BEWDS' note: This is what we've been working on for the past... month and eleven days. We're actually much further than this, but we need plenty of extra time to work on this since our schedules and creative juices can be a little whacked. We're working, see? #heart# I'm proud of this. #heart#

Lady D's note: Erm, if future chapters take long periods of time in between each, then you can blame it on me. I don't write as much as BEWDS does and it takes copious amounts of threats to get me started. The whole thing is in a bizarre format because it originally started out as a Role Play, which got really long. But it is interesting and apparently people like it, so… I think the first few uh, shifts, and are a bit awkward, but it smoothes out further into the story. Also, you may be able to tell, but BEWD's and my spelling are somewhat different. That is because I live in Canada, thus I write like how I was taught here, while BEWDS is from the US, so try not to get irked by it.

ETA: There have been many 'complaints' of the #shift# thing, so we have removed them.

Enjoy!

Warnings: SLASH, SLASH, and much more SLASH! Excessive amounts of man sex! ... Later.

Disclaimer: If we owned the Harry Potter universe, things like this would happen.


Natural Feelings
BlueEyes White Dragon Sorcerer and Lady Draculea

Chapter 1: Whisked Away



Tom kept at a distance. The boy who lived was only a few meters away, completely oblivious to his presence. He had originally gone to study the house that Albus Dumbledore left Potter at during the summer, to keep the Wizarding world's golden boy from harm by using blood wards. Ha. Blood wards indeed. The old fool had ignorantly forgotten that ever since the night of his rebirth a little over a year ago, Potter's blood was mingled with his own, thus making any previous wards useless. Tom wagered that even if the wards were still against him, it wouldn't take him more than a few hours to remove them.

But he was getting off track. His original plan was to Apparate to the muggle's residence, place a few spells here and there of his own, then leave. But he quickly discarded those plans when the object of his obsession left the house and begun walking down the street. Of course he had to take the opportunity while it was in his grasp, anything else wouldn't do. When would he have the chance again to have Potter so close? Possibilities flew into his head, and Tom smiled to himself. Things were looking up.

The first few weeks of the summer had been difficult as they always were with the Dursleys getting used to Harry's presence in their house. Petunia was constantly shrieking at him to hurry up and do chores that she hadn't yet told him to do; Vernon was ignoring him completely, but Dudley was acting strange, his eyes trailing Harry wherever he went and if green met brown then brown would widen and skitter away.

It creeped him out sometimes.

When he woke one pleasant morning, he got a grocery list in his face and another shrieked order for him to go shopping for items only on the list. A careful reminder that he had no money resulted in a coin purse jingling with scarcely enough money to buy the groceries slapped him in the face. Walking across town for groceries, it was.

Taking a seat under a shady tree, Tom relaxed on the bench as he followed Harry with his eyes. He was actually quite amused. Dumbledore knew perfectly well that he was back to full power with his Death Eaters behind him, and yet Harry was freely walking around, unescorted, perfectly kidnappable, and basically walking into his, Lord Voldemort's, clutches.

Twenty minutes later, still stretched out on the bench, Tom watched as Harry walked out of the building, plastic bags in hand. He was just about to mentally touch Harry's mind, when the said boy's green eyes met with his own.

Everything was peachy. No Dudley watching him. None of Dudley's gang giving him the eye, either. In fact, nobody hardly noticed him at all... except the checkout lady, but he supposed that was a good thing even if the old bag was kind of creepy with her drooping eyes gazing at him appreciatively and fake orange nails hungering for a chance to pinch his supple flesh.

Then he exited the market and laid eyes on Tom Marvolo Riddle lounging on a bench nearby. Granted said human-looking Dark Lord had dark glasses on to hide his eerie red eyes, but that didn't stop his very presence from sending a bolt of pain through Harry's head. Merlin, it hurt, but he didn't even flinch.

Honestly, he had expected some sort of attack earlier on, but he didn't see any other Death Eaters, at least none that he recognized. Maybe the Dark Lord was trying a new tactic? Who knows? Better keep his guard up.

He almost considered heading the opposite way, but that wouldn't work with the heavy grocery bags dragging him down. The Dursleys would have a fit if he didn't bring them back. How could he get back to Privet Drive safely? Wasn't there supposed to be Order members watching him? This is what they've been on alert for and yet here Harry is within 10 feet of the most feared Dark Lord, not a familiar face in sight.

Harry's wide green eyes gave him the appearance of a startled deer. He could see how tense and ready to flee at a moment's notice the Gryffindor was, though a chase would be fun, it wasn't something he could afford to do at the moment. Just because Order members weren't glued to Harry's side didn't mean that there weren't any around.

Tom stood as a slight breeze passed, ruffling his dark hair. Slowly, Tom made his way towards Harry.

Harry felt the blood leave his face as Riddle stood confidently and strolled in his direction. Adrenaline that had slipped into his blood stream at the sight of the Dark Lord surged through him, preparing for fight or flight. The warm reassurance of his wand pressed against the flesh of his hip burned him and the hefty plastic bags in his hands felt like dead weight. His head throbbed.

How was he going to get out of this one? How could he possibly succeed against the man he could barely escape from when he was expecting him?

Then there was the issue of all the Muggle bystanders and the Restriction of Underage Wizardry. The Ministry finally started getting into Defense Against a Dark Lord mode a few weeks ago, but would they still expel him if he had to defend himself against the Dark Lord in the middle of downtown Surrey?

Stopping only a couple of feet away, Tom frowned slightly as Harry turned his head away, purposely avoiding eye contact. Closer now, Tom could see that the dark haired youth was trembling softly, and he bet that if he silenced the world around them he would be able to hear Harry's heart beat.

He reached a hand out, wondering why Harry hadn't tried to run yet. He knew that the younger man knew better then to brandish his wand out in the public with muggles milling about. As Tom's fingers brushed Harry's cheek, he watched as Harry flinched at the contact. Strange, Tom no longer experiences any painful reactions when in the presence of the Gryffindor, yet apparently Harry stilled did. He would have to fix that.

Cool fingertips trailed down Harry's cheek, contrasting sharply with how hot his body felt and the pounding of his head. Lucky bastard never had the piercing pain that nearly split his head in half whenever his arch-nemesis was around. He really should be thankful, but his head felt like it was going to explode if he didn't high-tail it out of there.

His mother's protection was still going strong, telling him to feint left and run, drop the heavy bags and run. Courage wouldn't save him this time. Run.

But he couldn't. Something was off about Riddle. He didn't feel... the same. The one glance he got of glinting red eyes was of curiosity, not the usual cold fury. The baleful gaze of a predator no longer bore down on him from cruel crimson eyes. It was... odd, to say the least, coming from the man who had plotted his death practically from the day he was born.

As if he finally took a few steps back and realized what a fool he had been.

Nah!

Tilting his head to the side, Tom watched as Harry debated with himself. He didn't need to access Harry's thoughts to know that his mind was trapped in a whirlwind. Confusion radiated off the smaller male, and the way his eyes darted from side to side -searching for an escape- amused Tom greatly. Perhaps now he would finally understand how much Dumbledore's so-called Order lacked in ability- or incentive.

Tom's lips curled upwards, and with each step Harry took away from him, Tom took one step closer, until Harry's back met the brick wall of the grocery store he had exited not five minutes previous. Trapped now in front of him, Tom waved his hand in short, little movements, silently casting a charm so no one would notice them. Grabbing Harry's chin with one hand, he turned Harry's head to the side, tickling the boy's skin with his nose before stopping at his ear.

Harry was trembling violently as Tom's hot breath caressed his ear, "I have you now, Harry. There's no escaping this time."

And he double Apparated them away.

Shivering as the murderer of his parents backed him against a wall, Harry nearly whimpered as puffs of hot breath washed over his ear teasingly. Voldemort was going to kill him and all Harry could do was press as far back into the wall as he could to avoid touching him for fear of doing something irrational. The throbbing in his head had become a rain of blows, tears threatening to leak because of the pain.

Then Riddle's sultry voice broke through to him, making him shudder from fear, pain, or lust; he wasn't sure, but he had no time to ponder before he felt pulled through a tight, rubber tube. Pressure pushing on his eardrums and eyes in particular, he had a faint idea of what was happening.

Bursting out on the other side, Harry kept his eyes closed, dizziness making him unstable as he swayed slightly. The grip on his chin tilted up, forcing him to face his arch-nemesis, but he refused to open his eyes.

The Order had failed to keep him in the relative safety of his aunt and uncle's house. The Dark Lord had kidnapped him right from under their noses and they most likely wouldn't know for another three days when they finally realized that he wasn't where he was supposed to be. 'Course by then he'd probably already be dead.

The Apparate successful, with no body parts missing, Tom tilted Harry's face towards his own, keeping a steady hand around his waist as the smaller male swayed. Behind his round spectacles, Harry's eyes were closed, whether to keep from making eye contact again, or from the pain that was surely worming its way through Harry head, or perhaps both.

Purposely, Tom brushed his lips against Harry's, and watched as the pain became too much for Harry to handle. The boy fell limply into Tom's arms, unconscious to the world. Gathering the too-light teenager into his arms, Tom strolled towards the towering manor in the distance.

There he was again... in the Department of Mysteries. Sirius was laughing and Harry wanted to scream as the red spell hit him in the chest, throwing him back toward the ragged curtains. Trying to run forward, to change what he knew was about to happen, Harry found he couldn't, that there was an arm around his waist, holding him back as Sirius sank through the evil pieces of cloth. Not thinking, he turned around and beat on the firm chest of the person holding him back. Didn't they realize that without Sirius, Harry didn't want to live? Sirius had been the last living magical family member, the one who was going to take him away from the Dursleys forever. Why couldn't they let him follow his godfather? Opening his eyes, he saw warm crimson eyes watching him.

"You can't escape me, Harry. We can never be separated." Riddle dipped down, their lips brushing once before he leaned back. Smiling, he stroked his hand down Harry's face before covering Harry's eyes and then -

He woke up.

Tom had just returned from meeting with Severus. A potion tucked securely in a pocket of his robes. He preferred that Harry not be in pain whenever they were in each other's presence, so he had sent for his Potion's Master. The potion required a drop of his and Harry's blood and would temporarily stop any pain that Harry would experience. It was all he could do until he discovered the real reason why Harry still felt pain when around him.

Oh, he knew that summoning Severus was a risk. Tom was quite aware that Severus' loyalties may have changed, but it was a risk that he was willing to take.

After placing the potion vial on the bedside table, Tom sat on the edge of the bed. Without his horrid glasses blocking the way, Harry appeared almost angelic in appearance. Unable to resist, Tom traced the back of his fingers over Harry's face. He startled as Harry's breath started to quicken, his eyes moving quickly behind his eyelids as his brows furrowed in distress. Wondering what he was dreaming about, Tom threaded his hand through Harry's hair. He knew that Harry had been plagued with nightmares for a while, some of his own doing, some not.

He was about to rise, when Harry's eyes suddenly opened.

Eyes wide, still panicky and torn from his dreams, Harry sat up slowly, not noticing Riddle sitting on the bed until he cleared his throat. Jerking away from the calm Dark Lord, Harry put a little too much strength into his sudden move and toppled off the bed with an embarrassing squeak. He heard an amused chuckle before Riddle's head came into view over the edge of the bed.

"Going somewhere, Harry?" Riddle purred, red eyes laughing. Sputtering, Harry glared up at his arch-nemesis, though it came out more as a pout as the throbbing in his head returned, making him wince. Riddle seemed to notice, disappearing from view for a moment with a squeak from the bed before he was back and offering him a hand. Carefully eyeing the red-eyed man, Harry stood on his own, earning him a frown.

Harry was adorable in this state. Not that he'd admit that out loud, he was a Dark Lord, and Dark Lords didn't call things 'adorable' or 'cute'. Even though he didn't expect Harry to take his hand when offered, he still frowned. He had a lot to clear and to do to get Harry to trust him. But first things first, he had to convince Harry to take the potion, if not he would force him to take it. It would set back his chances on becoming closer to Harry, but he would not have him flinch in his presence.

Sliding off the bed, the potion in his hand, Tom moved to a desk that was placed against a far wall. He wasn't worried in the least of Harry attacking him with his back turned. Harry's wand was safely tucked away. Also, Nagini was watching from nearby. He could feel her amusement towards the situation from her link to him as his familiar.

Pulling out an anthem from the drawer, Tom turned to face Harry.

Blinking in a surprised manner, Harry nearly gaped at Riddle's audacity. Did he really think so little of Harry? Glancing around critically, he didn't see anything threatening besides Riddle himself, but he was rifling through his desk for something, leaving his back unprotected. Smoothly reaching into his pocket, he felt himself grow cold. His wand was gone.

Of course his wand was gone! What was he thinking?! 'Stupid! Stupid! Stupid!' He flushed, embarrassed at his own naivety. Hissing laughter distracted him from berating himself. Glancing around, he couldn't see the perpetrator, but then Riddle turned around holding a potion and a wicked sharp instrument and all thoughts of hissy giggles flew out of his mind.

Nagini's laughter floated through the air; apparently she found it amusing that Harry had just discovered that he no longer carried his wand. As he stepped forward, he raised an eyebrow as he watched Harry pale when his eyes caught sight of the anthem. Smiling softly, Tom made his way towards Harry, watching as he moved backwards, away from Tom.

Tom stopped just as Harry backed up against the bed, effectively trapped him, again. "Now Harry, we can do this the easy way, or the hard way. Either way it will happen."

Glaring, Harry growled. Did he really think that Harry'd sit back and let Riddle kill him? He'd fight even if it was just to live a few more minutes. But then another possibility popped into his head when he realized that Riddle had backed him up against the bed. The flush of anger drained, making him dizzy and his head throb as his mother's protection surged forward.

Nausea boiled up, his head feeling like it was about to explode from the irate presence. He could almost hear her snarling that her baby wasn't going to get raped by the Dark Lord. Everything was rushing around but the cool feeling of fingertips on his cheek. Looking up he saw worried crimson eyes before the pain pulled him back into the black abyss.

Tom sighed as Harry left the world of consciousness yet again, it looked like he had to do this the hard way. Setting the potion and knife aside, he gathered Harry into his arms and set him down in a sitting position, a pillow placed comfortably behind his head.

Popping the cork from the potion vial, he quickly nicked the end of his finger, catching a drop of the blood on the blade then doing the same to Harry's hand. Watching as the blood mingled together in the potion, then sinking to the bottom before spreading and turning the potion a deep purple. Tom healed both his small wound as well as Harry's, ignoring Nagini as she slithered onto the bed to watch.

Taking the potion vial in hand, Tom snaked his arm behind Harry's neck, propping him forward and pressing the vial to his lips, slowing pouring the liquid into his mouth. Patiently, he alternated from feeding Harry the potion and stroking the boy's throat, forcing him to swallow. When the potion was gone, he carefully laid Harry back onto the bed.

"Nagini, stay here and watch him while I am gone. If he awakens before I return come find me." Tom was meeting with his elite before dinner. He didn't want to leave Harry, especially now, but he has an organisation to run.

Velvety blackness surrounded him. The clenched fingers around his brain loosened and trailed off, leaving him in a pile of down with a heavy, cool weight curled up on his abdomen. In the distance he heard a door shut, but he wasn't worried, being mostly alone. Mad-Eye Moody's words "CONSTANT VIGILANCE!" rang in his head, but he ignored them.

He wasn't in danger and his head didn't hurt anymore. In a detached way, he remembered the groceries he was supposed to get and snorted. 'Guess I'm not going to be seeing them ever again... hopefully. If I survive this, maybe Dumbledore will realize that I'm not safe there.' Amusement tingled through him, but it was not his own. Concentrating, Harry tried to trace it. It was to the right and down? That was confusing.

Hissy giggles erupted from the weight on him, so he opened his eyes to the yellow eyes of a snake who was undoubtedly Nagini.

When a weight he didn't know had been there suddenly was lifted from the back of his mind, Tom frowned, causing the Death Eaters in front of him to pale. They automatically assumed that they had done something to displease him. The Death Eater who was speaking faltered slightly at his lord's change in facial expression, but quickly continued when Tom waved his hand and an inquisitive look replaced the frown.

When a thought that was not his own came to him, he finally realised what had happened. Whatever what was causing Harry pain was also blocking something between Harry and him. Perhaps it was the block that caused the pain in the first place? But now with the temporary remedy releasing that block, whatever bound Harry and him together was freed. Suddenly understanding the thought that Harry had unknowingly sent him, amusement flooded him and he smiled, this time really frightening his Death Eaters.

When Nagini slithered into the room, twisting around the humans' feet to reach her Master, Tom rose. Dismissing his elite, they didn't have anything relevant to report anyhow, Tom waited for Nagini climb up his frame and twine herself around his body before walking past his Death Eaters and back to his rooms.

Nagini had giggle-hissed at him again before slithering off him and out of the room. Sitting up, Harry swung his feet off the bed, considering his options. He could sit where he was until the Dark Lord returned or he could attempt an escape. The source of the strange amusement still tingling in his mind was moving closer and Harry had the sudden epiphany that it was Riddle.

'Shit.' What could he do? He whirled around when the door opened and was rewarded with the sight of Nagini wrapped comfortably around the Dark Lord. Now he definitely knew something was off. What was missing? There was no pain! It didn't hurt to be in his presence anymore. Harry blinked slowly as this revelation dawned on him even as the amusement from Riddle increased and Nagini giggle-hissed again.

"Perhaps now I won't have you passing out on me." Tom smiled at the glare sent his way and walked further into the room, closing the door behind him. This time Harry made sure to keep the bed and walls away from him as he avoided his approaching mortal enemy.

Tom paused beside the bed to let Nagini slither onto the silk covers, and then moved to the double doors leading to his personal library. He watched Harry from the corner of his eye; the Gryffindor was hovering uncertainly torn between following him and staying in the bedroom. Shrugging, not at all worried that Harry would be able to escape with Nagini in the room and dozens of Death Eaters milling about in the manor, Tom poured himself a glass of whiskey and sat down in a cushy chair. Things were about to get interesting and he wanted to be comfortable when it happened.

Blushing hotly, Harry glared at the Dark Lord's back. What the hell was going on? Wasn't he supposed to be all "Mwahahahahaha!! I've got you now, Potter! Feel my wrath! Crucio!" or something like that? Riddle chuckled, sending shivers up Harry's spine before he shook himself and peeked around the door into the Dark Lord's library.

"What was that about?" He hissed, glaring at Riddle's smirk.

Tom didn't think he had been this amused in a very long time. Harry's presence was certainly enlightening. Harry's thoughts only heightened his amusement further, and he couldn't help but laugh at the hilarity of it. Of course Harry expected him to be cursing him between breaths, it was only what he had been doing for the past few years.

When Harry peeked his head around the door and sent him a glare, Tom sat up a little and waved to the sofa beside him. "Take a seat Harry, we have much to discuss." When Harry didn't move, Tom sighed and set his glass on the coffee table. "Come now, Harry. You need to hear this, or do you want me to force you to listen what I have to say?" He finished the sentence off in a purr, narrowing his eyes. He didn't want to have to fight with Harry, but he'd do whatever was necessary.

Keeping a close watch on Riddle, Harry made his way to the indicated couch and carefully sat down, ready for flight at a moment's notice. The presence in his mind that is Riddle was sending him calming emotions to relax him and it was working despite his resistance. By the time Riddle was satisfied, Harry was lounging comfortably on the sofa.

"What is it, Riddle?" Harry managed to murmur, not at all like he wanted to sound.

Relieved that Harry sat down in his own free-will, Tom leaned back. Steepling his fingers together in front of him, watching as Harry squirmed nervously under his scrutiny. The beginning was probably a good place to start, though where exactly the beginning was he wasn't sure. Perhaps he should let Harry ask any questions he might have.

Just as he opened his mouth to begin, Nagini slithered in, and climbed onto the sofa to study Harry. She tasted the air before nodding to herself, confirming something she suspected. "He will make a good mate for you, Tom. You'll have a strong nest and many hatchlings."

Raising an eyebrow, Tom watching as Harry squeaked and turned a rather Gryffindor shade of red. "Is that so, Nagini?"

"WHAT?! I'm not - I can't - " Harry sputtered, wiggling backwards away from Nagini until he hit the armrest. Riddle's amusement increased and Nagini snorted.

"You're not what, child? Not a female? What do you think magic is for? It makes things that might seem impossible, possible with enough creativity and effort." Blushing, Harry refused to meet their eyes, settling for watching his clenching fists in his lap. Nagini rolled her eyes as best a snake can and turned her attention back to her Tom. "Educate him a bit and he could do wonders."

Chuckling, Tom decided to take pity on Harry. "Now Nagini, you can't expect him to know everything."

Nagini flicked her tail at Tom once, "Someone has to tell him these things. If you don't educate him, I will."

Tom smiled indulgently at his familiar, "Don't worry, he'll learn." Moving his eyes from Nagini's form to Harry, he saw that the teenager still was a lovely shade of red. "But that is a discussion for another time.". Tom switched to English, "Harry, you have questions. I'll do my best to answer them, but there are some things I cannot tell you, not yet anyways."

Shifting a bit, Harry peeked at Riddle through his bangs, biting his lip nervously.

"Why am I here? What are you planning on doing with me? If you do kill me, will you at least send someone to set Hedwig free? I don't want her to starve to death because of the Dursleys' vendetta against me."

Taking hold of his drink once again, Tom took a sip before he began, enjoying the burning sensation as the liquor fell down his throat. "If I was going to kill you, don't you think I would have done so by now? I have had plenty of opportunities, after all." He levelled a look at Harry, who quickly looked away.

"Hedwig is your owl, I take it?" Harry nodded. "I'm sure she could find her way here to you eventually, unless she is caged? If so, I could fetch her for you."

"As to why you're here, well, I thought it was about time you learned the truth."

"Yes, she's caged. The Dursleys never let her roam free in fear that their neighbor's think them abnormal." Pouting with his arms crossed, Harry slumped in his seat. "And what do you mean 'truth'? Are you going to try and tell me that Dumbledore's been lying to me all this time? And what about? You did kill my parents, Cedric, and Sirius, not to mention all the other muggles and Muggleborns. Ginny almost died because of your diary in my second year."

Tom sighed, and took a minute to gather his thoughts. "I know I can never earn your forgiveness. Yes, I did kill your parents, had your schoolmate murdered, and had a hand in the death of your godfather. I will not apologize for their deaths, Harry. If I did it would cheapen their deaths."

Harry was silent, so he continued. "Tell me, Harry, what do you know about my cause?"

Looking down and away, Harry sighed, leaning back.

"You want to kill all muggles and Muggleborns because you think they're weak, even though you're a half-blood." Then he looked up sharply, eyes smoldering. "You're a hypocr - " The look on Riddle's face made his throat close up. He couldn't finish what he was about to say.

"A hypocrite, Harry? Is that what you want to say?" Tom rose fluidly, and circled the sofa Harry was seated upon. "I am a half-blood, yes. But kill all muggles and muggleborns? You must realise what an impossible, not to mention tiring task that would be."

He stopped just behind Harry, and bent down, whispering in Harry's ear. "What else, Harry? What else have they told you?"

Eyes falling almost closed and shivering at the hot breath and dangerously seductive tone causing goose bumps to rise on his skin, Harry gulped before replying.

"You opened the Chamber of Secrets in your sixth year and killed Myrtle..." He managed to murmur before Riddle started laughing.

"You can't think of anything else? None of that moralistic crap that Dumbledore has been feeding you since he 'saved' you from your muggle relatives?" He sneered, earning him a heated glare from Harry, who had turned to look up at him.

"If your goal is not killing all the muggles and Muggleborns, then what is it? Take over the Ministry? And do what? What so desperately needs changing that you'd commit so many crimes that would puts you at the top of their hit list?"

Tom hummed softly, the noise sounding more like a deep purr. "Not so much as take over as change how things are run."

He returned to his previous seat and rested his head on his palm. "You can't tell me that the ministry isn't corrupt, that everything works out well. Your godfather was wrongly accused for the deaths of muggles, he was never given a trial, did you know that? Your can-do-nothing-wrong headmaster didn't even intervene. What about your werewolf mentor? Werewolves are considered dark creatures, dangerous, and hence unable to hold down jobs. People are spurned from society for being different. Did you know that werewolf children are hunted down and killed? That ancient vampire societies are destroyed because of those who ignorant, thus afraid and eager to get rid of what they can't understand? And does your ministry stop this? No, if anything they encourage it.

"But here you ask me why I kill when they do so as well? What makes me any different from them? I'm trying to change things and if I have to destroy those who get in my way, then so be it."

He paused here, trying to put what he wanted to accomplish into words. "Harry, I'm not trying to 'rule the world' or purge it from muggles. I'm trying to make a difference, if that doesn't sound too cliché. People are afraid of change, and change is what I'm trying to do.

"Your headmaster has... interesting ideals. He knows what I'm trying to do, and yet tries with everything he has to stop me? Perhaps it's because of the way I'm doing it, that's what I first thought it was, but now I'm not quite so sure. He supported your werewolf, yet doesn't try to change how werewolves are treated? He accommodates convicted criminals, yet doesn't attempt to clear them of their charges, especially when they are innocent. What does that you, Harry? Can't you see that he is using them? That he is using you."

For a moment, Harry sat still, staring forward almost unseeing, then in a slow, soft voice he murmured: "Even so, does that make killing right? What could Dumbledore have done to save Sirius? If he even hinted at knowing a possible place where Sirius was, he would have been called in to be questioned and if they got a hold of Sirius, they'd have just tossed him to the dementors. Without Wormtail, without proof, how could he have made them stop and think? As you just said, people don't like change, so how could he change their minds about werewolves or vampires?" Taking a deep breath, sad, green eyes met crimson.

"I'm not happy with Dumbledore, but it's not like I have much of a choice. Prejudice people like Umbridge and Snape will join up with others that love fame like Fudge and Lockhart to keep things running like they have, down into the ground. If I went ballistic like you did, then gossips like Skeeter will drown my name in muck like she did this past year. I have to be in a certain position to change how people think. If we kept out all the media that shows werewolves and vampires in a bad light, then we can slowly change people's opinions..."

Tom smiled faintly, "bravo, Harry, bravo." He was somewhat surprised, and he could tell that Nagini was impressed, but there were a few things Harry had forgotten. "I will admit now that my methods in the past were not the best, but you need to understand Harry, that if things were left as they were nothing would be accomplished. If you stopped the media from portraying these people in such a light, would society stop seeing them as monsters? How could the media show everyone what they are capable of, what sort of healers or teachers they can be if the ministry won't give them the chance to do so?

"Harry, why is the media so fixated on you? They call you the saviour of the wizarding world because you 'defeated' Lord Voldemort. Apparently whatever you did when you were a baby is what they expect you do to again. And yet, they 'drown your name in muck' when they expect you to save them from me."

Tom leaned back and wished he had a glass of wine, but he already had a glass of whiskey and too much alcohol on an empty stomach wouldn't do. "Harry, I don't expect you to change your mind on what you believe in, but no matter what you say or do, I'm not letting you go."

Still blushing faintly from the praise, Harry frowned.

"That's why we need to change the Ministry, but if we did so too quickly, then the public will rebel. It needs to be a slow but steady change, rather than a sudden upheaval. They're human; of course they make mistakes. They don't know me personally and can only make decisions on what they know, what they've heard. It's surprising how quickly they can change their opinions like when they read my interview in the Quibbler and suddenly everyone - except the Slytherins, of course - was on my side, but then again the truth speaks for itself. Why me? Because of a stupid prophecy Professor T - " He shoots a wary glance at Riddle before continuing. " - made." Taking a deep breath, Harry realized how hungry he was when his stomach gave a soft gurgle that luckily wasn't loud enough for even Nagini to hear. They still had a discussion to finish.

"You never answered my questions. Why am I here? What are you planning on doing with me if you're not going to kill me? There must be some special reason why you've decided not to kill me. I had thought nothing but divine intervention could have stopped your obsession with my death and maybe not even that." His stomach gave another gurgle, slightly louder than the first, and he hoped that neither of them heard it. The Dursleys had been feeding him slightly better this summer because of Order's threats, but Aunt Petunia had hurried him out of the house without any breakfast for sleeping till 11.

It had taken about and hour and a half to get across town to the grocery store, then not twenty minutes later he had checked out only to be kidnapped, which brought up the question of the location of the groceries again.

Tom looked at Harry curiously, he didn't know how much he could tell the boy and how much he would believe. He could tell already that Harry saw the better side of things, perhaps not comprehending that things were not so easy, especially since a lot of the ministry laws were old and useless. One had to wonder what the Minister of Magic was thinking, signing anything that was shoved under his nose. It was certainly not his doing.

"Let's just say that I've come to my senses. Before the Triwizard Tournament, there was something in my head, and had been in my head for many years before, that... altered my thoughts and actions." He meant that it had driven him to the brink of insanity. "When I was regenerated, that block, for lack of a better term, was removed, but it took time for my mind to return to the state it was before the block was set in place.

"It was that block that caused undo amounts of anguish whenever in your presence, and in return it caused you pain. Whether we were around each other physically or mentally, it didn't matter. You do not feel any pain now because I fed you a potion that temporarily bounds that block, but it's not permanent. I'll have to do some research before I can determine how to get rid of it permanently."

His gaze settled on Harry, who quickly looked away, not wanting to meet Tom's eyes. "Fifteen years ago the block has broken my mind so entirely that I had to destroy whatever that was causing me pain. When I was brought the prophecy I suddenly knew and it wasn't difficult to find where your parents and you were hidden."

Tom sighed, and appeared lost in thought. If only he had known the whole prophecy, then perhaps he would have gone after whoever was responsible for the block, not what was causing him pain. But hindsight was 20/20; there was nothing he could do about it now. "I couldn't kill you then, Harry, whether it was your 'mother's protection' or this bond between us, I'm not sure."

Harry looked started at that, he had thought that his scar linked him to Riddle, but was he saying that it was something else? "Bond?"

Tom nodded, "what do you know about soul mates, Harry?"

For a moment Harry sat completely still, thoughts of lost groceries and angry Dursleys vanished as he wondered where the question came from, then it clicked and he seriously wondered if he was having a very strange dream where Tom Riddle seemed to be almost hitting on him and proposing that they were soul mates. The look on Riddle's face when he looked back up destroyed that idea though.

"I've only heard vague Muggle ideas of what soul mates are, so... I don't know if any of it's real or not. They're... meant for each other?" Flushing in embarrassment of his ignorance, he ducked his head. 'Merlin, I sound so stupid' "I saw a book on them once in the Hogwarts library and it sounded like an interesting read, but both Hermione and Ron assured me that it was a waste of my time. 'Course that was right before the Second Task and I was running out of time..." 'Why do I feel so inadequate? I've faced down a nesting dragon, merpeople with a mission, hungry acromantulas, Snape in a snit, and a three-headed dog! What's wrong with me?'

"A waste of time for some, but not for others. It's uncommon for soul mates to actually find each other in one lifetime, sometimes it takes several. I'm sure I could tell you what I know about the subject, but its past dinner. I'll summon a house-elf and leave a few books here for you. I expect you'll read them?" He raised an eyebrow and stood. Walking towards a bookshelf, he let his hand brush Harry's cheek as he passed by, smiling when the raven haired teen shuddered and briefly closed his eyes.

After securing a couple of books focusing on the subject of soul-mates, he summoned Jelly, one of the manor's house-elves, to bring Harry some dinner. Exiting the rooms, Tom left to do some research of his own.

Nearly pouncing on the books left for him, Harry smoothed one out with a sigh.

Vernon had always hated the sight of Harry happy or 'lazing about', so growing up he hadn't had much time to relax, much less read for pleasure. Also hating the 'arrogant, know-it-all freak', Vernon had forbid Harry making better grades than Dudley, who barely scraped by in school. It was a miracle that Harry had passed any class at all.

Then when entering Hogwarts and seeing how poorly Ron thought of the 'know-it-all' Hermione Granger, Harry had to keep his grades low to prevent jealousy from breaking up their friendship and then later to keep from showing up Hermione. Playing the mostly ignorant jock was not easy when you'd rather be snug in bed with a good book rather than flying through thunderstorms and blizzards.

Sinking into the disturbingly familiar clues that his soul mate lived and was a frequent face in his life nearly blocked out everything that was around him. If it hadn't been for Nagini smacking him upside the head with her tail and insisting he eat before it got cold or she'd sic Tom on him, then Harry would have completely ignored the tantalizing aroma of rosemary chicken and cheese-broccoli-baked potatoes.

After devouring most of the food, he dove straight back into the books and didn't stop till there was a knock at his door.

Bellatrix waited for half a minute before knocking again, then opening the door herself. She had entertained the dark lord in the past, but it was not long ago that he began to refuse her advances, he even went as far as exercising some of his more creative dark curses on her if she proved to be too enthusiastic. This time, though, she would not be humiliated in front of her fellow Death Eaters. Inviting herself to his chambers was risk, but the Dark Lord was her's, and she wasn't letting him throw her away as if she was trash.

Stepping into the room, only to see that it was empty, she started for the open doors leading to the library. She could see light coming from that room, and she knew, that the dark lord always enjoyed reading.

Hearing the door open, Harry looked up, expecting to see Voldemort for a moment before he realized through their bond that said red-eyed man was somewhere downstairs and that he hadn't sent anyone to his rooms. Almost panicking a bit, Harry slipped between the bookshelves, ensconcing himself in a particularly deep shadow.

Not two minutes later someone he never wanted to see ever again slunk into the room, looking around with a predatory look in her eye. Harry knew what she was in here for and for that wanted to rip her to shreds, but he wasn't about to go physically attacking someone he didn't know the strength of and he didn't have his wand, so he had to settle with carefully touching his bond with Voldemort.

Tom was digging through a chest of dusty tomes, trying his best not to break out in a fit of sneezes, when he felt Harry lightly touch the bond between them. Frowning, Tom focused his thoughts on Harry and froze when he felt panic travel between them. Anger suddenly rushed through him when an image of Bellatrix Lestrange stalking through his private rooms, with his Harry defenceless against the less-than-sane pure-blooded witch.

The woman had become more and more brazen each day that passed, seeming to find herself above her fellow Death Eaters and favoured by him just because he had allowed her into his bed. He had hoped that casting various curses at her when she became too bold would dissuade her from continuing her seduction towards him. But entering his rooms without his consent was the final straw. The woman was barren, and her mind broken, there was no reason to allow her to live. True, she was one of his most loyal, but her impudence had gone on long enough. She could no longer participate in raids; loyal didn't imply that she was level-headed.

Tom bordered on running towards his rooms, mentally running off a list of curses to treat dear Bellatrix to when he got his hands on her. While it would take him a few minutes at least to reach his rooms, he knew Nagini would be able to protect Harry if needed.

Feeling Tom heading his way, Harry returned his attention back to the snooping witch. Nagini was nowhere to be seen, but that didn't mean she wasn't there.

Bellatrix was making him even more nervous, though his fear of her ability to kill him in two words while he was defenseless didn't decrease his hatred and fury at her. Not only had she removed Sirius from his life, but she had also bedded Tom and that irked him.

He wasn't quite sure why it pissed him off so much, but he knew that those books he had started reading would give him the information he needed. He jerked when he heard a sudden, loud noise nearby. Looking up, wide green eyes met wicked blue.

"Oh, wook. It's widdle Potter. What fun we'll have." She cackled insanely, approaching him glee in her bouncing steps.

Oh, she couldn't believe her luck! The boy who lived, the blasted thorn in her lord's side was... in the Dark Lord's private library. How or why he was there, she didn't care, but for whatever reason, surely her lord wouldn't mind if she played with him just a little bit. Make him twitch and scream and beg for mercy. Oh yes, and then her lord would praise her and reward her for using such creative methods to make Potter feel pain!

He was just standing there, his back against a shelf with nowhere to run or to hide. She caressed the length of her wand, she could already her the sweet sound of Potter's scream. Grinning, her skin stretched tight against her skull, she raised her wand, but paused as hissing came from near the sofa.

Turning, but keeping an eye on the boy, Bellatrix glared at her master's familiar. "Shoo, snake-y."

Harry glanced down, noticing that Nagini was slithering out from under the sofa and she looked pissed.

'Nagini!' he hissed softly, relieved that he wasn't alone with the crazy bitch and hoping that she'd be able to distract Bellatrix until Tom arrived. Not doubting Nagini's deadliness, but wary of the insane witch after his blood, Harry inched away slowly as Bellatrix's attention turned more to the approaching, enraged snake.

Stupid human, threatening Tom's mate! Nagini wanted nothing more than to bite her, to let her poisoness venom to burn through the witch's skin and make her bleed. But she knew better than to interfere, this was between Tom and Bellatrix. Nagini knew that Tom would not tolerate Bellatrix being anywhere near his mate, especially if the witch was intent on causing harm upon Harry. She wouldn't actually bite the witch, but nothing said she couldn't scare her.

Bellatrix narrowed her eyes at the snake, what did it think it was doing? Before she could wrap her mind around the snake's reasons, she jumped back when the snake suddenly lunged towards her, snapping warningly before slithering in front of Harry. Bellatrix snarled, what was going on? Why was her master's snake protecting the brat? Raising her wand again, she began the movements to immobilize the reptile. Nothing was getting in her way of hurting Potty.

"Asper atrox!"

Bellatrix screamed as the curse hit her in the back, and she crumpled to the floor, shudders racking her thin body. Tom stood in the doorway, his face white with anger and crimson eyes flashing murderously. "Bellatrix," he hissed slowly, "I'm giving you thirty seconds to explain yourself."

Breathing a sigh of relief as Tom appeared, Harry collapsed to his knees, smiling weakly at the concerned hiss from Nagini.

'Thanks,' he murmured and stroked a still shaky hand down her scaly head, earning a contented hiss.

'I couldn't allow her to hurt what is master's,' Nagini hissed, then turned her attention to the other two in the room. Crumbling a bit inside, Harry also looked up just in time to see Bellatrix hit the floor screaming.

Tom barely kept from stepping back in repulsion as Bellatrix scrambled to her knees to kiss the hem of his robe. The pathetic witch was not getting out of this scrap, not by a long shot. He had to refrain from killing her right at the moment. He didn't want to scare Harry anymore than he already had, especially now since Harry was caressing Nagini, staying close to the serpent for protection. What made his blood boil is that Harry shouldn't need to by protected in his manor, especially when in his rooms!

Tom quickly snapped his attention back to Bellatrix as she began murmuring apologies, not really understanding for what she was sorry for.

Bellatrix kept her head down, she was trembling violently, and not just from the curse that her lord had thrown at her. "Milord, I came to your rooms, seeking your presence. When no one answered I entered and found Potter, and I..."

Tom sneered, he knew exactly why Bellatrix had been looking for him, and why she presumed her could enter his rooms freely. "You presume too much, Bellatrix, and I've come to the end of my patience with you."

He couldn't stop the smile that curled at his lips as he watched as Bellatrix's eyes widened as she understood the meaning to his words. At least she wasn't slow.

"But, Milord!"

"Silence!" Tom snapped angrily before stunning her. He spared a glance at Nagini, knowing that she understood that he wanted her to stay with Harry until he returned shortly.

He cast a levitation charm on the stunned woman, leading her out of the room and towards the dungeons. On his way out, he sent calming emotions to his mate, letting Harry know that he hadn't forgotten about him.

Shuddering despite the calming waves Tom was sending him, Harry curled in on himself. He knew what was going to happen to Bellatrix and discovered that he had mixed feelings on the subject of her torture and death.

Yes, he hated her for removing Sirius from his life and, yes, he absolutely abhorred her for her actions with and toward Tom, but did he wish her torture and death?

He thought about it for a moment.

Those who had known him in the Wizarding World as his friends and family would be appalled. Yes, he did and it didn't really bother him that Tom was going to do so.

When he had been told that he was prophesied to kill Tom, he had nearly rebelled on the spot. How could he kill someone?

But even with the little information he had had time to absorb from the books on soul mates he knew that it had come from the thought of assaulting his mate. It had been one issue defending himself from getting killed or tortured and a complete separate one from attacking to kill his mate.

Another shiver ran through his body as he felt Tom's anger flaring.

This was his mate, the one who was to be his one and only. Now that they had found each other, they couldn't stand the mere thought of anyone else in that way.

Heaving a great sigh, Harry stood and made his way back to the sofa and the books, needing desperately to block out the echoing of Bellatrix's screams.

The sweet sound of Bellatrix's screams still echoing in his head, Tom made his way back to his rooms. It was late and from what he determined from his link between Harry and him, his mate was still awake and pouring over those books he had left with him.

The day had been an eventful one, and Tom was bordering on exhaustion. He couldn't even begin to imagine how Harry felt, passing out wasn't particularly restful, and the earlier pain from the block sapped energy like nothing else.

Once again in his rooms, Tom stopped long enough to set up wards to prevent any intruders. He would set them to accept the comings and goings for Harry later, but until he could trust Harry enough not to try to run away in a house full of dangerous individuals and items, they were set for him and him only.

Quietly, he padded over the library and paused to lean against the door frame, content on watching Harry. Nagini was curled up on Harry's lap, seeming to enjoy the heat emitting from the teen's body. Harry himself was nose deep in a book.

Harry yawned widely, pausing in his reading to rub one eye sleepily. Shaking himself slightly enough to encourage wakefulness, but not enough to disturb the content snake on his lap, he blinked at the tiny print in front of him.

So far he had gleaned that soul mates couldn't stand being separated for long periods of time or they'd progress from being easily irritated to outright insane. Luckily insanity took years to surface, but that hinted at how long Tom had had to wait and how lonely he must have been.

Harry's chest ached just at the implications.

Then he noticed the form of said Dark Lord in the doorway and blushed, resisting with difficulty the instincts to tackle-glomp him.

Tom smiled to himself, pleased that Harry was feeling some of the effects of being so near his mate. Tom moved closer and pulled the book away from Harry, ignoring the teen's objections, and carefully relocated the slumbering snake onto a space beside Harry. "That's enough reading for the night, Harry. You are exhausted."

"But - " Harry tried to protest, but Tom hushed him and directed him towards the bedroom. Fighting back blushes and instincts, Harry accepted the offered pair of pajamas and took off to the bathroom to change.

Running a hand through his hair, Tom yawned as he looked out a floor length window. He was changed in to his preference of nightwear, soft, black cotton pyjama bottoms. Silk was all and well, but he was more comfortable in cotton. He resisted the urge to turn when he heard the door the bathroom open and Harry hesitantly shuffle into the bedroom.

When Harry made no further movements, Tom turned and motioned towards the bed, one brow raised and a mischievous smile upon his face.

Harry ducked his head at the appreciative and smug emotions slithering into his mind from Tom and remained hunched with his arms crossed to hide as much of his bare chest from roaming red eyes.

Shuffling over to the bed, he made the connection that they'd be sleeping in the same bed, but sleep was encroaching on his consciousness even as he neared the bed.

Tom could easily see that Harry was close to collapsing in exhaustion as he neared the bed, which worked out well for him since Harry would be too tired to protest them sleeping in the same bed. He had waited for years for his mate, he wasn't about to be separated from him now.

He watched as Harry crawled onto the bed and burrowed under the covers, his dark head contrasting against the forest green sheets beautifully. Soon after, Tom moved to the bed himself, keeping a polite distance away from the slumbering teen. Though, not long after Tom found that Harry had quite unconsciously sidled up to him and was now quite attached to his side. Smiling, Tom wrapped his arms around the smaller male and allowed himself to surrender to the Land of Nod.

TBC