CHAPTER TWELVE

A pained grunt echoed behind his pursed lips, eyes fluttering open torturously slow. The person that greeted him, though, nearly made him close them shut again.

"Wash your face," was the first thing that Voldemort said. He flicked his wrist and a basin, glittery and silver, floated smoothly over to where Harry was propped up against the wall.

He sat up as best as he could with only a couple of his limbs functioning properly, not nearly as surprised as the first time he had awoken in that very same position.

It made him wonder whether these people had ever heard of lying down.

The basin landed in his lap and he was thankful to discover it had been charmed to be feather light.

With too much effort, he lifted quivering arms to reach for the water inside only to pause at the reflection that was staring back at him. The entire upper half of his face, starting from his forehead and ending just above his nose, was covered in a disgustedly greenish- blue substance that made Harry want to vomit just by looking at it.

"What's-?" he croaked, coughing a couple of times before trying again, "What's this?"

"Severus was kind enough to provide a healing salve for the multiple scrapes that littered your face."

"From the good of his heart, I'm sure." Harry grumbled darkly, gathering handfuls of water and splashing his face. He had to repeat the action four times in total for the sticky substance to be extinguished completely.

He hummed under his breath, patting with the pad of his finger the skin of his forehead, pleased to find not a single scratch left behind.

A noise much similar to the one he had just made sounded above him, starting him. Emerald eyes jerked upwards, freezing upon finding Voldemort's face too close for comfort. Aware it'd be useless to try and scoot backwards with the wall right behind him, Harry could do nothing but stare.

A pale hand rose to his face, grasping his chin between thumb and forefinger.

No pain jolted through him at the contact, and moreover, Voldemort's touch was no longer icy-cold but rather warm, just like a normal human being's.

The man tilted his face to the right slightly, blood red irises roaming his every feature with an intensity that shocked Harry to the core. And in response, the thing behind his scar stirred, summoned to life by the heated sensations assaulting his skin and mind. Embarrassed at the plain, unmistakable want that surged through his veins suddenly, Harry's cheeks flushed.

It was really disturbing the amounts of affection one single shard could hold for the original.

What he found more disturbing, however, was the apparent effect it seemed to have on him. Was his soul really so merged with the shard that every emotion of the Horcrux felt like his own?

Shaken by the implications behind that notion, Harry jerked his head the other way, refusing to so much as glance at the face of his enemy.

Voldemort chuckled, sending shivers up the teen's spine at how human it sounded.

"Come," Voldemort said, the outer black robe he was wearing swirling shortly as he turned, "Your training commences."

That announcement, so simple as if the other was commenting on the weather, made Harry choke on his own saliva. "My what?" he spluttered, head twisting to openly stare at the man's back.

"We will be practicing on your wandless magic from now on." was the noncommittal response he received.

"Wait!" Harry called out, placing one palm on the wall to haul himself up on shaky legs. "What wandless magic!?"

Voldemort paused, glancing over one clothed shoulder at Harry. "The very same magic you have been performing ever since your forceful departure from Hogwarts. And the very same magic you demonstrated on your Muggle relative's sister."

"That was…" Harry's eyebrows knitted together into a scowl, "That was accidental magic." he muttered, more to himself than his audience.

Voldemort whirled sharply around, smoldering red eyes catching Harry's gaze and holding it. "Accidental magic is strictly restricted in children that have had no proper training, and on some occasions, not even then. I could use my magic at will while I was a child. That is called wandless magic."

His head cocked to the side slightly, causing his eyes to be almost completely hidden behind a dark fringe. "Wandless magic is rare, Harry. The wizards strong enough to accomplish it are countable on one hand, with Dumbledore and myself amongst them."

Harry's jaw grew slack. "You mean, all this time…it was wandless magic…what you've been doing?"

He slid a hand down his face. Did the powers of this man really know no boundaries?

"And Dumbledore too…" he whispered, a small smile gracing his features. Frankly, he wasn't surprised.

"Wandless magic," Voldemort's voice was sharp and cutting, instantly recapturing Harry's attention, "is mostly performed when a wizard has already started his education. Due to the Ministry's law that prohibits magic outside of one's institution, the wizard is no longer allowed to use his powers as he pleases. As a result, his magic becomes unsteady. At times of emotional distress, it bobbles up until it finally bursts. That magical surge is wandless magic. Upon reaching adulthood, however, the caster is free to practice it to their heart's content."

Harry shook his head, chasing away the headache he could feel building up. "But I'm still underage."

Voldemort's lips quirked to the side. "Fortunately for you, the Ministry is under my command now. When the people I assigned take notice of your Trace acting up, the matter shall be hushed immediately."

"Lucky me," Harry muttered with a roll of his eyes.

Voldemort's eyes narrowed, gesturing sharply towards the stairway with his head.

Heaving a sigh, the raven haired teen walked over to him, following after the man exited the cell that served as Harry's guest room. They climbed the familiar stairs that led up to the drawing room, which was exactly where Harry halted. A couple of Death Eaters were swarming the place, mostly gathered around the blazing hearth in the fireplace.

Their quiet chatter was cut off as they looked up, all of them bowing down to their waist.

Harry was certain he had caught a glimpse of Lucius Malfoy and Snape amongst the group, but he was swiftly grabbed around the forearm and dragged away before he could confirm his suspicions.

Stumbling to regain his footing, he blanched as they neared the massive double doors, the memories of what had taken place in there still too fresh on his mind.

"No!" he growled, tugging roughly at the hand clamped around his limb. "I'm not going back in there."

His arm was released suddenly, and Harry didn't lose the chance to snatch it away. Soon, however, both wrists were gripped firmly and used to drag him close. Voldemort peered down at him through hooded dark lashes. "Would you like to take your chances, perhaps?"

Scoffing, Harry looked away, feeling the numerous stares they were receiving. No, he didn't want to take any chances, because both of them knew who was going to win in the end.

"I knew you would see it my way." Voldemort let go of him, turning back towards the doors which opened soundlessly to grant him passage.

Harry rubbed at his sore wrists, scrunching his nose when he put too much pressure on a tender area.

Sighing pitifully, he trudged inside.

The interior of the room seemed to have reverted back to its former appearance, with the long table and chairs filling up nearly all of the space. The fireplace was lit, serving as the sole illumination. The two wall length windows on each of its side were presenting a pink dusted sky, which made Harry frown at the realization he had been out cold all night long.

Voldemort was already seated at the throne like chair at the head of the table.

Harry didn't know what the man was expecting from him, but he definitely knew what he expected.

"I'm not practicing anything before you show me how to control this…thing." he announced, resolute and unyielding in the matter. He refused to go on becoming flustered every time he came in close proximity with the Dark Lord.

"Thing?" Voldemort repeated, a perfectly sculpted brow arching. "You wound me, my treasure."

Harry snorted in reply.

"This 'thing', as you so rudely put it, has been part of you ever since you were a mere toddler. In a sense, you just badmouthed yourself."

"It has too much control over my own emotions." Harry admitted through gritted teeth. "I want you to teach me how to change that."

Voldemort's red orbs glinted amusedly. "I just did."

Harry felt like tearing his hair out. "You did no such thing." he spat out, temper just barely in check.

Voldemort leaned his elbows on the table's surface, fingers interlocking together underneath his chin. "Of course I did. You shouldn't blame on other people your inability to keep up."

Any semblance of Harry's control was cut cleanly in half.

"What inability, you bastard!? You didn't do anything other than act all high and mighty!"

Next thing Harry knew, he was flying backwards, and fast. Before he had time to blink, his back and head smacked loudly against the mahogany doors, breath lodging in his throat from the severity of the impact. His legs folded beneath him, causing him to slide downwards, where he remained.

"I have told you before that I will not tolerate such behavior from you, but it seems you can not find it in yourself to listen." Voldemort said, gaze piercing, "As refreshing as your fighting spirit is, let me inform you that should you address me as such, I shall provide you with a much more befitting reason to obey."

Unwittingly, Harry grasped his shoulder, the mended bones aching from the violent treatment. An action which was instantly traced by those blazing eyes.

"As I said, you shouldn't blame others for your inability to keep up. I warned you that as long as the damage is redeemable, the possibilities are limitless. You chose not to listen, yet again."

Harry's teeth ground together painfully, a slight screeching sound reaching his ears.

Voldemort allowed his arms to slide off the table, rising languidly from his chair. With sure, confident strides, he walked over to Harry, staring down at the boy in silence for a couple of moments.

Unnerved as he was, and all too aware of the Dark Lord's unpredictability, Harry stared back through guarded eyes.

"Now that I reattached the pieces of my soul, the shard I left in you is able to sense my presence stronger than ever before." Voldemort said, bending to lightly stroke the lightning bolt scar.

Harry drew back the very instant he felt it prickle pleasantly.

Satisfied he had made his point, the Dark Lord straightened his spine. "Now that I have no desire to kill you, it shan't hurt unless commanded. But until you learn to dominate its emotions, it will continue to react the way it does now."

"That's what I told you," Harry said tentatively, unwilling to trigger the man's scorching temper again, "I don't know how."

"Yes, I understood you perfectly the first time." Voldemort hissed lowly, "Be that as it may, I can not abide by your request. You must learn to do so of your own accord, with time and patience."

"Patience?" muttered Harry, disbelievingly. "Easy for you to say."

Voldemort didn't dignify that particular comment with any form of response, much to Harry's reluctant relief. The Dark Lord cast him one last, narrowed look before turning to walk back the way he had come.

"Get up. We have work to do."

Grunting softly, Harry rose to his feet, already foreseeing the disaster this whole thing was going to transform into.

*)&(*

"Again."

Bellatrix cackled wildly at the order.

Harry had simply lost count of the bloody crescents he had dug in the undersides of his hands by this point. More work for his Potions teacher, it would seem.

How terribly unfortunate…

He turned to face the bouncing witch, a headache having formed a long time ago from the ceaseless hopping from one foot to the other. Bellatrix twirled in a circle, crooning at him insistently.

Various curses and spells kept shooting from her wand, colorful jets of bright light that wheezed past him, singeing his clothes whenever a spell strayed too close, but not once colliding with him.

Bellatrix would never dare displease her master again, not after having come too close to losing his favor, but that certainly didn't imply she couldn't work out any loopholes in his orders. As long as Harry remained unhurt, everything else was all in good fun and open to exploit.

"Come on, Potty!" She flashed him one of her deranged, wide grins, bringing him at wand point before sending two purple jets at either side of his head.

She burst out giggling like mad even as her attempts failed to spur him into motion.

Harry cast a dark look towards Voldemort's direction, voicing in his thoughts the entirety of his displeasure.

The Dark Lord, lounging in his high backed chair, obviously didn't feel inclined to alleviate the teen's annoyance in the slightest. Crimson orbs stared pointedly back at him.

With a growl building up in his throat, Harry turned the other way and closed his eyes resolutely, intent to shut the blubbering woman out. He repeated the process Voldemort had spoken of, something that had yet to prove fruitful. He had stopped feeling discouraged somewhere around the tenth try and now just went along with it in the hopes that Voldemort would get it into his head exactly how useless this was.

"What's the matter, itty baby? Done already?"

More snickers followed the rhetorical query, and Harry sensed a faint twitch on his eyebrow.

How her presence was meant to be of assistance to his practice was seriously beyond him.

He didn't allow his eyelids to flutter in spite of the provocation Bellatrix was blandly offering.

He focused on his inner thoughts, concentrating on each of them separately before slowly starting the draining process of easing them all out of his mind. It took excruciatingly long to achieve a completely blank state of mind, and Bellatrix wasn't making matters any easier.

"Wands are merely a medium," Voldemort had said after he instructed Harry to close his eyes.

"Their role is to assist us when summoning the magic that dwells deep within our core. The magic is lying dormant, awaiting to be summoned and put to use. It is always there; in your veins, your pulse, your very blood. It is not restricted by such a feeble concept as wands. Wish it, and your magic shall rise to the call."

Harry had been doubtful, dismissing the entire notion before it had been given time to plant its tempting seeds deep within the recesses of his soul.

The thought of being able to perform a type of magic that only a mere handful of witches and wizards had tapped into was awfully accelerating.

Yet, despite the boundaries he had set on himself, it'd have been foolish to deny that there was some truth behind Voldemort's words. And the proof remained solid and real just underneath his fingertips. He had been able to sense it; his magic was drumming beneath his skin, vibrating in steady jolts as if to persuade him of its existence.

And just like then, Harry's face nearly threatened to split into a wide smile. It was true.

Even now, his magic pulsated once he focused strongly enough on its presence. A heated sensation began spreading throughout his body, warming his insides pleasantly.

Voldemort leaned forward, intently observing the way the boy's hands were flexing, as if itching to be put into action. A deep rumble burst from his chest, eyes sliding close as he allowed his conscious to blend with the boy's, their minds merging effortlessly into one.

What he found caused his lips to quirk upwards.

His eyes snapped open, tongue peeking out to slither along his lower lip.

What a delectable little gem he had in his possession.

"Not feeling up to it, sweetie?" Bellatrix cooed, "What would your measly little godfather say?"

Just like that, the tentative surge of magical power that had been building up seemed to evaporate into thin air.

Voldemort's eyes flashed in annoyance, his lips stretching into a thin line as the teen lunged at Bellatrix.

The black haired woman laughed loudly, sidestepping the hands that had targeted her throat and bouncing to the center of the room, arms flaring by her sides like a boisterous bird. Voldemort looked on as the boy chased after her before a low, impatient sound reverberated in his throat.

With a swipe of his arm he sent Harry sprawled on his back, relishing in the startled yelp that escaped the boy's mouth.

"How many times do I need to remind you to maintain your concentration?"

Disentangling his limbs, Harry sat upright. "You want me to concentrate?" he spat out, eyes ablaze, "Then get her out of my sight!"

Bellatrix merely grinned at him, earning a baleful glare in return.

Voldemort brought a hand up to pinch the bridge of his nose, just barely repressing a sigh. "Bella." The name was dismissal on its own.

The corner of her lips turning downcast into a frown, the witch bowed low beneath the waist before whirling on her heels and striding out of the room, wand returning in its holster strapped to her forearm.

Harry picked himself up and dusted off the sleeves of his navy blue jacket, aware all the time of the unrelenting stare that bore into him.

"You are aware, I hope, that you won't always find yourself capable of sustaining a calm mindset. There will come a time you might find yourself overwhelmed. It is crucial that you learn to focus disregarding of the situation."

"I can't!" Harry threw his hands up in exasperation. "My magic always reacts best when I'm angry!"

"That is partially the shard's fault." Voldemort drummed his fingers on the armrests, gaze speculative as he looked on ahead. "Its rather aggressive nature, combined with your temperamental persona, acts as a trigger to your core and by extension, your magic."

"Brilliant," Harry rolled his eyes, not even bothering to rise to the little jibe about his temper. "Good to know. But how do I change that?"

Cold amusement flashed in those glittering orbs.

Deeply unnerved by the ominous look on Voldemort's face, Harry took an uncertain step backwards at the exact same time the man rose from his seat.

"How about a little experiment, Harry darling?"

Harry noted two things at once. First; endearment from the Dark Lord's lips had the opposite effect than its original purpose, and the fact that it was a rejuvenated, human Dark Lord was completely inconsequential. Two; he absolutely did not like the sound of that. And most of the times, his intuition had been correct.

"Experiment?" he echoed faintly, a feeling of dread settling in his gut.

A vague smile tilted Voldemort's lips.

The marking on the back of his hand shone a bright red, like a deep scorching mark was being singed into his flesh. In the blink of an eye, the Elder Wand materialized in his palm and deft digits were quick to wrap around it. Too stunned from the sudden entrance of the Hallow, Harry's delayed reflexes would be his undoing.

A non spoken incantation and a square motion of the deadly weapon later, and Harry staggered backwards, nearly toppling over from the way the floor quivered beneath his feet.

Back coming in harsh contact with something solid, it took Harry a couple of seconds to wrap his mind around what had just happened.

A square tank had been transfigured around him.

Mutely, Harry eyed the container, his befuddled brain distinctly noting it was made out of glass. Limbs shaking with escalating trepidation, he pushed away from the translucent surface.

Four steps; that's all it took to reach the other side of the tank.

Voldemort's gaze was far too attentive as he observed the teen's tentative explorations, consequently reminding Harry of the obsessed way a scientist would study a lab rat. Not appreciative in the slightest of the comparison, Harry banged his hand against the glass, fingers splayed out.

"What's the meaning of this?!"

Voldemort tutted softly, waving the Elder Wand admonishingly at him. "What have I told you about listening? You know how I loathe repeating myself."

Harry's teeth produced a menacing little noise when they gnashed together. "Get me out of here." he said lowly, feeling stuffy already.

"Out?" Voldemort shook his head, "Then where would be the point in experimenting?"

Harry's lips parted, but rather than the argument he had at the ready, a gasp spilled past. He jumped, head jerking downwards, not comprehending at first the stream of water that kept sprouting in a steady flow from the bottom. It did not take a genius to figure out why the tank had no opening at the top.

Water having already reached past his ankles, Harry sought out Voldemort's gaze, sensing something akin to panic start gnawing at his insides.

"I'll try harder," he said in what he hoped was a placating tone, only now coming to terms with the man's mounted ire. "I'll put more effort into it, I swear, so just…stop this already."

It sounded more like a plea than he had originally intended.

The wizard's hard expression not once let up, nor did he present any signs of having heard him in the least.

His jeans were sticking painfully tight against his legs, the water drenching the fabric making it seem as if it weighted tons. Goosebumps rose over his skin, the chill of the soaked clothing extending all the way to his bones. He shivered yet again as the stream gained a boost in power, the water that had been swaying back and forth just above his knees suddenly climbing all the way up to his thighs.

Harry slumped against a glassy wall, an arm coming up to press the heel of his palm into the side of his temple.

So this was the Dark Lord's answer.

Submerged from the waist down in water, his body felt incredibly drained all of a sudden, too heavy for him to even attempt moving.

Why did Voldemort have to be so much for the extremes? Wasn't there ever a middle ground for him?

He lowered his arm and eyed the liquid making its way upwards to his abdomen warily. Ever since the second task of the Tri-Wizard tournament, he had been implanted with the unconceivable urge to not remain under the water for long. Last year, putting his knowledge of the Prefects' bath into use, he had ventured there one night after founding for the first time ever the atmosphere in his dormitory nearly suffocating to bear.

To his started dismay, however, he discovered the hard way that a calming hot bath might not have been the best of options…

Not ten minutes inside the water, Harry had leapt out of the pool size tub, no longer able to withstand the constricting pressure behind his chest. With all the frustration that had been steadily piling up over the months, Harry had resolutely made the decision to not delve into the matter, too shaken up if he were to discover more flaws to his person.

Just how more cracks would he be able to withstand before he shattered?

Chewing the inside of his cheek to shake off his self-induced stupor, Harry braced both hands behind him and slid his eyes shut.

He really doubted that Voldemort was going to let him drown, despite the look of things. He was still the vessel of a precious part of the man's soul, after all. But that didn't mean Voldemort was going to make it easy for him, quite the contrary actually. He despised weakness of any sort. And watching a piece of himself, no matter how small, behaving so helplessly vulnerable was bound to tick him off at some point, urge him to rectify and mould that piece until it acted precisely as it was supposed to.

And as usual, Harry's personal opinion on the matter was of no consequence.

His eyes snapped open when his next intake of air filled his nostrils with liquid.

He spluttered, multiple bubbles leaving his mouth instead of sound. Harry cast his eyes to the surface, his entire body growing rigid; there was no more space left between the water and the top of the container.

Vision blurry, he kicked his legs, one hand rising to keep his head from hitting the glass above when his now weightless body floated up.

…Was he seriously expected to practice in a situation like this?

Free hand clasping over his mouth as firmly as possible, green eyes swept about, striving to discern Voldemort's shape and scowled when he kept coming up empty handed. Kicking to rotate himself within the water, Harry's hand flew away from his mouth and the shout he'd have given came in the form of more bubbles.

Sometime ago, the Dark Lord had relocated, dissatisfied with the amount of space that separated them apparently. When Harry turned around, it was only the thin pane of glass that stretched between himself and Voldemort.

Taking tight hold of his violent surprise and morphing it into anger, Harry banged his fist on the glass right in front of Voldemort's face.

The man traced his balled hand with his gaze, inspecting it almost lazily.

Enraged at being so blatantly ignored and just a little bit panicky, Harry growled in his thoughts, 'Tom!'

Red eyes jerked to his face, the dark promise in the narrowed pupils driving Harry to remove his hand from the surface with a cringe, overcome by the image of having it bitten. 'Get me out.' he pressed, nonetheless, too far in to back down now.

He was nearly out of air.

Voldemort didn't bat an eye, and Harry cursed how unfair it was for the man to have such effortless access to his thoughts while he couldn't get even a glimpse of that vast, labyrinth of a mind. Moreover, the Dark Lord's mask was so immaculately constructed that Harry felt a glimmer of pride whenever he was able to catch a fleeting emotion on that face. Usually it was the eyes that provided him with the hint he needed; Voldemort might have sculpted the perfect façade to flaunt about, but from what Harry had gathered, his eyes were always the hardest to guard.

And so, looking at him now, there was no doubt in Harry's mind that the miniscule curl of those lips was completely intentional. The insinuation behind it was plenty to drive Harry dangerously close to the edge.

The bastard was enjoining this.

Harry thrashed, kicking reflexively, but there was no upwards to swim to. Bubbles exited his mouth while water entered his nose, and he was choking, the combined sensation stinging his throat. He could almost feel his lungs constricting and then unshrinking, frantic in their attempt to pump oxygen through him.

Then, the next moment, they were no longer shrinking, already filled with the water Harry had breathed, and even the bubbles had become scarce.

His back connected with the hard bottom and started as he was, Harry could not force his eyelids to blink, couldn't twitch a single muscle. His body was so immensely heavy that Harry felt numb, painfully so.

The glassy surface disappeared beneath him. A single moment was all he had to register this change before the water, no longer contained, came crushing right into his body.

The force was so great that Harry's back arched off the floor in a precise imitation of a bow, lips parting.

Pure instinct took its toll from then on. Harry claimed inhalation after inhalation, a strangled whimper leaving his throat as sensation slowly returned to him. He felt like he had been beaten to a pulp, to the point he expected bruises to form all over his torso and legs, where most of the water had hit.

Fingers, long and unbearably warm on his icy skin, enveloped his throat in a grip loose enough for him to breathe but threatening to tighten at a moment's notice. In addition, a body settled above him, its weight supported by two sturdy thighs at either side of his legs.

"Too much for a start, perhaps?" Voldemort said, his face so close that inky strands brushed against Harry's cheeks, their touch so soft that bordered on whispery. "It certainly lacked the effect I desired."

This was too much…

Harry still hadn't recovered from the previous shock, and Voldemort was planning to force another of his demented experiments on him for sure.

"Get off me…" he whispered, voice too scratchy for his liking.

Voldemort's head tilted to the side almost imperceptibly, the feigned wonder clashing contradictorily with the sadistic amusement crinkling in those ruby depths.

"Have I scared my little treasure?"

Yes, Harry had felt scared. In that brief moment in the tank, where the realization of how much the Dark Lord enjoyed his suffering had sunk in, he had been terrified. The man had watched him struggle, seen the breath leaving his body little by little and only stepped in when he was certain that Harry was a second away from drowning.

He wasn't scared of the man, per se, but the extent to which he was willing to go in order to curb his twistingly sadistic streak.

In response, as if seeking to confirm his musings, the pale digits abandoned their snug hold and began coiling around his neck, causing Harry's breath to hitch. Quivery arms rose to Voldemort's chest, pushing weakly.

"Tom, s-stop." he choked out, pupils proportionally blown.

Voldemort's grip didn't strengthen, but Harry could already feel the fight seeping out of him.

The gulps of air allowed past weren't nearly enough and he felt like he was back in the tank, drowning all over. Vicious little shudders raked his spine, adamantly refusing to relive that process again, his brain eradicating the mere suggestion of it. His fingers stretched outwards on Voldemort's shirt covered chest, a surge of heat spreading over his palms as the man was forcefully pushed back a couple of inches, long enough for his grasp to slacken.

For the second time in just a few minutes, Harry found himself inhaling air like a starved man.

Voldemort hummed, moving his hands to either side of Harry's head instead. "Congratulations on learning to operate on another emotion, darling. Fear, is now at your disposal."

Harry choked on his last intake of oxygen.

Fingers burrowing in the older wizard's shirt, he clung on as a coughing fit tore his throat raw.

A small, pained moan slipped past his lips once it finally subsided.

"Let me get this straight…" he muttered darkly, "You put me through all of that, simply because you wanted me to learn to activate my wandless magic with an emotion other than anger?"

"Charming little plan, wasn't it?" Voldemort whispered back, breath fanning over Harry's face. "Look at the wanders it worked."

Harry gave a dry chuckle. "You want me to go insane, isn't that it? So you can control me?"

Voldemort smiled down at him, a haughty and ominous smile that had the youth's mental alarms flare up. "You will not break so easily, my treasure. I made certain to create you that way."

"What're you talking about?" Harry hissed.

"Do you deny that throughout the course of your life I was the one main factor that shaped you the way you are now?" Voldemort leaned closer, hands enclosing over the ones that Harry still had clenched in his shirt, "You are my own creation. You have been marked by me in more ways than the Horcrux in your scar."

Long fingers stroked over his, the action so gentle and soothing that it distracted Harry for a moment, "I own everything that you are, my treasure."

He tried to dislodge Voldemort's grip, but vainly. "Let go."

At the unimpressed look he was given, Harry sagged against the floor. "Why don't you try obsessing over Bellatrix or something? Your fixation with me can't be healthy."

"Oh, I certainly could, but you see, I happen to find your reactions more intriguing than anyone's. For example, I know if I do this…" he guided an index finger on the underside of one of Harry's wrists, above his artery, and dragged it excruciatingly slow in a straight, curt line that traced the path of his pulse.

Harry shivered from head to toe, legs curling beneath him.

"Simply exquisite," Voldemort purred, wetting his lips.

Harry's gaze fixated on the motion, heat rushing to his face once he realized exactly what he had done. For the first time, he actually paid mind to the position they were in.

Oh, God…

He couldn't deal with this right now. How much shock was his poor body supposed to take in just a few hours?

Three consequential knocks sounded from the door.

Harry, ears burning up at the prospect of someone walking in on this particular scene, yelled out, "Don't!" at the same time Voldemort responded with a calm, "Enter."

Barty Crouch Jr. walked briskly inside, bowing his head low before his Master.

Harry let his head drop back to the ground, groaning lowly in resignation.

"The Outer Circle have assembled, my Lord. They're waiting to give their reports."

"Good," was all that Voldemort said, lifting himself up and hauling a protesting Harry to his feet before dragging him over to Barty, ignoring the teen's grumbles at being manhandled.

"Escort Harry to one of the guest chambers. He requires a bath. I have already performed a Freshening Charm on his clothes so a clean change wouldn't be needed. Afterwards, take him to the cellar."

"Supper will be delivered shortly to you." This part was directed at Harry.

Supper? Exactly how long had they been stuck in this room?

"I don't want food." And it was the truth. He wasn't particularly hungry.

He turned to Barty, "Can you take me to Snape? I could really use a Pepper-Up right now."

The wizard arched a single eyebrow, casting a silent look in the Dark Lord's direction.

The glare he was rewarded with needed no interpretation.

"Right," he said, nodding to himself. He grabbed hold of Harry's wrist and proceeded towards the door, "A bath and then cellar it is for you, Potter."

Voldemort turned to the centre of the room, regarding mutely the small pond that had gathered on the marble floor. What should he prepare for tomorrow then?

From down the hallway, Harry's loud yell made the walls appear to be paper thin, "What the hell's wrong with you people?! I can walk perfectly fine on my own, you know!"

He waved his hand in one smooth, swift swipe and the water was gone.

Something absolutely exhausting, it would seem.

His little Horcrux had too much energy reserved for his own good.

END OF CHAPTER TWELVE

I noticed that most of my previous chapters had a rather angsty ending, so I decided to end this on a lighter note for a change. ^^

If there are any questions for the chapter don't hesitate to ask!