My Dark Protector

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Chapter 35


Hours had passed since Harry had found the pool, and he'd yet to show any signs of wishing to get out and dry. Severus felt no desire to force Harry out of somewhere he obviously felt safe and happy. There was no doubt that Harry loved being in any body of water, whether it was the pool he had created in the Room of Requirements or this pool in the foundations of his ancestral home. Harry wouldn't have argued if Severus had said it was time to leave, he never did, and normally they didn't spend too long in the ROR, just out of sheer worry of them being seen and found out. Damn the Ministry to hell, if it weren't for them and the fear of the unknown (not knowing what they would do should they get their hands on Harry) this wouldn't be necessary. They wouldn't have to hide him away just in case he ended up some sort of damn spectre in St. Mungo's gawked at and reviled because he wasn't what they wanted or imagined.

He'd never really contemplated leaving Hogwarts, despite his distaste for teaching, it had been his home for a long time. He had grown complacent with his life, such as it was. He wasn't living for himself, by himself anymore and that changed everything. Seeing Harry here…how he'd been, it was a stark contrast to how he usually was when they were getting him through the halls of Hogwarts (with haste). Merlin help him, Harry looked as though he had a weight off him. He was so relaxed and curious and his eyes were sparkling in a way he hadn't seen yet. Was it because it was somewhere new? Getting to investigate something that wasn't just their rooms at Hogwarts? Was this just because of the newness? Would this happiness fade in time just like…nothing, Harry had never expressed an overly curious mind over their rooms. Just the shopping districts, his cat – Sevvy – and the pool.

Did he need a clean break from living at Hogwarts? Was it a constant reminder of what had happened to him? Not that he could ever forget, but surely Hogwarts would be a good thing for him? It was where he had been saved, where he had found salvation and hope and safety. It had been that for him since he was eleven years old, except for the few years after he'd graduated. Yet he thought with consternation, he was actually willing to leave. It wasn't solely for Harry either, and he wasn't going to lie about that. It would definitely be a weight off him not having to teach students while constantly worrying about Harry.

Severus stiffened, alarmed when he felt the wards give, he hadn't even been aware he was connected to them already. It was very disconcerting not to know he was part of this place without any forewarning. Yet here he was, able to sense the wards giving way, granting someone entrance. Then again, he had no idea what kind of wards was on this place, it hadn't been used for decades, maybe longer, surely the wards would be stronger though? After all the war had been going during his grandparents lives. Then again they were old pureblood's and probably agreed with Voldemort's ways, they'd certainly disowned their daughter for marrying his father, a Muggle.

Why they had given everything to him he had no idea. Perhaps old age and regret maybe even the prospect of the Ministry getting it.

This wasn't his biggest concern. Someone was approaching the Prince Manor. Correction, already in the manor he realized.

He couldn't very well leave Harry on his own, but he didn't want whoever it was to find him. He forced himself to relax, whoever it was had access, perhaps it was someone who came by to check on the property. He could be the grounds keeper or someone from the Prince estate. He'd see them off and demand a House-elf to show him the warding hub, which he would then place every warding spell he knew and used on his own rooms at Hogwarts and then some as a precautionary measure. He would never let himself feel vulnerable, and he did right now, especially with Harry here. It wasn't a feeling he was used to, but he'd kill anyone who attempted to reveal Harry's presence, he didn't care if Dumbledore didn't approve.

He would do anything to keep Harry safe. Absolutely anything.

Just then his Dark Mark began to tingle and he froze in absolute horror that was merging with terror very rapidly.

It couldn't be.

The Dark Lord was not in his manor.

He wished he could make himself believe that, but he wasn't one for immersing himself in denial.

How on earth had the Dark Lord found him here? Only Albus, Minerva and Poppy even knew he was here. They would never have revealed it to anyone, they knew just how precarious Harry's situation was. They wouldn't tell anyone let alone the Dark Lord, so just how had the wizard found him and so soon into leaving Hogwarts? Had he been followed? Was he being watched? His skin prickled at the prospect that he'd missed being watched. No, it wasn't possible, surely, he would have noticed. He had survived the war due to his damn good instincts, and his ability to keep his emotions in check.

Glancing at Harry, his heart pounding away dangerously fast, quite honestly if he was prone to panic attacks, he would be having one right this second. Harry was immersed in swimming all around the pool, after having floated around staring at the ceiling for around twenty minutes. The prickling on his arm began to worsen as the Dark Lord got closer causing him to glance at the door half expecting the Dark Lord to be standing there.

He was heading straight for him. With precision. How?

Turning back to Harry, could the Dark Lord have managed to put a tracer on Harry? No, he had been a snake, or rather saw through his snake. Surely, he hadn't been capable of magic. He'd sworn to protect Harry, yet he was failing at every turn, from the snake to the Dark Lord's actual presence here in a place he had decided would be safe for him. He cursed the fact he hadn't turned on the Floo Network, there was one just a few feet from him.

Truthfully, if the Dark Lord wished to kill them or speak to him…he would find a way to do so, even from within the safety of Hogwarts. Although he'd probably use someone else to send his message. Whether that person arrived alive…well, that would depend on a lot of things, most just how pissed off the Dark Lord was by his attempts of getting himself and Harry out of here. He didn't seem completely insane though, vividly reminded of the hope he'd felt when he got over the shock.

The time for action was unfortunately over, as the Dark Lord – who did not look like himself at all from before or after his resurrection – stepped into the room. His eyes taking everything in, dwelling far too long – in Severus' opinion – on Harry before they latched onto his. His face blank but his eyes were as always very intense.

Severus clenched his hidden hand into a fist, his face smooth and impassive, giving nothing away, "How did you find me?" breathing out in relief when his voice managed to remain somewhat polite, he wasn't about to antagonise the Dark Lord. Harry had been through enough trauma without seeing him being cursed within an inch of his life, now that would definitely put him off magic for all eternity. Perhaps even render Harry completely catatonic, he glanced at him with a frown before a quick look at Voldemort made him ponder leaving the room. Just in case the Dark Lord was trigger happy right now.

Annoyance flickered over those changed eyes, he wasn't used to being spoken to in that manner. Yet he could clearly see that Severus was completely thrown by his appearance here at Prince Manor. So, perhaps a little leeway was in order, Severus was in uber protective mode at the moment. Understanding dawned, of course, Severus was no doubt worried that he'd be cursed in front of the boy. The boy who was so utterly terrified of magic, that it was nearly incompressible to him.

"You forget I can always find those who belong to me," Voldemort still in his Ambrose visage stated firmly yet with softness.

A softness that almost had Severus cringing visibly. That softness usually led to terrible, terrible consequences, yet his gaze was on Harry, it was almost as if he didn't want to raise his voice and scare him. Was that possible? Could the Dark Lord actually have a soft spot for Harry? Out of guilt? Did he feel responsible or at least partially responsible for what had happened to him?

Belong to him? Closing his eyes, swallowing thickly, of course, the Dark Mark, he'd had no idea it was a damn tracker as well. It explained why nobody ever left the Dark Lord's services without suffering then death. Why he'd never searched for any of his 'servants' when they went 'missing' since he no doubt knew they were dead. He had examined it extensively, and never found anything remotely tracking his location within it. Then again, out of all people who could successfully do something like that would be the Dark Lord. "The Mark," he muttered almost under his breath.

"Indeed," Voldemort replied, throwing Severus' own favourite word back at him his tone desert dry. "You didn't think I'd be stupid enough to let everyone run amok?"

"Yet you did," Severus retorted sarcastically, before he paled spectacularly when he realized what he'd said and whom he'd said it to. Savagely biting his tongue, he silently cursed his loose lips. It had to be the looks and the lack of powerful aura that surrounded the Dark Lord at the moment. He'd never been so idiotic as to talk back to the Dark Lord let alone so disrespectfully. This was not how he survived the war thank you very much.

Voldemort flared his magic dramatically, glaring at Severus with deadly intent in his eye, "You should be thankful that I will ignore that comment and the way you've spoken to your chosen Lord." He stated, before diminishing his powers, sensing that Harry was watching him from the corner of his eye. His green eyes were alight with inquisitiveness as he watched both of them. He seemed and looked much better than the time he'd seen through Nagini. Making it clear to Severus that just because he was changing how he operated it didn't mean that he would allow disrespect.

"Thank you, My Lord," Severus murmured, suddenly looking exhausted, more so than Voldemort had ever seen him. He had seen Severus remain awake for days at a time brewing difficult potions for him so this…this truly was the most fatigued he'd ever observed him. Arching an eyebrow curiously, was it truly that tiresome to look after one boy and brew potions part time? Yes, he knew everything about his potions master, he had dossiers on all his followers – everything that had happened to them over the past decade – so that he knew everything he'd missed as a spectre.

Voldemort refrained from rolling his eyes, other people's emotions didn't bother him or move him. He only used emotion when it suited him, specifically to manipulate in order to get what he wanted. What he did instead was move over to the little niche beside the pool that was filled with bottles of alcohol, he poured both himself and Severus a drink as he stood and observed his surroundings. He had to admit this place was…actually very serene, perhaps it was the sound of the water and the quietness or the feel of the room. "How is he?" it was clear Severus needed someone to talk to, and he…didn't know why he was asking, it was baffling, yet here he was asking someone else about their feelings. It made him feel sick, perhaps he was better off completely insane.

The swiped that thought almost immediately after, he hadn't almost taken over the magical world…he'd almost destroyed it and rendered magic completely gone from the world. In the process more people had suffered when he had originally set out to prevent the suffering of magical children.

Severus shook his head a bit, dazed and surprised, surely he hadn't heard right? "Physically his recovery is going as expected," Severus automatically began speaking, not as a protector but as one delivering a report, almost mechanically. "Mentally, he is learning…but not in the way a teenager should, I would put him at nine years of age."

"And will he continue to advance?" Voldemort asked, he knew next to nothing about mental impairments, he'd read a few books but it didn't make him an expert, he doubted Severus was too. Yet he expected that Severus knew more than him, after all he'd known about Harry's predicament for a lot longer and had more free time than he himself did.

Severus claimed a seat, his brow furrowed, clearly worried, "We don't know," he revealed, "We won't know for years to come if he will ever be the adult he should have been. If he will ever be able to live on his own without some sort of supervision."

"How sure are you that the mental impairment wasn't there to begin with?" Voldemort asked pensively, surely someone couldn't survive the killing curse without some sort of ailment presenting itself. It wasn't just any old spell, it was the killing curse, it was supposed to kill the intended recipient, there had been no exceptions until this boy had survived the un-survivable. Not that he was wishing that it was his fault, he could sense how powerful the boy had the capacity to be, to be responsible for the decline of what could have been an amazing mind and a powerful wizard wasn't exactly what he aspired. It had been something he had been thinking of in the times he allowed himself to dwell on the past.

"Other than the cut to the forehead, Harry wasn't damaged by the spell at all." Severus stated firmly, "I've seen his records, he was tested in every way after that night by Poppy declared both mentally and physically fine." Except for the fact that Dumbledore refused to let Poppy heal the cut on Harry's forehead. She'd been quite furious about that and had actually written down how unhappy she was with him. Minerva had expressed similar concerns, it wasn't like Harry wouldn't be recognized without the scar though, regretfully he did look a bit too much like his parents to avoid being a 'Potter' as it were.

Which would have made his life infinitely more easier.

"I have a feeling that is not what's on your mind, Severus," Voldemort stated abruptly, disliking the feeling of immense relief flowing through him at Severus' words. Knowing that he wasn't ultimately responsible for Harry's current condition. No, it was Muggles who once again harmed one of their own. Why the guilty feeling? He could kill without blinking an eye or feeling even a single smidge of guilt yet when it came to this boy…he was feeling things he didn't normally associate with himself.

"What is it you wish of me, My Lord?" Severus asked, inclining his head in respect, not fully bowing, he would not do that with Harry in the room. "Do you still require me to spy?" it was not something he wished to do, he didn't want to be caught between two powerful wizards who both thought they were doing the right thing. While that wasn't accurate where the Dark Lord was concerned…at least not in the past. Now though…perhaps he was going to do the right thing. Only time would tell whether his Lord's sanity was long lasting. Dumbledore had made just as many mistakes as the Dark Lord really, mistakes that had affected generations of children but he too was trying to correct his mistakes. The thought of being caught in the middle of it all made him want to just take Harry and run, leave everything behind.

"Would you deny my request?" Voldemort asked, eyes flashing red through the glamour his tone held bite.

"If you don't kill me for it then yes," Severus replied seriously, glancing briefly at Harry who was watching both of them, not at all interested in anything else now. Could he hear what they were saying? No, probably not, they weren't speaking quite loud enough even if the room was cavernous.

Voldemort despite himself was rather impressed with Severus' straightforwardness, it was an odd change from the usual characters he had to deal with. The endless kissing ass, what they thought was subtle manipulation or outright begging for what they wanted. He would have wondered where the bravery was coming from if he didn't already know Severus was capable of it. After all, he had bravely asked him to spare Lily Potter, someone he saw as an enemy. To ask for something that could have surely ended in his death was extremely brave. He was far from a Gryffindor though, and he was grateful that Dumbledore hadn't turned him into one.

"You wish to bring the boy here," Voldemort deduced, it wasn't a difficult leap after all.

"He's happier…" Severus said breathing out shakily, surprised that he hadn't been cursed yet. He knew he was pushing his luck, but he was just so damn tired of being told what to do. He wanted as much freedom as he could gain, and not spying would help that a great deal. He already felt absolutely wretched that he couldn't reveal the Dark Lord was back to give Albus some warning if he went back to his old ways. "He's begun to realize that he's being hidden away at Hogwarts…and without revealing everything he wont understand." And it was something he so desperately wanted to avoid. He wanted to keep Harry as innocent as possible for as long as possible. He'd been through enough shit to last a lifetime, why the hell would he want to heap more upon him? He knew realistically he should tell Harry…just in case it blew back in his face, and there was a chance it would. That was how life worked, but if he could keep Harry with that carefree look on his face he'd seen while he plucked fruit from the tree earlier…then he'd do his damn hardest to see it through. Screw what everyone else thought, Harry was in his care, and in his care he would remain.

Black and Lupin weren't suitable caretakers, and it might not be official, but Harry listened to him, learned from him.

"You are still my Potions Master," Voldemort warned possessively, as he had always been with what he considered his. Giving him what he wanted, he didn't really need a spy anyway, Dumbledore was not going to be a thorn in his side this time around. If anything, what happened to Harry had made Dumbledore realize the error of his ways. They'd work together for the betterment of the magical world, without Dumbledore ever realizing who he was. Which reminded him, he had to speak to all his followers, he was extremely displeased with their actions within the Wizengamot. "You will do and brew anything I ask when I ask." He was going easy on the Potions Master, the wizard would know this, and perhaps he'd get him back for his slights this day but today was not that day.

"Yes, My Lord," Severus replied, almost dizzy with relief, although he believed the Dark Lord would get him back at some point. He would make sure that it wasn't in front of Harry…albeit if he didn't go too far. Voldemort's temper was explosive, he rarely thought before reacting. He knew Voldemort wasn't the same wizard he had been, the insanity had left him but he kept waiting for the other shoe to drop. He suspected it would take a long time for him to truly believe he'd changed. It just felt all too convenient really, that he 'changed' after being defeated. Perhaps the fact he'd almost died had caused this…speculating was just messing with his head, which was already messed up as it was with everything that had happened lately.

"Good, I have a list with me," Voldemort stated, handing the slip of paper over. He could brew them himself, of course, he was the best in his year, and that hadn't changed until Severus had completed his OWLS and NEWTS.

Resignedly, Severus accepted the piece of paper and gave it a short glance before sliding it into his pocket with a firm nod.

"Hello little one,"

Severus jerked his head up, heart pounding when he noticed that Voldemort had moved from his position – next to him – and had made his way over to Harry. He hadn't even sensed the Dark Lord moving, dear Merlin, he attributed it towards the fact that he had his magic tightly contained so it wasn't so easily felt. He really should take a moment to admire that, not many had the willpower to deliberately contain their power.

"The snake!" Harry hissed out in excitement, "Was it you?" eager to know more, swimming towards the figure kneeling beside the pool. The way he called him 'little one' gave that away.

Severus froze on the spot, he had no idea what Harry or worse the Dark Lord was saying. He did not like it in the least.

"She is my familiar," upon seeing the confused look on the boys face, he refrained from gritting his teeth and added, "My pet," which truly was an insult really, Nagini was extremely smart, very intelligent for a snake. She would have thrown a hissy fit worthy of the name if she had been here to hear him say something so insipid. She was the one thing in his life that he really cared about, the one he'd let away with murder, the only one he'd let speak to him in any way she wanted.

"Like Sevvy! My Kitten!" Harry proclaimed proudly, in only the way a child could be with their pets.

Voldemort pursed his lips in amusement, the urge to laugh astonishing him.

Harry's next words surprised him however.

"My Dark Protector is afraid of you, isn't he?" and his Dark Protector wasn't afraid of anything.

Surprise filtered over his 'Ambrose' visage, giving Harry a shrewd look, "Very astute, there's more to you than meets the eye, isn't there, little one?"

"I believe…Severus, that Harry is going to surprise us all," Voldemort stated as he stood back up facing Severus, children were perceptive yes, but not to the extent that they would reveal it so boldly to the one they'd seen scaring their guardian. Then again, he hadn't much dealt with children, not since he himself had been one. He knew he hadn't been the most normal child out there – and he didn't mean in terms of magical powers – he meant in general, he had been smarter than any child his age.

Severus glanced between them, perplexed and a little wary of Voldemort's pleased expression.

"Meaning?" Severus asked cautiously, wondering if he even wanted to know.

"I mean that he's more observant and perceptive than any child his age should be," Voldemort informed him, by age he meant the speculated mental age and Severus would realize this. With that Voldemort began to leave the room, glancing back just the once, "Goodbye, Little one, we will meet again," he promised, or threatened judging how one person saw the statement.

Harry merely waved, almost as if he didn't have any self-preservation whatsoever.

It made Severus more determined to protect him while he could.

He narrowed in on Harry absently rubbing at his head, perhaps he'd been in the water too long? "Are you ready to get out and put some clothes on again?" Severus questioned, relaxing fully when the wards alerted him to the fact Voldemort was off his premises. With Harry mostly just floating around it didn't cause too much strain on his muscles and let him relax a little. It was good for him, which was why he let Harry indulge.

Or so he told himself.

Relentlessly.


Would you like to see this from Harry's POV? And I know I don't do it a lot I really should but Harry's POV doesn't have a tendency to last very long in this story…This has long ago surpassed its original plot so I'm having a little trouble keeping up with it and continuing it really. That and it's plot is vastly different as well, so you'll need to bear with me while I try to get some semblance of a story out of it…who would have thought writing something so different like Dumbledore and Voldemort working together (sort of) towards a common goal would be difficult to write? Surely it should be fun to write and easy…but noooo it doesn't even give me that :D Read & Review Please! Inspire me and give me some wonderful ideas :P Get those muses flowing again!