A/N: Thanks to all reviwers. Send me ideas for what you might like to see
WARNING: GRAPHIC NON SEXUAL CP, DISTURBING THEMES, SOME GORE. Seriously, this is dark. You've been warned.
Harry flopped down on his bed,spent. He was shaking with exhaustion and fury. Hermione, at least, was safely asleep in her room, drugged with Dreamless Sleep. Bellatrix was keeping vigil, glaring ferociously at any and everyone who tried to come near. Harry didn't want to ponder the implications of Bellatrix acting protective towards someone for whom she'd always had an unreasoning hatred.
She hadn't cried, not once. Her face had been rigid, white as milk, eyes dull. Harry had been scared to approach her, until the Dark Lord laid a freezing hand on his arm and pushed him lightly. " Go to her, Harry, she's had an terrible shock."
Harry, acutely conscious of the eyes that followed his movement, went to Hermione and knelt before her. "Hermione? Hermione, it's me. Harry. Are you—all right?"
He felt an ass for saying such a stupid thing. Of course she wasn't all right. She blinked and looked at him a moment without speaking. Then, as though from a distance:
"Hullo, Harry. They told me—they said—Dad--Mum—oh, God." She dropped her head into her hands but didn't move. Harry felt helpless and stupid and useless. He looked to Snape for guidance. Snape gave him an unreadable look, a slight shrug. Harry swallowed a wave of black hate for the man and said softly "Is it okay if I sit down?"
She nodded. Harry carefully sat a distance away, trying to think of what should happen next. Snape's voice, oily smooth, came from his left. "My lord, perhaps it would be more effective if the room were cleared."
Voldemort seemed to consider. " Perhaps. Lucius, go and see what's become of Greyback and his band. See that the stage will be ready by tomorrow night. Snape, go and fetch a large quantity of Dreamless Sleep."
They bowed and withdrew. Voldemort stood over Hermione, trying to twist his lipless mouth into an understanding smile. "Hermione, my child, shall I have Rudolphus stay?"
She swallowed convulsively. "No. Please, no."
Rudolphus's face became sorrowful. He bowed and lingered near Hermione a moment. "Hermione, dear heart, are you sure? I don't mind staying." His hand reached out to stroke her hair and she cowered, furious. "I know what you did."
Rudolphus smothered a grin with great difficulty. She was perceptive, this mu- little chit. If only he wasn't her protector… he licked his lips. She made him think of Bella when she was young, fiery and bold.
Voldemort tutted. "You mustn't make allegations you don't mean, Hermione."
To Rudolphus he said in a stage murmur " Don't take it to heart, she doesn't know what she's saying."
"Yes, I do." Hermione still wasn't looking at anything. Beside her, Bellatrix snapped as though shocked with electricity and brought her hand back. "You filthy little mudblood slut, how dare you contradict--" Voldemort took her hand to keep the slap from hitting Hermione's ear.
" Now now, Bella. She's upset. And you know not to use that word." Bella cringed. His voice was mild, but she had seen people die in agonies as he used that calming voice.
Harry felt the climate of the room change. Hermione was still sitting woodenly, ignoring what was going on around her, but it seemed like Bellatrix and Voldemort were sharing a moment somehow, a plan within a plan that Harry couldn't figure out.
The Dark Lord stood and gently stewarded Bella for the door. "Wait in their, dear Bella. Should she need you, I will call you directly." Bellatrix bowed as the door closed and then there were three.
Voldemort sat on a chair directly across from Hermione. "Hermione, in some ways perhaps it was a mercy that your parents died this way. There was no pain, no lingering end. Just sleep. Isn't that better than having something else happen ?"
Harry's stomach slid greasily. The Dark Lord acted as though he were talking about the weather. Hermione was too far within her own head to notice. A horrible series of images was playing on loop within her brain: the image of her parents levitated high above the ground, screaming in pain and panic, unaware of who the masked people below them were or what was happening, as Rudolphus and the others fired sectumsempra after sectumsempra at them; her parents being torn apart by Greyback and his men; attacked by Dementors and tossed, soulless, into the ocean.
This last one made her shiver and whisper something. Harry shook his head and said gently " Couldn't hear you. Say it again?"
"I said ' I hope it was quick for them.' I hope they didn't make them suffer."
The Dark Lord immediately interjected. "Your father was depressed, Hermione. He snapped. That doesn't mean he never loved you and your mother, my child. "
Hermione didn't look at him. "How did you know where to find them? I didn't even know where they were." The Dark Lord pretended not to hear, looked at Harry expressionless, but Harry could almost see the mocking sneer under the calm, reasonable exterior.
"Would it comfort you to know I've had them decently buried?"
A look of faint horror crept over her face at the image of her parents, trapped forever below the cold, cold ground of a country she'd probably never see. She couldn't believe her father, her kind, easy going father, would even yell at her mother, let alone…
"He did it with a sharp knife from the kitchen. She never saw it coming. There was no fear for her, Hermione. Nor him. They crossed into the clearing hand-in-hand."
"It isn't true."
Voldemort had no answer. He called for Tibby and the elf appeared, shaking. "Tibby, have Severus come and bring something to help Hermione sleep."
Snape had evidently been lingering nearby, for he appeared a moment later with a phial of Dreamless Sleep. He handed it to Hermione, expecting her to drink. She stared at it limply and then ignored them all again. Harry and the Dark Lord entreated her for five minutes before Snape, loosing patience, asked for a turn. When Voldemort assented, Snape drew himself up to his full height and promptly shouted "Granger! Stop being a ninny and do what you're told for once!"
Hermione started. "Professor Snape?"
"Yes, Granger, it is I, come to torment you further. Take your potion, please."
She nodded agreeably and swallowed. A moment later her eyelids fluttered and she slumped to the side. To Harry's surprise Snape leaned over and picked her up. Carrying her to the bed, Snape snapped out "Potter! Blankets, you dunce!" Voldemort gave him a slight frown and Snape deferentially dropped his head. They got Hermione settled and tucked in. The Dark Lord called out for Bella to join them.
She stalked into the room, hair wildly disarrayed, eyes burning. "How kind of you to join us, Headmaster." She gave a malevolent grin. Snape smiled back, sending chills down Harry's spine. "Charming as always, madam Lestrange."
The Dark Lord waved Snape from the room with a single flick of his wrist. Snape vanished like smoke. Bellatrix was staring at Voldemort with a look that combined fear and love in equal measure. Harry wanted to sick up.
"She'll need you when she wakes, Bella. Best to keep Rudolphus' contact with her at minimum for now, until she gets over this fancy that he killed her parents. The ideas these children get…" Bellatrix nodded her head. She had no intention of leaving unless she was ordered to, because the mu-girl would wake and want someone there. If that someone was Bella, it would make the girl ten times more tractable…
"Very well then. Harry and I will withdraw. Good evening, Bellatrix." Bella bowed as they left the room. The Dark Lord ushered him back and left him in his room, with strict instructions to work on the pile of assignments that had been on the desk when he woke that morning. "Professor Snape brought them; you're very behind, you know."
That had been hours ago. The longer he thought about it, the angry Harry got. He had been used. They wanted him to hear and see the twisted little play they put on. Worse, Hermione was alone in the world and she had been used, too. They would likely never know what really happened. Harry felt sympathy for his friend vie with relief that she was heavily sedated. She didn't have to think about it, wonder if it was true after all.
He knocked at the door. The heavy set Death Eater at the door put down his wizarding True Confessions magazine ( "My husband ran off with a Veela") and ponderously swiveled his bulk. "Yes?"
"Please, I need to use the bathroom."
The man considered. " I'd need to ask the Dark Lord."
"Then ask him. Please."
He considered again. "No, I'm comfortable. You'll live."
"It's been hours."
The man shrugged and went back to his lurid reading. Harry found himself irrationally angry about the whole thing. And he really did have to go. He paced the room, played games with himself, tried to nap, asked again.
He sat down to try his assignments. Opening the Herbology text, he tried to make himself care about the magical properties of coltsfoot and thyme. He found himself less than enthused, strangely. He felt a sense of loss; the war had cost them so much, and instead of being able to fight it, he was stuck here, reading about herbology. He slammed the book shut and put it on his night stand. He walked to the window and pressed his face to the smooth glass. The outside taunted him, smoothly starred and wind blowing a little. He wanted to feel the wind on his face, see his friends again, walk about with no Death Eaters on his tail.
Snape could ruddy well bugger himself and the books he'd brought, as well. He had actually felt bad for the git, when he'd found out what an arse his father had been. He even felt a little guilty when the Dark Lord made him apologize.
The whole situation seemed like too much, suddenly. Dumbledore was dead, Sirius was dead Mad Eye was dead, even Hedwig was dead. So many others were lost to them, in hiding, lives destroyed. So many brave ones killed, imprisoned, silenced. And where was he, the Golden Boy who lived? Stuck here, reading about bleeding herbs.
He didn't stop to think. Walking to the nearest wall, he made a fist and slammed it hard into the solid teak molding that encircled the room.
Harry had always assumed that 'seeing stars' was a metaphor. It wasn't. Whirling black dots filled his vision as a wet, final sounding crack echoed through the room. Blood poured from his split and broken left hand and into the plush rug in hot freshets. The coppery stench filled his nose, making him gag. He bent his head and sicked up convulsively, filled with wild, compelling pain and wanting for a shining moment to die if this was to be his life.
The fat Death Eater opened the door on hearing a series of strange noises. Potter was lying on the rug, a pool of fresh blood and bile beside him. The Death Eater ( one Tantalus Noissome), immediately realized he was in over his head and did the usual thing, which was to pass the buck. "Snape!" He screamed, unsure of what else to do.
Snape materialized and swore. "Get the Dark Lord, Noissome! Go, idiot, go!"
Snape pulled his wand and immediately stopped the bleeding. The boy's eyes rolled in his head and Snape pulled him away from the vile puddle on the floor.
"What did you do, you stupid child?" Mainly he meant it as a rhetorical thing, because you didn't have to be a genius to figure out that Potter had hurt himself in a fit of pique.
Voldemort swept in, Nagini hot on his trail. He took in the scene and felt a hot jet of rage. Turning to the cowering Noissome, the Dark Lord calmly drew on him. "Silencio. Bite him, Nagini." The snake bit deep into his leg, injecting a small amount of venom into his bloodstream.
His convulsions were immediate and horrible. His face began to purple, his hands turning into claws as he writhed. It would, Voldemort knew, be several hours before he finally died and, like strychnine, it would be the convulsions, not the venom, that killed him.
Harry fought his way back to complete conciousness ( he'd never really been out, but pain had forced a kind of sticky confusion onto him he strained to throw off) in time for him to hear the nauseating crackling of his bones as they straightened and reformed. The pain was huge but distant from him. He found he didn't mind. The hand was restored within minutes, and it was safe for Snape to give him a pain potion.
The Dark Lord, assured his prize would live another day, tapped his Dark Mark with his wand. Turning to Snape, he said softly "You will tend him until I return." He levitated the unfortunate Noissome and left, the dying man hovering behind him like some noxious cloud of air.
It was a good four hours until Harry was really lucid again. The pain had become a persistent annoying ache that was wholly bearable. The main of the Death Eaters were downstairs, assembled to watch Noissome's bad end and subsequent fate as Nagini's dinner. The man was currently a stain being scrubbed away by a team of Malfoy house elves.
Harry became aware that someone was in the room with him. Snape slid out and Harry realized it was Voldemort. "How do you feel, Harry?"
"Fine. Thirsty." Voldemort summoned a glass and filled it with cold water. Harry drank silently, strangely grateful for the kindness. The Dark Lord took the glass when he was done and set it aside, studying him.
"Would you care to tell me what prompted today's little outburst, Mr. Potter?"
Harry wanted to get angry at the tone. Voldemort's voice was dry, irritated and amused in equal measure. He sounded both annoyed and indulgent, as though Harry were a child to be tolerated when he did something ridiculous.
"Well? What do you have to say about this?"
"Nothing." Harry pulled his chin up, determined not to give in. Voldemort shook his head. "Harry, Harry, Harry, what will we ever do with you?"
"Why don't you--" Harry started, and promptly used a string of words that would have given McGonagall a heart attack had she heard him talking that way. Voldemort tilted his head and chuckled.
"What was that, Harry?" He sounded sincerely amused, and Harry thought he was trying to project an amused grin (if only Harry had known the massive effort it took Voldemort to stick to his plan rather than killing him slowly…).
Harry saw red. He would not be treated like a child, damn it! He sat up and, enunciating as clearly as he could, gave a few colorful suggestions about places to go, activities once there and bodily orifices that might be involved in the first two things.
The Dark Lord continued to look at him. "Perhaps you would feel less frustration if you simply told me what was wrong?"
"Stop treating me like a ruddy kid, you son of a bi--"
Voldemort held up a hand. "I'll stop treating you like a child when you stop acting childish."
Harry seethed but could see the logic in that statement. He made himself take deep breaths and count to ten. Then twenty. Then fifty. He still felt angry.
The Dark Lord watched him, projecting rueful amusement but secretly laughing himself sick inside. The boy was easy to manipulate and provoke, a few words and gestures and he was too distracted by his inner tempest to see the bigger picture.
"You gave us quite a fright, Harry. You could have seriously hurt yourself. Suppose no one had found you?"
Harry made no answer and the Dark Lord pressed on. "Severus was in the middle of something and had to be called away. An explosion from an improperly tended cauldron would hurt a good many people, a few of whom are of your…persuasion."
"It became necessary for us to detain Ollivander the wand maker and a girl called—what was that name—Loveless?"
"Luna is here? Luna Lovegood?"
The Dark Lord nodded. "Yes, that's it. Quite an unusual specimen, isn't she?"
"If you've hurt them, I'll--"
"You'll what, little boy?"
That was it. Harry didn't have a wand but he was the survivor of many school yard brawls and games of Harry Hunting, and not for nothing was a Seeker. His rage and frustration at everything finally bubbled over. His hand shot out and grabbed for the Herbology text book, intending to throw it. He pulled back his arm and—couldn't move.
Voldemort calmly put down his wand after the incarcerous took hold. Potter lay on his back, bound with struggled futilely, grunting and cursing under his breath. He seemed to have forgotten the Dark Lord in favor of panicking at the sensation of being bound.
Voldemort smiled, a real smile, a creeping thing that spoke of dampness and sneak thievery. He leaned over the boy and raised his voice a bit to be heard. "I'll be back after you've calmed down."
He walked out, oblivious to Potter's rage at being immobilized that way. He went to check on Bellatrix and Hermione and found his most zealous follower paging through a magazine of Narcissa's. Upside down, no less. That Bella was faithful he never doubted, but sane was a wholly different matter and one much more open to subjective interpretation depending on the kind of day she was having. The girl still slept. The Dark Lord visited a moment and then made a few more visits, things he didn't wish to entrust to Wormtail.
Harry slumped on the bed, knowing there was no way to escape his bonds but compelled to try. The rough cord abraded his skin and with every jerk the ropes got a little tighter. By the time to Dark Lord returned, Harry was gasping, loathing the sensation of being held still against his will. His wrists and neck were scraped raw and tears of pain dripped down his cheeks.
The door slowly opened. "Harry, I thought I told you to calm down." The Dark Lord gave a long suffering sigh and closed the door. He went to the bed and sat down beside the struggling youth. Reaching into his sleeve he retrieved his wand and undid the ropes with a flick.
Harry relaxed for a second, feeling the freedom of his limbs. The he was pinned again, and he realized Voldemort was holding him down. "Let me go, let me go!"
" I think not." Voldemort maneuvered the struggling youth so his hands were under Harry's arms. Pinning him to keep him from moving, he draped Harry across his lap.
"Put me down! You can't do this!"
"No?" Voldemort brought his leg up and pinned Harry's, then stuck his arms to his back. Effectively stuck, all Harry could do was lie there, raging futilely. He reached under Harry and undid the buttons on his trousers, sliding them slowly to his knees. Harry's struggles increased exponentially.
"Now, Harry, you have a choice here. If you cooperate and accept your punishment, it will end faster. If you make me fight you, your punishment will not stop until you have shown the right attitude." Not that the Dark Lord had the slightest doubt as to what would happen, but any opportunity to make himself seem merciful was not to be sneezed at.
He reached into the pocket of his robe and removed something. Setting it carefully beside himself, he contemplated Harry's writhing form another moment. "Obedience brings mercy and defiance suffering. Your choice."
The bane of his existence responded with a vile word, and Voldemort brought his hand down hard without much compunction ( not that he would have shown much any way, but in this he felt unusually altruistic).
He didn't say anything for some time, simply letting the boy take it all in. Voldemort was in no particular hurry; they had all night and beyond, and he emphasized that to Harry when the boy wouldn't lie still.
"It's been less than a minute, Harry, and I have no reason to want this over quickly. As a matter of fact, the longer you lay here the more I think you'll gain from it, so by all means defy me." He punctuated this with five hard swats on the boy's left thigh.
Harry was determined not to give in. He held his breath and squeezed his eyes shut, refusing to let Voldemort win. His chest hitched with his efforts not to cry, not to yell. Merlin, the thing was it really hurt.
SMACK SMACK SMACK
Harry gasped. Tears of pain finally broke through and starting dripping down his cheeks. His legs wanted to kick but couldn't. He moved frantically side to side, the only movement he could accomplish, feeling the old familiar fear of being trapped pounding in his veins, almost overwhelming him. A sob bubbled up in his throat and he clamped his lips around it, trying to steel his resolve.
Voldemort noticed the boy's struggles. "It's all right for you to cry, Harry. It's to expected of anyone in this position. I won't think less of you."
He wouldn't he wouldn't he wouldn't he wouldn't cry. His mind babbled at him to stop being a baby and endure it, but his mind wasn't feeling the Dark Lord cracking his hard, cold hand down with sickening regularity on his helpless backside.
Helpless. That was it, wasn't it? He couldn't stand being helpless. He had been helpless all his life, all his life since his parents died, and then what? Those stupid sodding muggles had locked him in the closet of their minds and made him feel a freak, a nothing. Helpless again.
Then he'd gone off to Hogwarts and experienced a new helplessness, the subtle hell of being the Daring Harry Potter, the Boy who Lived, their little pet savior they trotted out when needed and then shut back into the closet come summer. Still a freak, a cipher to be lied to and manipulated. Even Dumbledore, especially Dumbledore.
The sob rang out, over the sounds of Voldemort chastising rapidly heatting flesh with his seemingly tireless hand. Harry drew in a gulp of air for another sob and began to fight again but with less force. He was tiring.
Voldemort paused. The boy was near breaking. He had to handled the right way. He picked up the brush and calmly performed a legilimens on the sobbing child in his lap. Nodding to himself, he steadied the boy and pressed the cold back of Bella's favorite toy into Harry's skin.
The struggling went up a notch. He remembered how much that brush hurt, how much it burned. He swallowed his sobs. "P-please not with that b-brush. Please!"
Voldemort shushed him. "What you did was very serious, Harry. Not only did you hurt yourself and cause trouble for several people here—professor Snape had to miss a meeting to tend you and everyone was terribly worried—you were very rude to me and threw a book like a toddler having fits. Not very mature or responsible, was it? Not an acceptable way to behave?" He punctuated it with a sharp CRACK.
Harry yelped out loud. It hurt, it really hurt, especially since Voldemort had spanked him so long with his hand. "No! Not acceptable!"
CRACK " Then you can see why ( CRACK) a more serious punishment is needed (CRACK). My hand (CRACK) would be enough for disrespect language, perhaps(CRACK), but not for self harm(CRACK), not to mention assaulting someone (CRACK). My hand simply isn't able to give you the same kind of message( CRACK). Now lie still and let me finish, please." CRACK CRACK CRACK CRACK CRACK
He moved the boy forward to concentrate in his sit spot and Harry's responses went up a notch. He hated the brush, hated it, and having the Dark Lord hit him there, especially after he had been spanked no very far in the distant past, was too much. He writhed, sobbing, utterly miserable.
Voldemort perceived the boy was cracking a little. He angled him appropriately and delivered a series of crisp, hard, utterly merciless swats before he said anything.
"Is there something you'd like to say, Harry?"
"Y-yes! OWWW, OWWW,STTOPP!"
"Not what I had in mind. How about 'I'm sorry, my lord, for being so disagreeable and naughty and childish?'"
"Yes! Yes, that!"
Voldemort stifled a chuckle. "What's 'that', little one? I need to hear it from you."
Harry howled as the other side of his sit spot got the same treatment as the first. He wiggled, trying to get his backside, or at least his flaming sit spot, out of range. He couldn't take another second…
"Still waiting, Harry."
"S-sorry! I was b-bad! C-ch-childish! Sorry!"
Voldemort nodded. "Good, Harry. It's a definite start. On the other hand, I feel your attempt to hurt yourself—and me as well—deserves special mention."
He braced his leg more firmly on Harry's trembling legs and gently brought him up a little, so he could paddle the exact crease between bottom and thigh. Harry bawled a protest and tried to move out of range but couldn't.
CRACK CRACK CRACK CRACK CRACK CRACK CRACK CRACK
"OWWWWWW! NO MORE, PLEEEEEAAASSE!"
"Calm down, child, we're nearly done. Now, will you ever hurt yourself again?"
CRACK "NOO, PROMMIISEE!" CRACK CRACK CRACK
"Do you? I'll hold you to that."
He moved down and gave a dose to Harry's thighs. Harry sobbed desperately, aware he was too tired and in too much pain to fight for much longer. The swats on his thighs were hideous, an eternity's pain compressed into an instant.
"Will you ever try to hurt me in a fit of childish temper again, Harry?"
" I believe you, little one. I think you know what I'll do if you break your word, don't you?" CRAAAACCK!
He was sobbing so hard his chest felt like it would burst. He realized now he couldn't fight the Dark Lord, who was stronger than he. He couldn't argue or reason or fight or guile his way out of being punished.
That was the worst of it, somehow, his complete lack of control. He couldn't win this; he had no control over what happen while he was in this position. His bottom was a perfect target, and Voldemort would blister it until he felt Harry had learned his lesson, until it pleased him to stop walloping Harry's bum and let him up.
Strangely, that was all right at some level. Harry didn't have to be strong when he was like this. He wasn't the freak or the Golden Boy or the Boy who Lived; he was just Harry, getting a spanking for misbehaving. With that realization, Harry went limp.
Voldemort stopped at once. Setting the brush beside him, slowly released Harry's legs. The boy still did nothing, still sobbing as though he would burst, unmoving. Voldemort did a legilimens to found the general nature of his thoughts both apt and pleasing. This might prove both easy and delicious.
"It's all right, Harry. Shhh, it's all right. No. don't try to get up. Lie there as long as you need to. Shhh, don't move." He began rubbing the distraught youngster's back in slow circles, making soothing hisses in parseltongue.
Harry wanted to get up and cover himself as soon as he remembered the embarrassing position he was in. On the other hand, he had absolutely no urge for anything to ever touch his backside again, no matter what. It wasn't like anyone would wander in and see him lying there red arsed and crying, after all. Only Voldemort, and considering he had been the cause of both issues…
Voldemort waited until the worst of the sobbing had quieted to little hitching gasps before he spoke again. "Can you get up?"
Harry tried to stand on rubbery legs and almost fell. Voldemort caught him at once and laid him face down on the bed. A flick of his wand transfigured Harry's trousers and shirt into a pair of pajamas, just like before.
Harry automatically reached down to pull the trousers up and got the shock of his life. The pressure of anything, even light, fine cotton, was unbearable. He let out a groan and decided to be comfortable rather than modest.
Voldemort chuckled behind him and flicked the wand again. Now the pajamas were an old fashioned night shirt, which still hurt but was at least better. He pressed his face into the pillow and wept again from sheer exhaustion. He was trembling all over like a scared puppy.
Voldemort pressed him to the bed. He began to rub and hiss again.
"Straight to sleep, child. I'll have an elf bring you something to drink after you've napped a little. Unless you'd rather come to dinner?"
"NO! No t-thank you, I mean."
"'No thank you' whom?
Harry murmured something unintelligible. He was falling asleep without meaning to, like a child. He nuzzled the pillow and sighed.
"No thank you, whom?"
Harry sounded half asleep. "My lord."
"Good boy. Good night, Harry. If you need anything, call an elf."
The boy's breathing was deep and even. He was asleep.
Voldemort quietly shut the door on his way out. Then he went to the library. He laughed a long, long time. Things were finally beginning to look up after all.