Author's Notes: Dedicated to amylion. Happy birthday, darling!

Thanks, as always, to my wonderful beta, hobtheknife.

The poem is a translation of Sonnet 134 by Francesco Petrarch. It was written in the 14th century.

View the illustrations for this fic by Gabzies at: gabzies dot deviantart dot com backslash gallery backslash 3794522# backslash d16upvv


A snake is summer's treason,
And guile is where it goes.
- Emily Dickinson


"Merlin," Harry groaned. "I ache all over! I didn't feel this bad after I fought a dragon!"

"That's because we wrestled rather energetically for most of the night," his lover pointed out.

Wincing and gritting his teeth, Harry turned over in bed. "If I'd known sex was such a demanding sport, I'd have trained harder."

"I seem to recall that you were hard enough." The Dark Lord's expression was lecherous.

Harry rolled his eyes. "What time is it, anyway?" he wondered, squinting at the light filtering through the draperies.

"I have no idea. I cast an Imperturbable last night, so the chimes from the clock downstairs wouldn't disturb your sleep."

His tone was surprisingly tender, and Harry was taken aback by his thoughtfulness. "That's really…romantic."

"Yes, well there's nothing about being Dark Lord that precludes me from being chivalrous."

"Gallant, too." Harry leaned over and kissed him gently. Voldemort pulled him into his arms, and things were just getting interesting when Harry swore and sat up. "Accio watch!"

"Harry, whatever is the matter?" the other wizard asked, clearly affronted.

"The Order," Harry replied shortly. "If I'm missing for more than twenty-four hours, they'll notify the Ministry. Everyone will over react as usua,l and they'll probably raid your the house you inherited in Little Hangleton, lock down Borgin and Burkes', send in a team to secure my vault at Gringott's, and assault the Malfoy mansion."

"That might just spoil Narcissa's weekly pedicure," Voldemort mused, his smile malicious.

"I can just imagine Draco all in a panic, trying to hide his father's porn collection before the entire family gets arrested. So you see, the entire status quo depends on me getting back home." Harry threw back the duvet.

Voldemort reached for him. "Damn the Order and damn the status quo," he snapped. "Keeping you with me is worth starting a war."

"You say that now, but when it comes right down to it you'd rather take over by stealth and subterfuge than outright conquest." But Harry didn't resist when Voldemort kissed him again. "I had a really nice time last night," he confessed. "I can't wait..."

"Can't wait for what?"

Harry snuggled against him. "You know. To do all that again."

"There's so much more we can do, Harry." Voldemort's breath was warm against his ear.

"I really have to go now..."

"Of course you do."


Harry closed the front door quietly and stood, listening, in the entrance hall. The house seemed quiet, and he had just turned to go upstairs when he heard footsteps coming up from the kitchen.

Ron stopped when he saw him. "Hi, Harry. Everything all right?" His voice was strained.

"Yeah." Harry was equally guarded. "Everything okay here?"

"You didn't come home last night." Ron peered at his best friend closely.

Hermione's voice came from the stairs. "Ron! Who are you talking to?"

Harry forced a smile. "I told you that I had a date."

"It's three o'clock in the afternoon!" Ron's tone was accusing.

"Things moved along a little faster than I expected and I ended up staying the night."

"Ron! Is that Kingsley?"

"You might have let someone know!"

"Sorry, but that wasn't exactly the first thing on my mind."

Hermione emerged from the basement stairs, and took in the situation with a glance. "Hi, Harry! How was your date?" She threw a reproachful look at Ron.

Harry turned to her gratefully. "It was brilliant."

"I just made a fresh pot of coffee," she said, beaming at him. "Come downstairs, and tell us all about it!"

Ron was scowling in a way that made it obvious that he wasn't particularly interested in hearing the sordid details. "I guess I should let Kingsley know he's home," he muttered.

"What?" Harry was indignant. "You called Kingsley? And told him what, exactly?"

"Oh, Harry, Ron was upset when you weren't home for breakfast." Hermione sounded exasperated.

"You were, too!" Ron shot back.

Hermione ignored him. "Remus tried to tell him that you'd be home this afternoon, but he wasn't satisfied with that. He talked to McGonagall and Moody, and they convinced Kingsley to make some enquiries." She rolled her eyes.

"Look," Ron began defensively. "The Death Eaters have been awfully quiet lately and the Aurors have been expecting that they've got something big planned." He glared at Harry. "When you were out having fun with your boyfriend, and all your defences were down, it would've been the perfect time for them to pull something. And if they'd kidnapped you yesterday, it might be too late right now to help you!"

He was obviously sincere, and Harry looked at him with admiration. "Wow. That's what you call catastrophic thinking."

Ron was unfazed. "If you're not going to think about yourself, at least think about the guy you were with. What if the Death Eaters grabbed him?"

A grin slowly spread across Harry's face. "You know what, Ron? That's not even a remote possibility."

"Why's that? I suppose you're going to tell us that you're dating a Slytherin?" Ron retorted.

Harry laughed and thumped his shoulder. "Let's have some coffee and I'll tell you about my date."

Ron looked apprehensive, but Hermione was leading them to the kitchen and he followed along.


"Then you Obliviated her?"

"Yes, my lord," Lucius continued, smiling faintly at the recollection. "I made her believe that she had been a bit too forward with a flirtatious remark, but suggested that overindulgence in the champagne punch was to blame. She expressed her gratitude for my understanding, and I conducted her back to the other guests."

"Ever the gentleman," Voldemort commented, perusing the information his foremost servant had garnered from the interrogation with a pleased expression. "And now we know, from the mother of Scrimgeour's daughter's best friend, that he's recruiting a taskforce. Well done."

Lucius basked in the unaccustomed praise. "I find you in unusually fine spirits this afternoon, my lord."

"I had an exceptional night." The Dark Lord eyes grew distant as he set down the notes. He could see still the raw lust in Harry's eyes when the young man had gotten unsteadily to his knees and unfastened the button of his jeans, tugged down the zipper, and then pushed them down over his hips. He'd watched with salacious amusement as Harry struggled out of the tight denim, but his mirth had been transmuted into pure need with the first sensation of Harry's skin against his body…

"Indeed?"

Voldemort realised that the other wizard was politely waiting and continued, "I spent the night introducing a seventeen year-old to the pleasures of sex."

Lucius appeared pleasantly surprised. "Congratulations, my lord."

Voldemort nodded toward the chairs. "I need your opinion. Would you care for brandy?"

A tray appeared on the low table, and Lucius splashed amber liquor into the glasses, handing one to the Dark Lord and then sitting down to inhale the vapours from his own drink before tasting it. "I am delighted, my lord, that you've found such a pleasant diversion."

"It began as a diversion, but I have become rather attached to the young man," Voldemort reflected as he sipped his brandy.

"When will I be permitted to meet this paragon?"

"You've already encountered him," he replied, watching with enjoyment as Lucius mentally sorted through the possibilities. "But a formal introduction must wait. I haven't yet persuaded him of the wisdom of joining us."

"Is he a Slytherin?"

"Better than that. He is a Gryffindor."

Lucius smirked and raised his glass in admiration.

"I should send him a gift," Voldemort mused. "What would you suggest?"

"These things are always difficult," Lucius replied, his aristocratic brow furrowed in thought. "A gift too sentimental wrongfully implies a deep level of affection, and one that is ostentatious could be misconstrued as…payment for services rendered. It should be something that he might wear daily to remind him of you. A watch, perhaps?" He sat up straighter as a thought occurred to him. "Is he a member of the Order of the Phoenix?"

The Dark Lord smiled at his insight. "Yes," he said, pride in this accomplishment evident in his voice.

"Then I have the perfect suggestion, my lord: a talisman to protect him should be become embroiled in a confrontation."

"An excellent idea," Voldemort said with a nod. "I will give it more consideration. Another brandy?"

Lucius set his glass down with a reluctant shake of his head. "Alas, no. We are dining with the Warbecks tonight, and the quality of their company is such that Narcissa and I have resorted to taking an Anti-Somnolence potion whenever we visit them."


"Where did you go last night?" Hermione asked. She was sitting at the kitchen table across from Harry.

"He said it was somewhere in France."

"You mean you don't know exactly where he took you?" Ron asked, still annoyed with him.

Harry was a bit embarrassed. "We weren't exactly taking in the sights. He has a big house on a river."

"It's sounds as if he's wealthy," Hermione commented.

"I suppose he must be. We haven't talked about it."

"What do you talk about, then?" Ron demanded.

Harry looked at him pointedly, and Ron suddenly took a keen interest in the design on his mug.

Hermione smiled to herself. "When do we get to meet him?" she asked.

"Let's wait and see if this gets serious first."

Ron almost spilled his coffee. "What do you mean, 'serious'? You're having sex with him! What could possibly be more 'serious' than that?"

Harry sat back and looked at them for a moment. "He's…he's from the other side."

Hermione digested this. "Is he a Death Eater?"

"No," Harry said quickly, shaking his head.

"Cornelius Agrippa's balls, Harry! You couldn't find a guy on our side to shag?"

"Look-" Harry tried.

"Are you under an Imperious curse, or something?"

"Ron, you know that-" Hermione began.

Ron stood up and pointed an accusing finger at his best friend. "You're sleeping with the enemy!"

Harry blinked up at him. "So?"

"So, I have a big problem with that!"

"I noticed," Harry muttered. "Will you just sit down and listen to me?"

Ron looked unhappy, but he sat down next to Hermione.

Harry took off his glasses and rubbed his eyes. "We ran into each other a couple months ago. We ended up in some trouble, and we worked together. We saw each other a few times after that – it was inevitable, I guess. I don't think either one of us expected anything like this would happen."

"Harry," Ron was exasperated. "He's a Death Eater!"

Harry put back on his glasses and ran a hand through his hair. "No, Ron," he said steadily, meeting his friend's gaze. "He's the Dark Lord."

Silence reigned in the kitchen.

"Oh, Harry." Hermione was shaking her head. "This is – this is wrong."

"Hermione, this is the way it is." Harry's eyes pleaded for understanding.

She looked frightened. "He doesn't love you, Harry," she said earnestly. "He isn't capable of loving you! He's only going to use you to -"

Harry flushed with anger. "You," he said coldly, "are in no position to judge that."

"And you're too blinded by your hormones to see that he's manipulating you!" Ron shouted.

Hermione burst into tears and Ron put his arms around her, throwing Harry a look of pure disgust.

There was a sound from the stairwell .and they all looked up as an owl flew into the kitchen and landed on the back of the chair next to Harry's. It was sleek as a hawk with a round, white face, brown back and wings and light undersides. The owl dropped an envelope on the table and looked at Harry expectantly.

"Hi," Harry said, and reached out tentatively to scratch the bird's neck. Half-closing its eyes, the owl enjoyed the attention for a moment, then shrugged away and flew back up the stairs.

Harry picked up the envelope and saw that it had been sealed with black wax impressed with the Slytherin crest. "It's from him," he announced, glancing at Hermione and Ron, and tore open the envelope. As he pulled out a folded sheet of parchment, a packet dropped to the table. He ignored it while he read the message.

"What-?" Hermione began, but caught herself.

"He says it's a gift," Harry answered shortly. He drew his wand, pointed it at the packet and spoke a charm. After a moment, he nodded to himself and put his wand down.

"Here," he said, and held out the note to them.

Hermione shook her head vehemently. "No, it's meant for you, I don't-"

"Just read it, will you?"

She exchanged a worried look with Ron and nervously took the note from Harry's outstretched hand. It read:

Dear Harry,
Are you surprised to hear that I miss you already? You told me this morning
that you couldn't wait until next time. Now I begin to understand what you
meant.

I hope you will accept this small gift. It is a talisman made from a cylinder
seal I discovered in my travels. I found the image of interest, and I think
you will, too. Since I know that you will prudently examine it, you will find
that I have bestowed upon it several spells of protection as well as one that
will prevent you from experiencing any harm from my followers in the event
that you should encounter them in the course of the current unpleasantness.

Think of me fondly when you wear it. You are never far from my
thoughts.

V.

As they studied the message, Harry opened the small package. It contained a bluish ceramic cylinder strung with two beads on a thin leather strand. He held it closer, and saw that it bore the image of a large serpent confronting a roaring lion beneath the streaming beams of the sun.

"Go ahead," Harry told them. "It might be charmed to appear harmless to me."

Without any hesitation, Ron pulled out his wand and pointed it at Lord Voldemort's gift. "Revealio!"Hermione went upstairs for a book and tried several spells on it, then sighed. "It's just what he said," she concluded, pushing it back to Harry.

"What do you think?" Harry asked them. By moving the faience beads, he adjusted the length of the leather strand and slipped the talisman over his head.

"I don't think he'sharmless, not by a long shot," Ron maintained. "He said this protects you from the Death Eaters; he didn't say anything about it protecting you from him."

"I think we're missing something very important," Hermione said. "If You-Know-Who wanted to hurt Harry, he could have done that already. I suspect he's trying to dissolve the Order. We all know that Harry's Occlumency is crap," she ignored Harry's protest, "and so for all practical purposes we've been infiltrated."

"What if what he really wants is to end the War?" Harry wondered aloud. "What if he's pared down his original list of objectives, and realised that he can achieve the most important ones by neutralizing the Order and negotiating with the Ministry?"

"That puts us in a really bad position," Ron pointed out.

"No." Harry shook his head. "I'm supposed to be the leader of the Order."

Hermione's eyes grew wide. "So if you say the War is over-"

"Then no one gets hurt."

Ron snorted. "All we have is one hell of a lot of 'what-iffing'."

"Maybe not," Harry said slowly, touching the cylinder seal at his throat. "Maybe what we finally have is hope."


Voldemort walked in the garden that night. The new moon was a sliver in the sky, and the fragrance of night-blooming flowers drifted in the gentle breeze. He looked up at the sound of wings, and a large, pale owl dropped a package on the bench before landing on the edge of the fountain. Although he had never before met her, he recognised her at once.

"Hedwig," he said to her in greeting, with the respect of one predator for another. She regarded him with haughty eyes.

He looked down at the package. Although he was confident of Harry's good intentions at present, he wouldn't put it past any of the young man's friends to use Hedwig to send him a token of enmity, so he drew his wand and subjected the parcel to a thorough examination before concluding it was innocent of malice and opening it.

It contained a book that was bound in leather with gilt-edged pages. He withdrew a folded sheet of parchment from between the pages and read:

Dear V-

Your letter made me very happy. I wondered if you would miss me,
or if you were too busy to think about me at all. I haven't been able
to think about anything but you since I got home.

I really like your gift. It was very thoughtful of you to put the charms
on it, but I don't especially think that I have much to worry about from
your

minionsfollowers.

Here is a gift for you. There are lots of old books in the library at my
house that you might prefer, but this one is special to me. I hope you
like it.

Harry

He glanced at the title page of the book and saw that it was a translation of the poetry of Petrarch. Bemused at Harry's choice, he turned to the pages that had been marked by the letter.

Sonnet 134

I am not at peace, yet I have no wish to make war;
I fear and I have hope, I burn and am made of ice;
I fly above the heavens and look skyward from the ground;
And I grasp nothing and embrace the whole world.

One holds me in prison who neither opens nor locks,
Does not keep me for his own nor unties the bonds;
And Love does not kill and yet does not unchain me,
He does not wish me alive but he will not set me free.

I see without eyes, and I have no tongue and yet cry out;
I wish to perish, yet I ask for aid;
I hate myself, but love another;
I feed on pain, weeping I laugh.

Equally displeasing to me are both death and life.
And I have been brought to this condition because of you.

The Dark Lord sat down on the bench, resentful of the emotion which made him a traitor to himself.

Hedwig hooted softly.

"Thank you," he said to her. "You have discharged your duty." She blinked once, then flew into the night, leaving him alone with his thoughts.


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