Well, I guess I should apologize for the ridiculously long wait. I have been overwhelmingly busy, and I'm afraid this had to be postponed. Plus, I wanted this chapter to be perfect. Sadly, it isn't my best work but it certainly could have been worse. Anyways, enjoy!
Disclaimer: I do not own, belongs to J.K.R., do not sue me please, plot idea belongs to me!
Warnings: References of cutting, abuse
The Dark Lord bowed his head slightly to the stout, brown-haired man who was eyeing him casually. This made the Dark Lord grudgingly respect him. His reputation, after all, left most people quivering in his presence, even if they are ministers.
"Minister Obolensky, I thank you for your hospitality," the Dark Lord greeted flawlessly in Bulgarian.
The minister raised his eyebrows, impressed, and bowed his head back. "You're most welcome," he responded in English, and the Dark Lord noticed that the heavy accent he had supposedly had during the World Cup was practically gone. "Are you well-versed in Bulgarian?" the minister added.
The Dark Lord inclined his head. "I have spent some time studying in Bulgaria."
The Minister looked curious, but didn't push the issue. He did appreciate, however, that a powerful wizard such as Lord Voldemort took the time to learn his nation's tongue. "Please, sit, and have some tea," he said, more sincere than he normally was in these situations.
As if on cue, a pair of house elves appeared and placed a silver tray with tea and pastries on the huge oak table. They vanished seconds later, and the Dark Lord took the offered seat elegantly. The Minister sat across from slowly.
"I had heard rumors of your return," the Minister said quietly. "Although your ministry still seems to be denying it, I have contacts who confirmed it. But I must say I didn't expect you to request a meeting with me." The Bulgarian titled his head slightly to the right, his eyes narrowed. "I am guessing you didn't imagine I'd respond so quickly, either."
"No," the Dark Lord said softly, amber eyes observing the brown-haired man piercingly. "It was unexpected, indeed."
The Bulgarian smiled slightly and busied himself by stirring his tea. "It's not every day you surprise a Dark Lord." His eyes flickered back up warily, all trace of humor absent. "Before we are to continue, I must request you swear an oath to not wage war on my nation, no matter my decision."
The Dark Lord smirked. "I can see why Lucius insisted I meet with you," he answered calmly. "I, Lord Slytherin, do swear on my magic to not attack Bulgaria, no matter Lord Obolensky's decision, unless Bulgaria initiates the war first. So mote it be."
There was a flash of white, and the slight tension on the Minister's face faded in relief.
"Now, Minister, I request a similar vow."
The Minister stiffened. He knew there had to have been a catch to the Dark Lord's cooperation.
"It's merely a precaution, as you understand," the Dark Lord murmured. "For our conversation to go any further, you must swear to never divulge any of the information we discuss, unless I give you permission. Even if you choose to not accept my offer, I need assurance that you can be trusted."
The minister nodded slowly. "I, Lord Obolensky, do swear on my magic to not willingly reveal anything that is spoken today from Lord Slytherin, unless given the authority to do so. So mote it be."
When there was another flare of white light, the Dark Lord nodded. It was quiet for a few moments, and then the Bulgarian grinned slightly.
"So, Lord Malfoy referred me? To what do I owe that honor?"
The Dark Lord observed him in amusement. "He was quite pleased when you embarrassed Minister Fudge at the World Tournament. I must admit, I would have actually been interested in quidditch for once if I was able to see your ploy myself."
Lord Obolensky smirked in satisfaction. "He looked like a buffoon. Honestly, I do not understand how that man was ever voted into office." He raised an eyebrow. "I am guessing you are looking to change that?"
The Dark Lord inclined his head, appreciating how perceptive the man was. He would make a good ally.
"The British Ministry is obviously falling. Old traditions are dying, ancient creatures are being mistreated, and our education system is leaving the upcoming generation with next to nothing. Politicians like Fudge are bowing down to men like Albus Dumbledore, who wishes for us to become accepted by muggles." The Dark Lord's countenance darkened visibly. "Muggles are rapidly expanding their technology, and if there was any hint of the existence of the Wizarding World, they would annihilate us. Already, muggle-born children are abused and belittled for possessing magic. Dumbledore has convinced Britain that I am trying to slaughter muggles because I have fought against his agenda. That is not the case. I wish only for us to continue to be invisible to them, to live separately without danger to our society."
The Bulgarian Minister eyed him with interest. "Do you seek to overthrow the government then?"
"Yes," the Dark Lord stated bluntly. "We need a leader who will not allow our culture to die and our people to suffer. We will be destroyed within the decade at this rate."
"Have you ever been around muggles, Lord Slytherin?" the Minister asked quietly. "Do you truly think it would come to that?"
The Dark Lord's face was a cool mask, and he forced himself to bury his rage. Thinking rapidly, he decided he had no choice but to be honest if he were to gain the man's attention. "I was raised in a muggle orphanage," he said coldly. "I didn't know, of course, what my accidental magic was. I was hated and feared, and I learned very quickly how to protect and heal myself with my magic. One of the orphanage workers even attempted to kill me, after she unsuccessfully tried to beat the demon out of me. I was only seven. I know of several other cases that are similar to my situation."
Lord Obelensky looked deep in thought, visibly shocked by that revelation. "You do not wish to kill muggles?" he finally asked. "Even after all they have done to you personally?"
The Dark Lord met his brown eyes directly. "I, Lord Slytherin, do swear on my magic that what I said previously and will say in the future within our meeting this day is the truth. So mote it be."
After the flash of white, the Dark Lord quickly continued. "I wanted to enact my revenge when I was younger, and I was blinded. Now, I accept the fact that muggles are necessary for our survival, and... not all of them are entirely terrible," he added reluctantly. "I have come to feel nothing for them as a whole."
The brown-haired lord accepted that with a nod.
"I see you are speaking the truth." The Bulgarian hesitated briefly. "Then what do you wish of me... and my nation?"
"You are an ally of the British Wizarding World," the Dark Lord told him smoothly. "And I understand that when we are weak, your own nation suffers. Other nations are suggesting now is the time to take advantage of the weakened alliance between many of us European countries. China and Russia, for example, are being particularly active as of late."
The Bulgarian Minister nodded slowly.
"I only ask that when our nation goes into a civil war, that you do not intervene," the Dark Lord stated calmly, pausing to take a sip of his tea. "When Minister Fudge requests help from his allies, I ask that you refuse him."
"This could forever damage our alliance, leaving us without our own support," Obolensky said seriously. "And the other nations in our alliance may take offense as well. The other nations may attack us for betraying our agreement."
"Minister, if I do not intervene soon, this may happen anyways. Britain has become weak and the other nations know it." A cunning gleam was now in his amber-red eyes. "Nowhere in your agreement did you swear to help defend the British Wizarding World from themselves. There may be some complaints, but you are within your rights to opt out of it."
The Bulgarian nodded thoughtfully, but he frowned slightly. "In the end, I must defend my own nation first. Nations like France will not take kindly to our refusal to help."
The Dark Lord inclined his head, accepting the man's self-preservation gracefully. He was about to address the man's misgivings when an owl suddenly pecked on the nearby window. Both men observed it curiously. The Minister stood and let it in, but it bypassed him and flew straight to the Dark Lord. It was then that the black-haired lord recognized the dark owl as Lucius'.
He took the offered letter gracefully, but his grip tightened dangerously as he read. He looked up sharply when he finished it, his red eyes narrowed.
"I am afraid I must leave, Lord Obolensky," the Dark Lord said curtly. "Something of vital importance has come up."
The minster observed him coolly. "Something more important that Bulgaria's alliance, I take it," he answered just as harshly, not appreciating the abrupt change of events or the tone.
The Dark Lord stiffened, his red eyes suddenly piercing. He recognized the danger of offending the man.
"You have a child, Lord Obolensky, do you not?" he asked quietly.
The man nodded slowly, now wary.
"Now tell me, is Bulgaria more important than that child?"
Stunned realization came over the minster, and his eyes widened. Quickly, he shook his head.
"Then you will understand if I feel the same."
Without another word, the Dark Lord was gone, leaving an astounded Bulgarian Minister of Magic in his wake.
"You made her swear an unbreakable vow, right? And she is proficient enough in occlumency?"
Theodore Nott glared at the tense Malfoy heir. "As I told you before, yes," he said through gritted teeth. "Now if you are done insulting the integrity of my girlfriend, may we proceed?"
The said girlfriend, Hermione Granger, eyed the surrounding Slytherins with a mixture of anxiety and frustration.
Draco released his breath loudly and, after another long minute of silence, gave a slow nod.
"What is this about?" Hermione finally snapped, nervous about all the secrecy and serious expressions.
It didn't escape her notice that Pansy Parkinson and Blaise Zabini were anxiously looking around, despite the fact that they were in the Slytherin boy's fourth year dormitory with multiple locking spells, wards, and silencing spells surrounding the area. She also noticed that Daphne Greengrass was staring her down threateningly, wand drawn as if ready to throw multiple obliviates and other, most likely, painful curses.
"I, Theodore Nott, do swear on my magic that what I am about to tell one Hermione Jean Granger is the truth. So mote it be."
Hermione watched the flash of white in grim astonishment, and when the other Slytherins did the same her mind was reeling.
"Was that really necessary?" she asked softly.
When he only nodded, avoiding her eyes, she gripped his forearm tightly. He looked up, meeting her gaze reluctantly.
"Theodore, where is Harry?"
He took a deep breath, straightening with a hard glint in his eye. "Have you ever noticed anything... off about Harry?"
She bit her lip. "Sometimes..." she trailed off, her eyes fixated on her hands."There were times where he was just... different."
When no one spoke up, Hermione continued hesitantly.
"Often, he would stare off into space, as if he was lost in another world. Other times, he had this... hardness about him. Something I've only seen in pictures of... war victims."
When she looked up, she noticed the Slytherins were watching her intently.
"Did you ever confront him? Ask him about it?" Daphne cut in sharply.
Hermione sighed and nodded. "It almost always got us into an argument," she admitted. "He would insist nothing was wrong, and he hated when I would push the issue or try to learn more behind his back. I-after awhile I stopped asking," she whispered, fighting back tears. "He was getting worse, more and more emotionless and hardened... but I was afraid... I was afraid I'd lose him as a friend. He just reacted so... so violently. And I knew that whatever he was going through it... it would be better if he had a friend on his side rather than another nosy person."
She felt like a coward for admitting that, but Theo gripped her hand gently.
"Hermione, we aren't judging you," he said softly.
She noticed the cold stares from the other Slytherins and grimaced.
"We have no right to judge her," Theo added darkly, glaring at the other Slytherins, who looked away at that challenge.
"But you know what is wrong with him," Hermione whispered. "Theo, where is Harry?"
When Theo paused for a long moment, Draco stepped in harshly.
"Harry was being tortured by the so-called leader of the light, Headmaster Dumbledore. We found him after one session, bleeding to death, and took him to Severus. Severus healed his wounds and took him to my manor to escape Dumbledore."
Draco stopped abruptly at the death glare from Theo.
Hermione listened in horror. "No," she whispered. "That can't be true." She turned to her boyfriend, who was eyeing her sadly. "Theo?" she managed to choke out.
"It's true, Hermione," he said as calmly as he could muster. "Dumbledore was torturing him and raising him to kill or be killed by the Dark Lord."
Tears gathered in Hermione's eyes. "Why-why would Dumbledore do that?" she gasped.
"Because he isn't really Harry Potter," Daphne said quietly, and Hermione's gaze snapped up to look at her in shock. "He is Hadrian Riddle, son of Caroline Malfoy-Riddle and Tom Riddle, the Dark Lord."
It was silent for an agonizing space of time, and Hermione was completely still. After a minute of Theo shaking her arm lightly, she finally came to her senses.
"Harry is the son of... Lord Voldemort?" she stated calmly, certain she had misheard them.
The Slytherins eyed her cautiously, confused at her calm expression. When they nodded, the calm facade shattered.
"You can't be serious," she hissed, her eyes blazing. "That-that monster killed his parents! He tried to kill us twice already! And he would probably kill me in a heartbeat!"
"Granger, we swore on our magic," Pansy said seriously. "We aren't lying to you. The Dark Lord is not what Dumbledore makes him out to be. And Hadrian is the Dark Lord's biological son."
At Hermione's disbelieving expression, Pansy launched into a brief history of the Dark Lord and his policies and beliefs. At the end, the Gryffindor was looking pensive.
"How did... Hadrian... become a Potter then if he is truly... the Dark Lord's son?" Hermione asked carefully.
Draco explained the Order attack on the manor, after the location of the headquarters was betrayed, and how the Dark Lord came to the Potters for revenge for killing his son and wife. He finished by mentioning how Harry had found out through a bloodline potion.
Hermione stared unseeingly into space at the end of his monologue.
"Hermione?" Theo asked tentatively.
Her eyes flickered to him then back to the opposite wall. "I... I just can't imagine the Dark Lord being..." she trailed off, shaking her head in disbelief.
"Human?" Blaise supplied, speaking up for the first time.
Hermione turned to face him, startled. She had almost forgotten the Italian boy was there. He smirked at her for a split second, as if he recognized that. Quickly, his expression was once again a blank mask.
"It took me awhile to understand that concept as well," Blaise said smoothly. "After all, I am the only one here without a parent in the inner circle. My parents are sympathizers, but never were Death Eaters. But, when I spent time with Hadrian at the manor... I saw how his father was around him... how he watched Hadrian with this protective aura when he thought no one was looking... he is most definitely not a heartless monster."
The Gryffindor took in his words and nodded her head slowly. "I need to see Harry - or Hadrian I guess - in person. And the Dark Lord," she added evenly.
The Slytherins blinked at her bravery, but nodded.
"I will set something up," Draco agreed.
Hermione nodded absentmindedly. "Now if you don't mind," she said quietly, "I am going to head to my dormitory. I have a lot to think about."
"Sleep well, Hermione," Theo whispered, eyeing her in concern.
She merely blinked at him, and the Slytherins warily watched her leave the dormitory.
"You think she will accept the truth?" Pansy asked softly.
Draco gave her a sideways glance, his grey eyes grim."For her sake... and Hadrian's... she better."
Harry sat motionlessly on his bed, not knowing how to feel about Narcissa fussing all around him.
"Are you certain you are not hungry, dear?" Narcissa asked softly, smoothing his hair softly.
For once, Harry didn't jump away from the contact.
"No, Narcissa," he said softly. "I am fine."
She eyed him sadly. "I know Lucius tried to talk to you." When he opened his mouth to cut her off, she gently continued. "I am not forcing you to talk to me either. I only wanted you to know that Lucius and I care a great deal about you. And so does your father."
Harry lowered his eyes and flinched slightly when she titled his head up gently with her fingers. Gently, she stroked his face. Harry found himself leaning in to the touch, but pulled away just as quickly.
"He will be so furious," Harry breathed, closing his eyes momentarily. They snapped back open with new ferocity. "And I don't blame him. He should hate me."
"Hadrian," Narcissa cut in seriously. "He doesn't hate you."
He looked away when he noticed the deep concern on her face. "He is the Dark Lord. He should not have to deal with such a... weak son."
Harry looked down at his arm when he uttered the last words. Narcissa reached out and grabbed the scarred arm.
"This makes you who you are," she whispered. "The trials, the pains, the sufferings... they made you who you are. They are not your weakness. Hadrian, look at me."
Harry forced himself to meet her kind, blue eyes that were suddenly sharpened with intensity.
"They are a strength, Hadrian," she murmured. "Everyone is born with power, but not everyone can wield it. The Dark Lord experienced great pain in his youth as well. But Hadrian... his hardships, his ordeals... they gave him power. Rising above those gave him the strength that no man is born with. You have that similar strength, Hadrian."
When he opened his mouth to protest, she cut in again.
"Lucius was so proud of you this last week. He was amazed by your magical capacities, and how quickly you mastered spells and techniques." Narcissa's squeezed his arm gently. "And he mentioned how you have progressed a great deal in occlumency, even if you think otherwise."
Harry shook his head. He opened his mouth to argue, when he suddenly doubled over with a hand clutching his forehead tightly.
"Hadrian?" Narcissa murmured. Her face was drawn down in worry as she hesitantly touched his back.
"He's here," Harry gasped. The anger was overwhelming, and Harry stiffened in both pain and fear. He forced himself to straighten, and he ignored Narcissa's worry.
He was going to face what he deserved.
And so he waited.
"Where is he?"
Lucius looked up from his desk to meet a pair of red eyes apprehensively. The Dark Lord observed him coolly, his aura flaring around him.
"With Narcissa," Lucius said quietly. "He wasn't revealing much of anything this morning, so I thought it would be best for some of her mothering."
"In the letter you said he was hurting himself," the Dark Lord said in low tones. "How could you have not noticed?"
Lucius bowed his head slightly. "I'm afraid his time with Dumbledore made him well-practiced in the art of deception," the blond lord said. "But I still should have noticed the signs. I deserve your anger, my lord."
Red eyes narrowed dangerously, and for a brief moment Lucius remained tense, but the Dark Lord merely turned away.
"Take me to him," he commanded.
When his father walked in, Harry was in full shutdown mode. His face was blank, his body was still, and his emotions were locked down tight. He forced himself to meet the unflinching red gaze, but the Dark Lord's face revealed nothing.
"Leave us," the lord ordered in a crisp, deliberate voice.
Narcissa bowed her head slightly to him, gave Harry one last reassuring squeeze on the shoulder, and left. The tension in the room doubled in her absence.
The Dark Lord motioned to the nearby chairs by Harry's fireplace, and Harry barely noticed his stiff muscles move to oblige. He stood by one of his chairs and waited for permission.
"Sit," his father stated impatiently.
When the lord sat in the one opposite him gracefully, Harry followed suit and lowered himself hastily.
A moment later, the Dark Lord extended his wand. Harry's muscles tensed but he only waited in acceptance, which did not go unnoticed by his father. To his astonishment, the lord only turned the wand to the fireplace.
A moment later, a fire was raging. Despite the new warmth, all Harry felt was coldness as the red eyes regarded him.
"Lucius said he healed you."
Harry swallowed and nodded jerkily, looking down.
"May I see?"
The Gryffindor's head shot up. His father eyed him calmly, but Harry recognized that he had no choice in the matter. Slowly, he extended his left arm. Cold hands gripped it, and one of the man's long fingers trailed over the scars.
"Did it make you feel in control?" he whispered. "Did it take away the pain?"
Harry felt a chill run up his spine, and he wished he could pull his arm away.
"Well?" his father demanded.
Emerald eyes flickered from his scarred arm to the wizard holding it. When it was obvious that Harry was not going to answer, the lord's grip tightened and his eyes narrowed dangerously.
"I will take whatever punishment you see fit, my lord," Harry suddenly whispered. "I understand that I failed you. I deserve to be punished severely."
His father's face visibly darkened.
"What, pray tell, gave you the impression that I wanted you to harm yourself for not mastering one of the most demanding arts in a matter of a few weeks?" he hissed. "When I, the most powerful wizard in the world, took three months to fully excel in the art? And, even if I did believe it was possible for you in such a short time, I can't even imagine why you would even consider in that idiotic Gryffindor brain of yours that I'd want you to physically punish yourself."
The power flaring off the man was now truly intimidating, and it took all of Harry's training to remain emotionless. By now his father's grip was painfully tight. As if realizing the same thing, the Dark Lord dropped his arm abruptly, and Harry subconsciously began rubbing it.
"Why did you leave then?" Harry demanded. "I know it was because you were angry at me for being such a failure! You-you're ashamed to have someone so-so weak as a son!"
The Dark Lord went still for a long moment, his eyes fixed on the fire. Slowly, he turned his face back, but it was no longer a cold mask. A glimmer of something Harry couldn't decipher was in the red gaze.
"You were abused all your life. You were tortured repeatedly by the headmaster of your school, and you were brainwashed daily to hate your own father. You were trained to hurt yourself for the slightest show of weakness, and you believed you deserved it. Your true identity was kept from you all your life." The Dark Lord leaned forward. "You call this weakness. And perhaps if you let it control you, it is. But you are my son Hadrian Marvolo Riddle, and I will never be ashamed of you. I will train you to overcome your adversity, and you will be more powerful than even I someday."
Harry couldn't move. "My lord, I don't-"
"Stop," the Dark Lord cut in sharply. "Don't refer to me in such a manner. I am not your master, Hadrian. I am your father. Didn't you understand when my cruciatus curse did not work? I will not harm you. Ever."
Harry fought to rein in his emotions, and he crushed the traitorous hope he felt. "I cannot believe that," he finally said quietly, avoiding looking at his father. "One day I will not live up to expectations, or I will fail at a given task. You may feel this way now, but I would not blame you if that were to change."
"I never knew a Gryffindor to be so spineless," the Dark Lord answered viciously. "Stop acting like such a coward. Perhaps Dumbledore really did kill you after all, just like he killed your mother. Giving in to him is dishonoring her sacrifice."
Emerald eyes shot up in fury. "Don't you dare," Harry hissed back. "I would never-she-I would have traded places with her in a heartbeat. I hate Dumbledore for killing her."
The Dark Lord's anger switched off with suspicious ease. "And you hate yourself because of it as well," he murmured.
Harry looked away.
"Don't," his father said curtly. "No one but Dumbledore is to blame. It was a lesson I had to learn myself."
The black-haired boy suddenly looked up in interest. "Lucius said you... might understand why I... well, why I hurt myself."
The Dark Lord stood up abruptly and rested his arms on the fireplace. Harry wished he could see the lord's face.
"I never deliberately harmed myself," he stated dispassionately. "But I did go to new extremes for power, and I ignored anything that caused me pain. Pain, in a sense, I welcomed. I was slow to heal any injuries I received from my reckless attempts for revenge. I embraced my rage rather than my guilt, and it consumed me." The Dark Lord turned back around, but his facial expression was unreadable. "And, in the end, it was my downfall."
"And now?" Harry whispered.
The Dark Lord regarded him seriously. "I had many years to deal with the consequences and to consider my misguided attempts at retribution. You, my son, have no need to do the same."
It was silent in the room, apart from the fire, for a long moment. The more Harry mulled over the words, the more he wondered if his father was speaking the truth.
"Lucius claimed my mother would rather die than to have never had me," Harry said slowly.
The Dark Lord inclined his head. "You would do well to listen to your godfather."
Harry frowned slightly as he looked away, and he changing the subject swiftly. "Why aren't you furious at me? I interrupted your meeting because I... well..." he trailed off uncertainly.
The Dark Lord smiled slightly, but it was meant more dangerously than as comfort. "Don't misunderstand me," he said silkily. "I am most angry. But you, my son, still need to learn the importance of controlling your emotions."
Harry laughed bitterly. "You'd be surprised how well I keep things inside me."
The Dark Lord narrowed his eyes. "That may be, but not from me, Hadrian. Never try to keep something from me again. If I even have an inkling that you have turned to self-harm once more, you will live to seriously regret it."
Harry shivered slightly. This wizard, with his aura flaring dangerously and his aristocratic features observing him coolly, was without a doubt the greatest Dark Lord to have ever lived.
"Did I ruin your diplomatic mission?" Harry murmured distractedly, his heart racing.
"Do not concern yourself," the Dark Lord answered dismissively. "Your health is a great deal more important than that alliance."
"But Lucius told me it could change the course of the war," Harry stated in disbelief.
The Dark Lord walked to him slowly and placed a hand on his head firmly.
"And so will you, my son."
Well I hope this was worth the wait! Thank you for your wonderful support and reviews. Please continue to let me know what you think, it really is what inspires me to write the next chapter.
Next chapter will be more Bella/Snape, the aftermath of Harry/Voldemort, and Hermione's reaction. I might throw in some Hogwarts if I have space as well.
Thanks! Happy reading :)