are most generous."
"Lord Voldemort does his best to give a dieing man his last wish."
The indicated Death Eater handed Harry his glasses and motioned to follow him. When they left the audience hall, Harry heard a vaguely familiar voice from behind the mask.
"Oh, you've really stepped in it this time Harry."
"You sound familiar, do we know each other?"
"My name is Steven Clark, a Hufflepuff from your year. This is big even for you."
"A Hufflepuff death eater? How did you get wrapped up in this?"
"Hey, I may be a Hufflepuff, but I am no duffer. It's that attitude that lead me to join. Here, I may not be much, but no body looks down on me."
"I am sorry, I didn't realize. I can't say I really know you, but you never seemed like a bad guy at school."
"It's alright. Now I am not about to turn sides, a Hufflepuff never shirks his loyalties, but in the extremely unlikely event you win what are the odds of me getting away without a term in Azkaban?"
"I don't know. You haven't killed anyone have you?"
"No, I am mostly a package boy. The worst thing I ever did was to stand guard outside a business while some others collected protection money."
"I've done worse than that! Well I doubt you'll get much. Are your loyalties to the group or to Voldemort?"
"Let's not try to count the number of laws you've broken, I don't have that kind of time. My loyalty is to Voldemort, he offered me a place in his service, and so far hasn't tortured me. I might have gone for a job with Dumbledore's crew but they never offered and truthfully I think they are too poorly organized to survive."
"I'm hurt by your implications! I guess I will have to agree with you on that. They're pretty much screwed. Tell you what, if I somehow survive and your boss doesn't, I'll put in a good word for you. If last time is anything to go by, you can sell out all the others and escape trouble assuming you've got some interesting names."
"Are you kidding? I deliver things for these guys, of course I know everyone. You'd be surprised at the number of things they think are too sensitive to send through owl post. Or all those little packages to spies. I won't be telling you any stories now, but if you win I've got some really amusing anecdotes for you."
"I can imagine."
"Well this would be your room for the moment. Here's your wand. Please don't try to escape, I'd hate to have to try to kill you."
"Thanks. I'm going back to sleep, I don't see why you guys couldn't have sent someone by at a normal hour. Dumbledore's security is awful."
"Well most of us were expecting a quick execution. We never expected you'd start talking to him like a civilized person. Good night then."
When Mundungus Fletcher reported Harry's disappearance, Dumbledore immediately summoned the Order to Grimmauld place. Snape had been summoned earlier, but everyone else rushed to answer the summons. Albus seemed fifty years older when he entered the kitchen.
"I have some dreadful news. Harry Potter was kidnapped in the last hour from his relatives' house. We believe Voldemort may have him. Severus was summoned to the Dark Lord nearly an hour before Harry was captured."
The room erupted in cacophony. Mrs. Weasley was one of the louder voices, "Oh my poor baby! Albus, what are we going to do? How will we get him back?"
"I don't know Molly. If the Dark Lord does have him, Severus has an emergency portkey that he is supposed to use. It may take some time, but we'll get him back. Severus hasn't been able to give us location of their headquarters before for risk of exposing his status as a spy, but if he returns he will just have to risk it."
"If he doesn't want to, you just hand him to me." Moody said, "I'll make him talk."
"Let's hope it doesn't come to that."
Harry woke up and took stock of his surroundings. He recalled from last night that he was in Voldemort's home, but he hadn't really looked around too much. The room he was currently in was twice the size of Dudley's. The bed was a nice queen sized four poster, the bed clothes surprisingly were not green and silver. They were a nice cream with gold accents. There was a desk and armoire in the room, but most of the room was taken up by a large rug and two chairs in front of the hearth.
Harry decided to grab a shower before calling for the house elf for breakfast. He supposed he ought to make the best of Voldemort's hospitality if he was going to have to fight for his life later. The bathroom was rather nice. He had to admit, for a violent sociopath, Tom Riddle had taste. He emerged from the shower to find his clothing gone, but robes laid out on the bed for him. He donned the offered clothing and called for Trippy.
"How may Trippy be serving Master's guest?"
"I would like some breakfast if I could."
"Master is telling Trippy that he wishes you to dine with him for breakfast."
"Very well, take me to your Master please." Now there's a sentence Harry never expected to say about Voldemort.
"Ah, Harry come sit. Have something to eat."
"Good morning sir. Thank you for your hospitality."
"We have much to discuss. I have thought about the prophecy and I don't think we will be able to kill each other just yet. It may take a while before I can grant your last request, so you'll have my hospitality a bit longer."
"Why is that? Not that I am in a particular rush to die, but I assumed from the wording that we would just face each other and one of us would come out on top."
"Harry, as much as I respect you, you've got to understand that every word of prophecy is literally true but often obfuscated. For instance, the prophecy mentions that you have a power I don't know. It never said you knew it either. It never said you would learn to use it, or that it would even be useful. For all we know it may be the power to never burn toast."
"I wasn't aware you respected me. Dumbledore is of the opinion that it is the power of love, but the toast bit is much more likely. I always have been a good cook."
"And I can't cook at all, see? No, I am afraid your headmaster is dead wrong again. Though he doesn't know it, I was engaged to be married once. I understand love and its power just fine."
"She was murdered by one of Grindewald's lieutenants. Dumbledore may have killed Grindewald, but then he abandoned the job and left his armies to fight. It's one of the many reasons I hate the man. He's also a manipulative bastard. I am at least honest in my ambitions about controlling the world. He can't even admit it to himself."
"That explains so much. Now what was that about respecting me and the prophecy?"
"The prophecy can't be fulfilled because we are not equals. But we will be. I respect you as a worthy opponent for a variety of reasons. You've got a lot of the traits I look for in my army, and a few more that I must admit are interesting. You are an honorable man, you have a healthy skepticism concerning authority, you are quite talented, very powerful, and most of all you are absolutely fearless. I can't tell you how surprised I have been by you in the past few hours. Few of my own men and women will talk to me as you do."
"Last year I read a book that I found. The title almost immediately made me think of you and your servants. It was called "The Eaters of the Dead", in it one of the main characters said something that stuck with me. "The Father wove the skein of your life a long time ago. Go and hide in a hole if you wish, but you won't live one instant longer. Your fate is fixed. Fear profits a man nothing." And I had to think, what good is fear anyway…"
"Fear is a very healthy thing Mr. Potter. It protects us from dying. It seems that both of us have something else protecting us at the moment, but fear can still have it's uses."
"Alright, I'll have to remember that. Now, what are we going to do about the prophecy? I think we both want it out of the way since it is rather troublesome."
"I agree. The damn thing is more trouble than it is help. Even if I recruited you to my side, neither one of us would be able to achieve anything until it is out of the way. That damn clause about not being able to live."
"So what do we need to do?"
"Well I don't mean to diminish your accomplishments, which are quite considerable, but you are not my equal. We could start blasting away at each other, but it will not work."
"I hope you have a plan."
"Indeed I do. First, drink this potion. Severus brewed it last night. It will correct your vision."
"Wow, I asked the school healer if there was a potion to do this once, she told me there wasn't."
"Well it is technically a Dark potion. It classified as such after a wealthy optician petitioned the ministry that it was destroying his profits just after it was invented. It will hurt enormously as the nerves are destroyed and re-grown."
"It can't be worse than your cruciartus curse."
"That's the spirit, bottoms up."
A knock sounded on the door of the Headmaster's office in Hogwarts. The aged man behind the desk looked up.
"Come in Sybil, how can I help you today?"
"Good morning Albus, I wished to meet with you about getting my job back now that horrible woman is gone."
"Sybil, while I am happy to help you in any way I can, Firenze has also been cast out. I am afraid his need is greater."
"Firenze and I have discussed this and he thinks that the younger children do not have the patience to read the heavens. Perhaps he could teach the upper two years while I…" Her eyes lost focus and her pause made the Headmaster lean forward. "The lion and the snake shall lay down arms before rising to war. The snake seeks the death of the lion but must look to Chiron for assistance. The lion does not want the death of the snake, but must if he is to live. When the lion and snake rise to war they shall unlock the hidden and be disappointed. The lion and the snake shall lay down arms before rising to war." She fainted.
Dumbledore practically vaulted over his desk to reach her side. He brought her back to consciousness.
"Oh dear, what happened to me now? All this stress has made me feel faint all day. I am so sorry Albus."
"Don't worry my dear. Why don't I take you down to Poppy and we'll continue this discussion later. I assure you I won't make any hasty judgments."
Albus Dumbledore was puzzling over the new prophecy when he went looking for his other divination teacher.
"Firenze, it is good to speak with you."
"Something has troubled you."
"Indeed, I need your help."
"You seek answers of the stars?"
"Perhaps. Can you tell me what you know of Chiron?"
"Chiron is a name from centaur legend, he was the first centaur, a son of the gods. It is also the name of the wanderer's companion, though some corrupt it as Charon. Chiron is behind Neptune as Mars grows strong. Phobos and Deimos are missing as Pluto moves behind Mars. Neptune and Mars are adjacent as peace reigns the land."
"Thank you Firenze, you have given me much to think about."