Disclaimer and general Warnings see chapter 1. This chapter contains some very mild D/s type interaction between LV and HP, and a description of the abuse by VD.

AN: Special thanks to BloodyRose90 for helping me with the Muggle news part of this chapter.

Hello to you, my dear readers,

I apologize. I'm so sorry it took so long to update and that I don't manage to answer everybody who reviews personally, but that will not get much better in the future. To those of you so urgently demanding updates, please remember that I do research and write in my spare time - for fun, like all those other fanfic writers - with plenty of interruptions and distractions by real life.
I do not have a time turner, you know? I wish!
Thank you for all those hundreds of Alerts, Favourites, PM and kind, encouraging Reviews, I'm truly grateful and swept of my feet. Uhm, *smilies sheepishly* I did edit all the previous chapters (Edit AN: and this one also by now!) to fix things some reviewer's hawk eyes spotted. I hope it's better to read now, especially the dialogue parts? Thank you all so much for helping to improve this story.

Okay, on with the show! This chapter is the longest yet. It's actually four chapters stuffed into one to make up for the long wait.

Garden of Malfoy Manor, somewhere in Wiltshire, England, early morning of August 3rd 1995

Dewdrops glistened on leaves, birds sang in a rousing chorus as the sun rose over the rim of the world. The early morning air was still blessedly cool and refreshing. The soft, rhythmic crunch of his footsteps on the gravel path was the only other sound.

Voldemort rounded another bend in the spiralling evergreen maze, hands burrowed deep in the pockets of his robe. Now and then he fingered a small role of parchment in his left pocket, or the holly wand in his right pocket. Potter's wand had worked superb with a variety of normal, everyday spells and defensive, neutral magic like Protego or Stupefy. He'd not attempted to cast aggressive, dark combat spells with it, so far. He didn't want to push his luck.

The yew wand was as always ready for instant action in another pocket of his robes. Round and round he prowled over the winding and criss-crossing paths. He wasn't lost in the maze – he knew it well - he was lost in thought, going over the startling events of the previous evening, contemplating the reports he had received so far and planning the rest of the day.

If yesterday had been extraordinary, what would happen today? He was full of anticipation, sure that something momentous would occur, however whether fortuitous or disastrous? Who knows? Now and then he looked up, scanning the sky for owls bringing him news, although he knew it was much too early for the Daily Prophet. Yet. Yet.

Black Town House, Number Twelve, Grimmauld Place, London, England, same date and time.



Two identical young men with ginger hair Apparated into the girl's bedroom, just as the sun was rising outside.

"Hmmmm?" came from one of the beds.

"Uh? Whatsit?" a sleepy voice mumbled.

"Lemmealone." A blanket was pulled firmly over bushy, brown hair, only to be tugged away again.

"Hey, get off my bed!" Ginny complained.

"Get out! This is the girls' bedroom!" screeched Hermione, finally waking up enough to register who had the nerve to disturb her at this ungodly early hour of the morning.

"Dear young ladies!" Fred's chirpy voice greeted them.

"Rise and shine!" George ordered.

"Oh! Fred, George. Who else." Ginny recognized her brothers.

"What do you want?" Hermione demanded crossly, holding her hand in front of her mouth to stifle a yawn.

"What do we want?" George replied in an incredulous tone.

"She asks, in all her brilliance -," Fred continued to speak in the irritating twin speak they favoured.

"Could we want to talk about,"

"What happened last night?"

"Or this morning?"

"Oh! Did you hear something new?" Hermione asked. "Where's Harry?"

"Is he alright?" Ginny wanted to know.

"We don't know," responded Fred. "Harry is really missing. I think they don't know at all where he could be, or if he's even still around."

Hermione paled drastically. "No, please, no."

"Oh, Harry," Ginny moaned in distress.

"Mum's really, really down." George said. "She must've cried, the way she looks."

"Depressing." Added his brother. "She's in the kitchen now, cooking and baking like a mad woman."

"That's her way to cope with stress," George explained. "We haven't seen dad this morning, he's already at the Ministry."

"Do you - do you think some Death Eaters got Harry?" Ginny asked.

"We don't know." Fred shrugged. "But – we heard something, with -,"

George continued, "The famous Extendable Ears. Sirius has just left the house - , "

"Together with Remus. They are headed North, to Scotland. Some place called Firth or something. Isle of Skye, isle of Lewis. And probably further," Fred recounted.

Ginny looked up puzzled. "Why?"

"What do you mean, further?" Hermione inquired. "Some place further away than Scotland?"

"Yep." George nodded. "That's our impression from the words we caught."

"Mind you, it was really difficult to listen in and to watch them." Fred added.

"Do you know what 's beyond Scotland main land Hermione?" George asked, sure that the Know-It-All would spout the facts out as always.

"The Atlantic ocean and the North sea. Small islands, like the Hebrides, Shetland, Orkney, Faeroe." Hermione rattled off the list. "And far away – Norway, Iceland, Greenland, Canada."

"Do you mean they think Harry's somewhere up north?" Ginny asked. "On one of the islands there? And Sirius and Remus are going to search for him?"

"Yeah. They had maps, and I think a tent, blankets, a rucksack each," Fred reported. "I saw from the upper landing how Remus and Sirius shrank down and stuffed some things into their pockets."

George continued. "Mum gave them a basket with sandwiches along, and some bottles, which Remus shrunk down too. She tried to talk them out of it, said Dumbledore didn't give permission, that it's much too dangerous for Sirius to leave the house again, that other Order members can take turns searching, and Sirius - ."

"He swore, he cussed, like you've never heard before. And he said, he's not giving a rat's arse what Dumbledore says any more." Fred finished the sentence.

Ginny gasped, "Blimey."

"What!" Hermione exclaimed. "He said that?"

"Yes," George confirmed, and there was no joking manner about the way he spoke at all. "He said he's not slept a minute last night, he can't stay here. He's going after Harry. Sirius believes he is probably, hopefully still alive. He said if there is one tiny chance that Harry's not dead yet, he will search for him, and if he has to turn over every stone in Scotland, he'll do it."

"He said, he couldn't live with himself otherwise. He said, 'I must do this, please Molly, understand. Harry's my godson, and I've let him down. I haven't cared for him as I should have. Last night, Dumbledore had a lead north, and I must follow that. I must go, right now, before the trail grows colder.'," Fred quoted Sirius.

George took over again. "And mum cried, and wished them luck, and embraced him, and Remus, and then they left."

"Merlin's soggy pants!" Ginny commented.

"Yeah. Spot on, Ginny," said Fred.

"Where's Ron?" Hermione wanted to know.

"Sleeping, like a log," George answered.

Hermione huffed. "Hmph! How can he sleep like a baby, when Harry is missing or probably dead?"

"Don't say that, Hermione! Sirius will find Harry. He must find him. He must!" Ginny was near tears.

"Of course, Gin. I'm just so worried. I've had such a bad feeling for weeks," said Hermione.

"Yeah, me too." Ginny nodded.

"Same here." Fred and George chorused together.

"I wish I could do something to help Harry," said Hermione.

"Yeah, but we can't, we're stuck in this Merlin forsaken grubby, spooky house," groused George.

"If Hedwig would come, we could give her letters along." Ginny proposed. "Tell Harry that we haven't forgotten him, that we're so sorry for not responding to his letters."

"But Professsor Dumbledore said -," Hermione started, but was interrupted at once by her younger friend.

"I know, Hermione. I know. But Harry's gone, Merlin knows where. Errol's too old, he might die, when he has to fly so far. He isn't cut out for long journeys."

A collective sigh escaped the teens, uneasy silence falling between them.

"Stop mopping, that won't help Harry either," said Fred.

"Yeah. He wouldn't want that." George added.

"How can you say that?" Hermione countered angrily. "We don't have any idea what Harry would wish or want just now. I only know he didn't want to stay at his Muggle relatives. He's unhappy there, always was."

The others nodded.

"I wish I'd dared to write him, or call him," Hermione said, wringing her hands, "despite what Professor Dumbledore told us."

"Yeah, you're right. We should have found a safe way to contact him," stated George, thinking that it would be brill to come up with a device for secret, silent, undetectable instant communication. Or maybe someone had invented something useful already? Hm, when Remus and Sirius were back he would ask them. His father might have come across an artefact like this in his job, but he would most likely not tell them - to prevent more mischief-making and pranks.

"Do you think we should practice for our NEWTs, Hermione?" Fred asked, determined to do something against the worried and frustrated atmosphere in the room.

"What!?" exclaimed Hermione. How could Fred think of school stuff now?

He smirked at her mischievously. "I heard that Aguamenti is a standard spell they want to see demonstrated in the Charms NEWT, same as Orchideous, or did I mix that up with the Transfiguration NEWT?"

Hermione caught on quickly. That would serve Ron right, the lazy sod. They all were so worried about Harry, talking loudly, and he didn't wake up at the noise in the next room.

"Oh, yes, Fred," she said. "You should practise. Revising during the holidays is very important. The NEWTs decide about your future career opportunities, after all. I propose you practise right above Ron's bed, as Orchideous is a charm that conjures a bouquet of flowers. At the same time you'll need lots of cool water to keep them fresh. Aguamenti is basically a Transformation of gaseous water out of the air into liquid water."

"Look who's read ahead." George smirked, not very surprised that Hermione knew this sixth year material.

"Do you know how to conjure up a large vase for the flowers, dear bro?" Ginny chimed in, eager to play a prank on her youngest brother. "Maybe you should practise to transfigure his blanket or cushion? I'd like a clear glass vase, with a narrow opening, so it's more difficult to aim the gush of water inside."

"Thanks my fair ladies for your moral support." George bowed in an exaggerated fashion, sniggering.

"George and I really need to practise more," Fred said with mock earnest. "Mum would be so disappointed if we didn't achieve at least three NEWTs! We'll never be as good as perfect prat Percy or Head Boy Bill, but we can do this."

"Come along girls!" George strode to the door."We need you as witnesses for mum that this is no prank, but serious, important school work!"

All the teenagers giggled and chuckled in wicked amusement and anticipation.

"Well, then shoo! We'll be ready in ten minutes. Let us dress and run through the bathroom, we don't want to shock Ron. I don't know if he would survive a pyjama party with girls and boys this early in the morning, and everything before breakfast!" Hermione said, grinning.

"K'!" Fred mock saluted her and pulled his brother out into the hallway. "See you soon."

Small guest room, Malfoy Manor, somewhere in Wiltshire, England, late morning of August 3rd 1995

When Harry finally surfaced from the deep, calm, blank abyss created by Dreamless Sleep, he didn't know where he was at first. His stomach twisted itself into a knot of fear, which lessened when nothing happened, at all. Blinking, he took stock of his condition and looked around. He was in the guest room – no, his new room - that was dimly illuminated by a shaft of sunshine peeking in trough a slit in the green and light grey striped curtains.

He'd slept wonderfully, no fears and nightmares tormenting him for the first time in what felt like forever. It was quiet in the room, he seemed to be alone. And, he tested carefully, he was not restrained in any way, his hands, arms and legs free to move. He felt sore all over, with a faint headache, but not in terrible pain. His body was covered in some incredibly comfortable, slick, soft material. Oh, now he remembered, Mr Malfoy had given him a pair of Draco's silk pyjamas.

Overall, this morning was much better compared to the morning of the previous day, when he woke up from the loud knocking on the door and the usual screeched, 'Up boy! Make breakfast!' call of his aunt, the scratchy sheet on his dingy bed uncomfortably sticking to his shoulders and back because of the dried blood from the welts his uncle had dealt out the evening before. That had hurt.

Slowly he raised himself into a sitting position, untangled his legs from the light summer blanket and got out of bed. He stood a moment still, waiting if any dizziness would occur like last night, but he felt all right. His bladder urged him to find the bathroom post haste, so he went there first.

Upon entering the doorway, the room lit up by its self, there were two bright orbs to the left and right of the mirror above the sink. The bathroom looked similar to the one in Voldemort's chambers, with white, greenish and blue marble tiles and water-life themed decorations. Harry noticed a shower stall and also an old fashioned, clawed feet bathtub. After finishing his business and washing his hands, with a quirky greeting by the talking mirror which he ignored, "High time to get up, sleepy head. My goodness, you do look dreadful! Take a shower and brush that hair!" Harry ambled back through his bedroom to the window, his footsteps quiet on the polished floorboards, and pulled aside the curtains.

Bright sunlight forced him to close his eyes for a moment, Harry blinked until they adjusted themselves. Now he noticed a window seat, a deep, beige, grey and green striped cushion making it an attractive place to sit. He knelt on it and tried to find out something about his surroundings. He was looking out into a vast grass green space, dotted with blotches of different colour, dark green in the background. A garden. Vines, wisteria and roses clung to the wall around the window. Harry imagined how their perfumed scent would pervade the room.

Could he open the window, or would it be locked? Would some magic hinder him to touch it? He hesitated a moment, what if it didn't open? That would show him he was more of a prisoner, than a guest, despite Malfoy's nice words. Taking a deep breath to prepare himself for the imminent disappointment or a likely shock of pain if the window was somehow magically secured, he gingerly stretched out his hand and turned the knob in the middle.

The window frame gave easily, it swung open. Warmth and the beautiful fragrance of the roses streamed inside. Harry grinned. He knew he must look completely silly with such a beaming smile for no reason. But here was nobody to judge him. Nobody to hurl vile words at him.

He leaned over the window sill. Below was a small terrace. Harry could just make out several chairs and a table. A riot of colour in the flowers beds adjoining the terrace greeted him, although without his glasses he couldn't make out exactly what plants grew outside. The reflection of the sun twinkled and flashed from a surface beyond the lawn, maybe a pond or lake? The murmur of rippling water created a soothing background noise. Maybe there was a fountain at the other side of the house? It must be late morning, or early noon to judge by the hight of the sun and the temperature, another hot day.

Harry sat back on the window seat and simply enjoyed the light, the warmth, the tranquil quiet of this country estate, only broken by the song of a meadowlark above and doing absolutely nothing. He felt as if he was dreaming, this was so new and completely different compared to a morning at Privet Drive.

The grumbling of his stomach and a sudden soft hoot from behind interrupted his musings. Thrilled he swivelled around and stood to rush towards the familiar sound.


His heart swelled from joy and relief. There, next to the wall on a dark wooden dresser stood her cage, the door closed and Hedwig was sitting inside, blinking sleepily at him. Harry dashed over to her. He wanted to rip open the cage door, but was brought up short by a small scroll suddenly popping up in front of him. It unfurled, smoking around the edges, and then Lucius Malfoy's voice drawled, "Harry, please don't let your owl out before reading my letter." The note disintegrated in a shower of silver sparkles.

What the fuck? Why? Was this a polite version of a Howler? Harry shrugged and proceeded to open the door. Hedwig shuffled back and forth, clicking her beak and hooting softly, obviously happy that her master had discovered her. Stretching out his hand he began to gently caress her wonderfully soft feathers. She turned her head and nipped him affectionate in return.

"Oh Hedwig! I'm so happy you're okay, girl. How did you get here?" Harry whispered, feeling ridiculously happy, blinking to chase off the prickling feeling in the corners of his eyes.

Then his still sleepy mind started to process what his eyes told him.

Hedwig was sitting in her cage. There was a water and a food dish filled with owl treats inside. Her cage! Somebody must have brought it from Surrey. Who? How?

Oh yes, Voldemort had mentioned last night that he sent that other man, Garrick Avery, back there. Harry looked around the room for his trunk. Yes, there it was, standing in the corner right next to the dresser. He glanced again at the smooth, polished surface in front of him and noticed that to the left of Hedwig's cage lay something square, beige and white. A note or letter? A closer look revealed that there were several pieces of parchment and paper. He picked them all up, went back to sit down in the window seat and started to read the elegant script of the topmost letter, leaving the rest of the stack on the cushion beside him.

Good Morning Harry,

I trust you slept well?

Yeah, thanks Mr Malfoy, Harry commented in his mind, remembering only vaguely how the blond wizard had escorted him back to his room late last night, tucked him into bed – Harry blushed, he was so not used to this - and dosed him liberally with Sleeping Draught.

Your owl turned up and as you predicted, she was smart enough to wait in a tree a safe distance away from the front gate.

Good girl, Harry thought.

There was a tracking charm on her, but she carried no post for you.

Hedwig can stay with you, or she can stay at our Owlery, whatever you favour.

Please resist the temptation to send her off with any letters you might want to write, as I have placed a ring on her leg that is tied to the outer wards.

Your owl can fly around in the gardens and hunt, but not leave without my or the Dark Lord's explicit permission. A precaution you will surely understand.

If you force her to attempt to fly through the wards, you play with her life, and yours, for that matter. Remember your vow?

Oh. Now Harry understood the note on the cage door. This was sobering, but he was more than glad that Mr Malfoy went out of his way to explain. He didn't have to, Harry could have figured this out by himself. Which he would have done in time, most likely right after he'd gotten his faithful familiar killed by his usual impulsive stupidity and disregard of the rules, like Snape would comment. Harry quickly shoved the memory of Cedric staring up at him with empty eyes away, instead he got up and looked at Hedwig's legs.

There was a small silver circlet around her left leg, with some tiny runes carved into it. He didn't recognize them, and not for the first time he regretted taking Divination because Ron said this subject was supposed to be easy, instead of something useful, like Ancient Runes. Hermione had mentioned that they where essential to understand advanced magic, like in warding, or in an interesting, demanding job like what Bill did, breaking curses in Egyptian tombs.

Harry sat down again on the cosy window seat and turned his attention back to the letter.

Avery managed to acquire your school trunk and bird cage.

How? Harry wondered

Debby brought them into your room this morning. As my personal servant she can enter, so please don't be alarmed.

In the bathroom cabinet is a selection of Potions, use at your discretion. Dosage is on the labels.

The shower and other facilities in the bathroom are charmed to react to your presence, so you should manage without your wand, which is still in the keep of my Lord.

Oh, of course, Voldemort still had his wand. Harry had noticed that it wasn't on his night stand. He rose and went to the bathroom to take a dose of Anti-Nausea, Pain Reliever, general Healing Potion, Strengthening Solution, and Blood-Replenishing Potion, washing it all down with two glasses full of delicious, cool tap water. In the cabinet he also found a toothbrush, tooth paste and two small jars of that marvellous Bruise balm and Burn salve. However he wanted first to eat breakfast, then take a shower or bath before applying the stuff.

The talking mirror scolded him again for looking like he just fell out of bed in the middle of the day, but Harry only grumbled, "Shut the fuck up, will you?" The mirror huffed scandalized at his choice of words and lack of manners.

His curiosity drove him back to the letter, more news where much more important to him than a few bruises and scars or unkempt hair. He wasn't vain like Draco!

Call upon Debby if you wish anything (within reason).

She can also bring you books from the main library that are fit for a young man like you – no advanced Dark Arts books yet, I'm afraid.

Reading this, Harry could see Mr Malfoy's smirking face right in front of him.

As you need new glasses, I shall arrange a private appointment - preferably outside their regular business hours to avoid any undue attention to your person - at Hawks-Eyes in Diagon Alley. Alternatively, you could attempt to correct your eyesight permanently with the help of a certain Occulus potion. However, I do not recommend this course of action at the present, as the potion in question is
1. presently illegal in Britain,
(Some dark pure-blood families use it on their children if necessary, well before they start Hogwarts, so no outsider knows or takes notice.
You might have observed that only very few older wizards or fellow students wear glasses compared to Muggles?)
2. requires an expert Potions Master like Severus to brew,
3. the treatment is described as rather painful and protracted.
Using this option would raise questions you could not answer satisfactory in your current position in society. Therefore you'll have to make do with new glasses, until the political situation has changed favourably.

Have a nice day,


Wow. Harry was impressed by Malfoy's thoughtfulness and very grateful for the information. He put this letter to the side. The next parchment he picked up was written in a different script.

Mr Potter,

My Lord asked me to inform you of last night's events at Privet Drive. As He told you, I went back to investigate.

Your cousin appears to have been kissed. He was discovered by a friend, Piers, and your uncle. A Muggle ambulance vehicle transported Dursley junior to a hospital. Your relatives were very upset, so much that they have renounced kinship and refuse to ever let you back into their house – not that you would feel any inclination to return, as we both know. Your aunt wrote a scathing letter to you and Dumbledore, sealing it with her blood. Through her acts (loudly spoken words and this letter) the blood wards tied to the property were completely disintegrated. We suppose that the Headmaster has taken notice immediately.

About your possessions:

Your uncle went into the house and brought your trunk and birdcage outside with the intention that you should find them to know that you are not wanted there any more. He included some items he found under your bed. I hope everything is complete?

In that alleyway were the Dementors attacked you, I met a large black dog – your godfather, Sirius Black. Don't worry, he is all right. We did not kill each other, surprisingly. I managed to convince Black to hold a temporary truce and to observe the Muggles, especially your relatives. He was very worried about you, and appalled by the Dursleys' attitude and what that implied. He pelted me with questions.

I disclosed that tonight
- your uncle nearly killed you,
- that you were later attacked by a Dementor,
- that you are currently recuperating at a safe location,
- that you'd rather die by the Dark Lord's hand than go back to that house on Privet Drive and therefore don't want Dumbledore informed.

Black was completely shocked and asked me to relate to you his deepest regret. He said that he didn't know or suspect at all how dire your situation was, that he loves you, and that he wants to make it up to you.

There is of course the question of why he didn't know or even suspect about anything pertaining to your plight, and why he didn't take better care of you.

He seemed sincere in his distress, but wasn't ready to believe me or to accept the ugly truth he witnessed with his own eyes, how much your (former?) aunt and uncle hate you. It's a wonder he even listened. Sirius Black was after all well known for his arrogance, obstinacy, temper and rashness during school and as an adult during the war. Maybe Azkaban did him some good?

Of course, your godfather is still firmly of the opinion that the Order of the Phoenix under Dumbledore's leadership is the Good, the right side. He cannot imagine your dear Headmaster or his fellow Order members knowingly leaving his godson with abusive Muggles, far less contemplate possible reasons or justifications for this outrage. Well, I hope Black heeds my advice and takes a good look at your Ex-relatives house, perhaps he will find something that convinces him that a Slytherin does not always lie.


Harry swallowed thickly, that was quite a report. He felt deep, cutting sorrow and longing towards Sirius coupled with confusion and fury towards him, his friends and Dumbledore. He was immensely grateful towards Avery and Voldemort for this letter. Now he wouldn't spend the rest of the day worrying and speculating about what might have happened in Little Whinging last night.

The next piece of paper Harry looked at was a folded Muggle newspaper page. Daily Mail, the Surrey local page, from August 3rd. One article was marked in bright yellow, flashing like the markings on one of Hermione's study planners.

Tragic Accident or Crime?
Junior Box champion falls into coma from unknown cause! Ashford doctors baffled

Blared the headline. Underneath was written in a much smaller script by Emma Reynolds.

Last night, Dudley Dursley, the well known Junior Heavy Weight box champion from Smeltings High, was found unconscious in an alleyway in his home town of Little Whinging. He was transferred to Ashford Hospital and admitted to the Emergency ward.

Several witnesses described his state as most peculiar. A spokeswoman for the Ashford hospital said, 'We have not yet determined any cause to the patient's condition. We hope that the patient will regain consciousness again. It is too soon to make any predictions, our doctors will make every effort to help him.'

Mrs Polkins, 39, said, 'My son found his best friend lying on the ground in that alleyway. I was there, I saw how Dudley was lifted onto a stretcher and pushed into the back of the Ambulance vehicle. He was just lying there, stiff as a board, with eyes open, jaw slack. No reaction whatsoever, like a breathing corpse. Horrible! What happened to that kid?'

Another neighbour, who did not want to be named, said: 'Young Dudley was quite stocky, but he was fit, well trained, wasn't he? He and the other boys are always about, I often saw them jogging or bicycling down the road, and I watched him boxing in several competitions. Why should he suddenly suffer a stroke or something? Very fishy business, if you ask me!'

The father, Mr V. Dursley, director of the renowned Grunnings Drill Company, was seen leaving the Ashford hospital in the early morning hours, but refused any comment.

The Surrey police have begun an investigation. They urge anyone having noticed something that might shed light on this tragic accident or possible attack last evening to come forward. The young man was last seen perfectly healthy and in good spirits by his friends at about 21.15 pm in Little Whinging, on the corner of Magnolia Road and Magnolia Crescent on his way home.

Oh. That was interesting. Well, Harry thought, it was evening and then pitch black so suddenly, I don't think any Muggle has seen anything of what happened in that alleyway. Could I get into trouble? Not very likely. But what if somebody has seen me leaving the play park and following Dudley from a distance? Oh well, the Muggle police can't find me here, should some neighbour point a finger at me, at the 'criminal hooligan attending St. Brutus.'

Harry looked again to his left, there was some quite thick paper, which turned out to be the folded Daily Prophet of today. He inhaled sharply when he opened it and scanned the front page. No article – yet - about the missing in action Boy Who Lived, but a report with the fat headline,

Dementors out of control near London?

The article was full of speculation, but it quoted the article in the Muggle newspaper of that morning that Harry had already read, and that an early morning radio news broadcast on the local Muggle radio station of the BBC had mentioned the same information. A young Muggle found with a most strange medical condition in a town in Surrey, the Muggle doctors (which were their kind of healers) unable to explain the cause or to heal him.

The reporter of the Prophet, a Mr Wyman Rackharrow, wrote that he had spoken to Muggles in the neighbourhood, and two had mentioned that they had felt a sudden cold and dread for no apparent reason when they had stepped out into their gardens on the previous, very warm evening, so they went quickly back inside and closed all doors and windows. This had happened just at the same time young Mr Dursley had left his friends, and before he was found an hour later. The description was vague, but to Harry it sounded as if these people must live in the houses to the left and right bordering on the alleyway.

The article explained that Muggles could not see Dementors like wizards and witches, but that it was known well that they could feel the effects, a feeling of unease growing to depression and despair that the guardians of Azkaban caused. The last time a large number of Muggles was exposed to Dementors had been in September 1993 in Dufftown, Scotland. The inhabitants of the town had panicked when Dementors arrived to search for the notorious criminal Sirus Black.

Then the author questioned the ability of the Ministry to keep track of the Dementors and demanded to know if all the registered Azkaban guards had been accounted for, or if it was normal that some of them went off for a 'nightly stroll' in Muggle inhabited areas.
How come that obviously nobody on duty in the DMLE or Azkaban had noticed anything amiss?
Would these Dementors visit Hogsmeade or Diagon Alley tonight or next week and attack innocent wizarding folk?
What would the ICW have to say about this newest and rather severe breach of the International Statute of Wizarding Secrecy in Britain?
As of yet, there was no statement from the Minister for Magic Cornelius Fudge or from Albus Dumbledore, the Supreme Mugwamp of the ICW.

Harry grinned reading this, until his growling stomach urgently demanded his attention. Remembering Malfoy's words, he snapped his fingers and called our, "Debby!"

After a moment, the little house elf appeared. "Good morning, Mr Potter!"

"Good morning Debby. Would you please bring me some breakfast? Just a piece of toast and some porridge and juice, if it is not too much trouble?"

The little elf bounced and smiled at him excitedly. "Debby is preparing a very nice breakfast for Mr Potter. Tea or coffee or hot chocolate?"

"Oh, um. I've never had coffee. I don't know if I like it, I remember it smells good, though."

"Debby will provide, and Mr Potter can try different things, yes?" And the house elf popped away, before Harry could say anything else.

Not a minute later, she was back, balancing an impossibly large tray filled with precious fine bone china and delicious smelling food over her head. Harry stared dismayed at the feast that the over eager house elf served for him on a coffee table in front of the couch. There was a mountain of crunchy toast and a dish of warm porridge, but also poached, fried and scrambled eggs, crisp bacon, still sizzling sausages, baked beans, fried mushrooms, orange marmalade, lemon curd, strawberry and cherry jam and blackcurrant jelly, honey, some small bowls filled with different fruits, four small glass pitchers with two different juices and warm and cold milk, cups of peppermint and black tea and additionally a cup of coffee.

"Oh Debby, this is much too much!" he exclaimed. "You shouldn't have made such an effort. Really, I can't eat all this."

Debby looked crestfallen. "But, Mr Potter is so thin, please try a bite of everything? Debby likes to cook so much. Doesn't young master guest like anything of this? Please, try to eat something?"

"Yes, I will try what you made Debby, this looks super," Harry praised. "Thank you very much. But I can't finish it, impossible. My stomach must get used to food again slowly. I need small portions several times a day, you know? Something else, could you get me some of Draco's old clothes that might fit me? Casual trousers, simple shirts, not fine dress shirts, the like? And some shoes? Mr Malfoy said you know where Draco's old stuff is kept, in the attic?"

The little elf stared at him wide-eyed, nodded, curtsied and popped away again. Harry sighed, in this regard Debby seemed to be very similar to Dobby and the Hogwarts house elves, too eager to please. He got up from the window seat and went to the settee to start his breakfast. It tasted as delicious as it looked and smelled, but far too soon his stomach felt full again, so he only took small bites to at least try the different flavours. He pushed the fried sausages aside, there was no way he could stomach something so rich and greasy. The peppermint tea was soothing for his stomach, very good. He tried a few sips of coffee and added quite a lot of sugar and milk to the cup until he liked it.

Debby came back after a while with a trunk. She set it on the ground and turned towards the bed, with a few snaps of her fingers it was made and the coverlet pulled straight. After that, she opened the trunk and directed the clothes in the blink of an eye onto the bed, set neatly next to each other. She looked expectantly at Harry, who got up to take a look, after brushing off the crumbs on his fingers.

"Um, thanks Debby. Doesn't Draco have any really casual clothes, like jeans and tee shirts?" Harry asked, taking in the selection spread out for him.

Debby wrung her small hands. "Mr Potter does not like? They are what is fitting for a young heir of the Malfoy family. The material is very good, like new. Please look, all is well cleaned and ironed."

Harry glanced over the items and took note of the petite house elf's attire too. Debby looked smart and clean, she wore a crisp, neatly ironed pillowcase with a small golden M on her chest. She didn't appear so dirty or run down like Dobby or Winky at all, quite the opposite, healthy and happy, like the Hogwarts' house elves.

"Yes, yes, I see," Harry answered to Debby's last comment. "Everything seems to be in perfect condition. Only, it's not what I'd call casual clothes... These are elegant robes, dress shirts and good trousers, you know? But maybe that's because I've never had decent clothes or wizard style robes before, apart from my school robes and uniform."

Debby looked near tears. "Mr Potter does not have good clothes of his own? Why not? Mr Harry Potter is a famous young wizard! Debby does not understand."

Harry pressed his lips together in shame and anger as he thought of the Dursleys dumping a black bin bag full of Dudley's old clothes into his room at the beginning of each summer holiday and telling him to be grateful for that. He knew that Petunia had selected the most baggy, washed out items for his use. The bulk of Dudley's outgrown clothes, the almost new, hardly worn designer stuff, went to the local Oxfam shop.

"My old family – they were not very nice, you know? They didn't like me," he answered the question of the house elf over his shoulder, while striding over to his trunk. He didn't see the shocked and pitying look on Debby's face, before she turned towards the task of cleaning up the remains of Harry's breakfast, asking in a quivering voice, "Does young master not want more to eat? Did Mr Potter not like Debby's breakfast?"

"Oh no, thank you Debby. I love your cooking, everything is perfect, but much too much. As I said earlier, I can't eat very much today. It takes time, okay?" Harry shrugged and blushed, but told himself to remain firm. He would not try to eat more to please the house elf, only to get sick later and puke everything out again, despite the potion he had taken as a precaution.

He knelt down and opened the lid of his trunk, staring at the contend. All his worldly possessions were there, obviously thrown haphazardly into the trunk. On top was one of the familiar bin bags of Aunt Petunia's. No, not Aunt Petunia any more, that title felt wrong now. She never behaved towards him like an aunt was supposed to. Harry picked up the bin bag and tipped it upside down. The Marauders' Map fell out, his photo album, the few letters that he had received during the past few weeks, a birthday card from Hermione and a box of Honeydukes' best chocolate he'd gotten from his friends; all the stuff he'd kept hidden under the loose floorboard below his bed.

He started to sort through the mix of items in the trunk, throwing out any rags of Dudley's he found. Everything he owned was in it, mostly books and black school robes, scraps of parchment, broken quills, his cauldron, but he couldn't find the Invisibility cloak. Where was it? And where was his Firebolt? Sitting back on his haunches, he thought about it. Either Vernon hadn't put them in, or somebody had taken them out again. That was it probably, Malfoy or Voldemort surely had looked into his trunk before Debby was ordered to bring it to him. As a precaution, same as with Hedwig.

Sighing, Harry decided that it was no use fretting over the broom and cloak. He'd have to wait and find an opportunity later or tomorrow to ask for his most prized possessions, offer Voldemort some reassurance that he would not use them to spy or run away. In the meantime, he intended to indulge himself with a good soak in that large, old fashioned bathtub.

But first he grabbed his old trainers and all of the second hand rags of Dudley's and stuffed them into the empty bin bag. He'd have to ask Debby later what to do with it - it would be a good feeling to burn the blasted grubby stuff in the fireplace, but the weather was much too hot for a fire, and he didn't have his wand to cast Incendio.

After emerging from his luxurious bath all squeaky clean and smelling like he imagined a ship full of exotic woods and spices sailing on the wind blown ocean might smell, Harry rifled through the stack of Draco's clothes that Debby had placed on his bed.

For underwear there were only boxer shorts, made of - silk. Unbelievable, only tailored, black or grey and silver striped silk boxers. Wow. Talk about up-market, huh? Harry thought. Not one item of clothing on the bed was fit to wear for manual work, like house cleaning or gardening. Draco likely didn't know how to cook, clean or weed, the spoiled ponce.

Sliding a simple black boxer over his legs and hips, he marvelled how the fabric felt so cool, smooth, perfect, exotic and – dare he think that – kind of erotic on his skin. He'd never touched or even seen anything like this, certainly not on his room-mates at Hogwarts. Harry could not resist running his fingertips from over his thighs, the fabric of the shorts up to his stomach and back down, grazing his willie. Oh, wow. This felt splendid, so different to Dudley's dreadful pants, and to the equally awful and mortifying memories of his life at Privet Drive. But that was in the past, it was over. Harry firmly told himself to shake it off. He was determined to find joy in life again, to indulge himself when possible, even if it was only for a few short hours, days or weeks, depending on Voldemort's whims.

Intending to later stow them away into the wardrobe, Harry set the white and black high collar silk dress shirts, fine black trousers and heavily silver embroidered, luxurious black and charcoal grey brocade, velvet and silk robes to the side, These outfits were something to maybe wear in the evening to a formal dinner party or to a ball, far too elegant in his eyes for everyday use.

He choose a grey shirt of a light weight, soft material, maybe silk woven together with cotton, with slightly wide arms that narrowed again at his wrists, to be closed with two cuff-links in the form of small, coiled up green dragons. What kind is that? he wondered, Welsh Green, or an artists fantasy?

The shirt had a low collar that he left unfastened because of the warm weather. Next he shrugged on a bottle green shimmering tailored, robe to wear over the shirt. He liked the colour, very similar to his dress robes for the Yule ball. This sleeveless summer robe was close fitting over his chest and stomach like a waistcoat, flaring out below and covering his legs down to his feet. The garment was made of some finely woven fabric, which looked like the most delicate tweed, but felt very cool and lightweight. Some blue and brown threads accompanied the green ones. Harry didn't know, maybe it was made from silk, cotton and linen blended together? The small buttons were fashioned in the likeness of spirals, tiny coiled snakes.

A supple, black leather belt with an interestingly sculptured silver belt buckle completed the attire, showing Celtic spirals and knots flowing into each other like some complicated maze, with a Welsh Green in the centre of the buckle. Harry was fascinated by the small dragon figurine, it was animated and reacted to his fingertip probing touch with moving its wings and rearing up momentarily, before it sat down again on its haunches, opening its mouth wide to roar at him.

Checking himself in the mirror, which whistled admiringly, Harry wasn't sure what to think of this new look; especially the absence of jeans or other trousers. To his London suburbia, Dursley raised mind, the outfit was too similar to a woman's dress, or to clothes worn by males from far away, maybe Asia or Africa. It did look stylish, and felt comfortable despite the heat outside. The bottle green hues in the robe brought out the colour of his eyes nicely, underlined by the small green dragon on the belt. He looked like a Slytherin wizard. Malfoy and Voldemort would approve. Good that he was alone in this room, that his Gryffindor house mates couldn't see him – that would not go over well. Ron's betrayed, outraged glare, or Neville's uneasy, frightened look appeared in his mind's eye.

He remembered seeing other male wizards either at Hogwarts, Hogsmeade, Diagon Alley or at the Quidditch World Cup wearing simple robes, or long, wide, flowing robes, several layers like Dumbledore, Snape or Voldemort. All these outfits were often combined with a cloak, depending in the time of the year and the weather.

During the holidays, Ron, George and Fred had worn typical Muggle style clothes, like jeans, T-shirts or button down shirts, pullovers and short jackets. Mr and Mrs Weasley he'd never seen other than in more or less shabby robes, besides when Mr Weasley had dressed Muggle in jeans and a golf jumper last summer at the World Cup. There had been a marked difference in style between the poor, Muggle friendly Weasleys and the elegant pure-blood Malfoy family or other guests of the top box.

Oh well, he was on the other side of the fence now, it was best to fit in. Harry sat down again on the window seat, basking in the sunshine and the wonderful fragrance of the roses and other flowers growing outside. He relished the fact that he didn't have to cut the roses or weed this huge garden! Leaning back against the cushions, he soon curled up and dozed off.

Harry woke up abruptly twice. The first time from a strange honking, screaming sound from outside, that scared him, until he peered out of the window and spied two white blobs moving near the flowerbeds below. The white things turned out to be two large birds. The peacocks! Harry remembered that Mr Malfoy told him about peacocks. He'd seen normal peacocks before, that time at the zoo and on the camp site of the Quidditch World Cup. Harry settled back onto his nest of cushions next to the window and fell asleep again.

The second time he woke up was because of a dream, which turned into the familiar nightmare of the last task of the Triwizard tournament, running, running through the maze and what followed. Only this time Harry managed to wake himself up on his own, shortly after arriving at the graveyard. Cedric had already fallen down lifeless next to him in a burst of green light and Wormtail just tied him to the gravestone of Voldemort's father. Panting, his forehead covered in cold sweat, Harry rubbed his eyes and sighed. Looking around the bedroom and outside, he reassured himself that everything was all right and that neither Wormtail, nor Voldemort stood over him, knife or wand pointed at his heart, ready to murder him. Harry shivered and hugged himself, staring into nothing.

Out of the blue, Harry felt a twinge in his scar, and a sudden intense urge to go to Voldemort. It felt similar to the night before, when the elder wizard had summoned Mr Malfoy and his bloody scar had throbbed in the very same moment as Malfoy's left arm had flinched. Harry assumed that the wizard's Dark Mark had burnt or hurt. While getting up, he looked outside again, it was now afternoon judging by the sun's position.

He quickly went to the bathroom, to drink a glass of water, use the toilet and wash his face and hands, trying to get rid of the lingering tension from the nightmare. His hair stood up in all directions, so he made another futile attempt to comb it and flatten it down with water.

The talking mirror watched his efforts a minute, before suggesting, "If you don't know how to cut and charm your hair into something neat and fashionable, then at least use some hair gel to tame that black mop. There, over to your right, that little blue glass jar, yes, that one! Honestly, where did you grow up, lad? In a pigsty? You cannot be related to the Malfoys."

Harry grumbled, but followed its advice. He didn't like to admit it, but the stuff helped, well somewhat. But he so didn't want to look like a complete copy of Draco! He tried for a casual, wavy look, not everything slicked back. A face not unlike the student Tom Riddle peered back at him. Huh. Weird!

He was unsure if the way his scar felt was coincidence, or did Voldemort find a way to call him on purpose? But maybe he hadn't called Harry, but simply one of his Death Eaters, and Harry had felt a kind of echo? Like with those strange dreams he had had last year about the Dark Lord. In any case he thought it best to go now and see what Voldemort wanted. If it was a false alarm, he could go right back to his room. Or maybe the wizard would permit him to spend time with Nagini?

Carefully opening the door of his room, Harry peered out into the corridor, it was empty. After listening for a moment, if somebody was on the floor below or walking up the stairs, he slipped out, closing his door with a soft snick. He walked swiftly to the door of the study, knocked and waited, like Malfoy had told him. Self-consciously, he smoothed out some wrinkles in his robe, brushed his fringe back out of habit, straightened his posture and told himself to breathe slowly in and out. He felt quite unnerved by the prospect of facing the Dark Lord, despite the reassurance of last night, that he wouldn't kill him as long as Harry was 'useful'.

"Come in." Voldemort spoke curtly. The door opened abruptly on its own. Harry took a tentative step inside the now sun lit room, looking around. Voldemort, clad today in a light and charcoal grey robe, was seated at his desk, surrounded by a controlled chaos of files, letters, notebooks, roles of parchment, an open leather-bound book, and a stack of paper that looked like newspapers. He was writing furiously on a piece of parchment. On the windowsill sat a nondescript brown barn owl, obviously waiting for him to finish the letter. Harry scanned the room for Nagini, but couldn't spot her on first glance.

He didn't know what he should say or do, but thought that no greeting at all might be considered rude, so he ventured a friendly, "Good afternoon, sir. Did you wish to see me?" Bowing briefly he kept standing in the doorway. If that was wrong, Voldemort would surely tell him.

Voldemort looked up from his work, preoccupied. "Potter." His voice sounded pleased. "Do come in."

After stepping inside and closing the door behind him, Harry stood with his back to the door, waiting if another order would follow, there while looking around for a chair to sit in. The coffee table and the two chairs from the previous evening where in the near corner of the room, right next to the wall again, out of the way, so Harry walked there quietly and took a seat, intend on not disturbing the elder wizard.

Voldemort finished writing after a short while, rolled up the letter and tapped it with his wand. Harry assumed that he sealed it somehow, maybe charmed it so that only the recipient could open it? He rose and went to the window, said something to the post owl that Harry didn't catch, and then the bird took off into the hot, blue summer sky. Staring after it, the wizard rhythmically tapped his long, pale fingers on the windowsill for a moment, Harry could hear the sharp nails clicking.

Pivoting abruptly on his heel, his wide robe flaring, Voldemort finally turned his full attention to his young visitor, a slight frown on his features. Harry prepared himself mentally for a scolding or punishment for presuming to take a seat without permission. But last night Malfoy had allowed Harry on the settee in the living-room, and later they had both sat in these armchairs in front of the desk during their discussion.

Harry looked right into the crimson eyes, while grumbling to himself. How the fuck am I supposed to know what I'm allowed, and when, under what circumstances?

To his surprise, Voldemort raised an eyebrow, asking, "How indeed? Did I tell you to sit down?", as if in answer to Harry's unvoiced query.

"No, sir. Sorry sir," Harry answered promptly, jumping up from the chair. "But, I didn't know -"

"What to do," Voldemort finished the sentence. Oh crap, Harry thought. If something like this happened with Vernon, he was sure to be in pain. Excuses were futile, and totally unwelcome.

"Yes, it is rather difficult to follow the rules if you don't really know them, isn't it?" Voldemort remarked neutrally, his face blank, so that Harry couldn't gauge if the wizard was angry at him for perceived disrespect or not.

He frantically cast around in his lifetime of bad experiences with adults for a appropriate response. Malfoy had advised him to be respectful, to follow orders promptly, and to go to the study if he was called. But had he been called or not? Duh, I'm stupid, he thought. Voldemort told me to wait. If he hadn't wanted me in here, he would have sent me back to my room right away. Okay. Maybe I should've just waited by the door?

Harry was well aware that to fight against a punishment only brought more pain, it was best to get it over quickly, and it was always good form to voice apologises and show obedience towards adults in power when in doubt. At Hogwarts he acted cocky and defiant, because he had quickly learned that Filch or teachers like Snape wouldn't really hurt him. All bark, no bite. Snape put him down at every opportunity, scorned and ridiculed him, yes, but he'd never caned or hexed him. Cleaning cauldrons, disembowelling toads or polishing medals and trophies for an hour was tedious and unpleasant, but no severe punishment in Harry's book, compared to what awaited him each summer at 'home'.

But Voldemort, that was someone truly dangerous. Harry hadn't forgotten how much the Cruciatus curse cast on him in that graveyard had hurt. So he walked toward the tall wizard until he was in arms reach, and stood perfectly straight and still, face blank, eyes downcast, arms at his sides, like he used to face Vernon in a situation where he might still hope to appease him by acting properly obedient. Not that it had worked very often.

"Sorry, sir," Harry said.

Voldemort was pleased by Harry's acquiescent behaviour and neat, new attire. The young man looked well rested and cleaned up, like a pure-blood Slytherin. Very different compared to last night. But Potter was obviously nervous and afraid of him. He reached out and took hold of his chin, tilting Harry's face up again to re-establish eye contact. After a first spark, the skin under his fingertips tingled pleasantly, like last night. Remarkable. The boy cringed in fear or perhaps pain for a second, eyes wide, breathing faster, but didn't step back or resist otherwise. Very good self-control for such a young man.


The magic slithered effortlessly through both their minds. Fear of a possible punishment dominated Harry's emotions, mixed with a bit of confusion, anger and shame that he couldn't do this right and didn't know how to act in Voldemort's presence, now that the two of them were alone, without Malfoy or Nagini to reassure him and to take cues from. In the background lingered the memory of a nightmare, the graveyard, of death, pain and terror. As sly and casual as he had entered Harry's mind,Voldemort withdrew again, and dropped his hand.

"Good boy. You'll learn my rules, in time. People do not sit down in my presence without my leave, all right, Harry? When I enter a room in which people are already seated, like around a meeting table, they all stand up, and only sit down again after I have taken a seat."

Harry answered softly, "Yes, sir," letting out the breath he'd held unconsciously. His normal angry response to being called 'Boy' was subdued by his relief that Voldemort wasn't pissed off, and that his touch didn't hurt. The scar on Harry's forehead reacted to Voldemort's presence, it tingled and throbbed, but that wasn't so bad, on the contrary. Voldemort's touch felt kind of – good! How come? Harry had expected pain.

Voldemort circled around him. Harry didn't move a muscle, and kept his eyes straight ahead, waiting, which required him fighting the instinct to turn around, to keep the potential threat in view. The elder wizard allowed his gaze to travel up and down his slender form, remarking, "Very nice. I like your new attire, it suits you."

Harry blushed, he wasn't used to compliments and it still kind of freaked him out when Voldemort spoke so - so not evil, not threatening. "Thanks, sir. These are Draco's old clothes."

"Ah, yes, of course."

Harry relaxed a fraction when Voldemort was beside him again, in his field of vision. The wizard towering over him didn't do anything, just studied him with a pensive expression.

Abruptly, Voldemort commanded in a sharp, cold voice, "Kneel." He was curious, how would Potter react?

Potter hesitated for a second. Frowning, he glared sidewise at him, before he set his jaw, and sank down at Voldemort's feet. Obedience, but reluctantly. This was all right for now, a honest reaction from Potter was better than faked, total compliance. He could see that the teen didn't want to do this, at all.

He circled once more around the kneeling boy, who looked very tense. "Are you comfortable in this position?"

"Um, no. Sir."

"Yesterday night you coped much better. You knelt quite a long time before me and Lucius, although you were injured and in pain."

"That – that was different," muttered Harry, flinching violently when he suddenly felt Voldemort behind him and a touch on top of his head, brushing his hair back. His scar gave another twinge. Fear washed over him. Harry's heart jumped into his throat, a whimper nearly made it to his lips, but he managed to stop it.

Fuck! Harry cursed silently in his mind. Voldemort's touching me! What the fuck does he want? I hate that, when I can't see him.

He stiffened more than he already was, balling his fists and drawing his shoulders up instinctively.

"Ah, ah, no. Not like this." He felt Voldemort's hand lightly stroking over his hair, tilting his head and pulling just at bit back and upwards. "Sit up more, chin up, back straight. Lower your shoulders. Open your hands, rest them on your thighs. Do not hold your breath, let it flow in and out."

A nudge in his back and strong fingertips were pulling his shoulders down and back a fraction. Another nudge between his feet, pushing them a bit apart. Harry gulped, petrified by fear and a turmoil of emotions in his stomach he could not place. The fingertips rested on his left shoulder for a moment, slid over the nape of his neck, the thumb moved around in a circle, caressing gently.

Harry trembled. Nobody had ever touched him like this. When Dudley and his gang had forced him to kneel before them, it had always been a scuffle, a fight, their aim to degrade him, to 'show him his place'.

"Relax. Breathe," Voldemort spoke softly, soothing from above and behind Harry.

Harry felt a slight movement, a soft brush downward again, towards his shoulder. Then fingers stroked over his hair briefly, smoothing it back again, before the hand disappeared. Harry released a breath.

"Yesss. Breathe, Harry. No need to panic. Kneel, but sit up more straight, chin up, rest on your calves and haunches. Be proud, you are a courageous, strong, powerful brave young man, show it. I do not want you cringing, grovelling low on the floor, like an imitation of Wormtail. You haven't done anything to warrant a severe punishment now."

Huh? Harry didn't know how to take this. He concentrated on following the command, settling down more comfortable and breathing. In and Out. It was okay, Voldemort didn't hurt him, but Harry wished that the man would move more forwards, so he could see him. Finally Voldemort walked around him again and stopped a few feet away, leaning against his desk, so that Harry could look up and see his face.

"You have never been trained properly to assume different positions, do you?" Voldemort studied him, his head tilted in question.

"What? Uhm. No." Harry cleared his throat. "Ahm, I don't know."

"Never mind."

"What do you mean? Sir?" asked Harry.

"Your Muggle uncle, did he tell you to stand or kneel in a certain way?" asked the wizard. "In which situations did he require this?"

"Um, Vernon only told me to lean against the wall in my room or my desk, when he wanted to beat me."

"How did he want you? Why this way?"

"My hands and arms either raised against the wall, shoulder high," Harry described. "Or forward, holding on to the desk. Legs out behind, feet apart shoulder wide. I guess because it was easier for him to hit me this way. And to degrade, to shame me, forcing me to stay this way, to just take his beating. I hate it."

"Hm. Why did you obey? What did he use to punish you?" Voldemort continued to pry. Harry averted his eyes, pressing his lips together firmly. He didn't answer. He didn't want to talk about this. At all.

"Tell me!" Voldemort's suddenly cold voice cracked over Harry like the belt he remembered. Only he knew that the dark wizard could easily inflict much more pain with one word than Vernon's worst trashing. Harry's scar gave a nasty throb.

"I had to obey, or it only got worse," Harry pressed out. Just like now, he though. "Over the years, I tried several times to run or to fight back. I tried again at the start of these holidays. I should have know better." He sighed and fell silent.

"What happened?" prompted Voldemort. Any follower this reluctant and defiant he would have cursed by now, but he'd decided to be as patient as possible with the boy. Harry needed to learn to obey him, but also to trust him.

"Vernon got Dudley to help him, and they both trashed me until I fell unconscious, and then some," Harry revealed. "It took me two days to heal enough to do my chores again. Aunt Petunia was so angry at him. Not that he and Dudley had beaten me up, mind you, only that they did too much damage. Vernon mostly used his belt, but he bought a new rattan cane somewhere. On the first evening of the summer holidays he told me to unpack it, as if it was a coming home present for me. The bastard."

"I see. Did you have to count the strokes?" Voldemort wanted to know. "Did he have clear rules, like how many blows for what type of misbehaviour from you? Did he ever touch you in a sexual manner before or after such punishment?"

"No, no, no, never!" Harry exclaimed, incensed and disturbed by the questions. He shuddered, the mere idea that Vernon could have forced Harry into such activities like Dudley and his gang did that time in the shed – disgusting, horrible. Eww!

When he didn't continue, Voldemort demanded, "Well? Elucidate."


"Explain. And what did you do to warrant such harsh punishment?"

"What did I do? Nothing special. It didn't matter what I did, he always found a reason," Harry responded bitterly. "I could do all my chores to perfection, and he still found something that wasn't right. Not showing the right attitude. Glaring at him or Aunt Petunia or Dudley. Talk back. Ask questions. Use the forbidden M or W word."

"Stop. The M or W word?" interrupted Voldemort.

"Um, magic, wand, wizard, witch." Harry clarified. "My relatives are paranoid about magic, any mention is forbidden."

"Ah. Of course. What else lead to a punishment? Describe what your uncle usually did."

"Not being grateful enough for the food scraps or Dudley's cast off's I got. If Vernon has trouble at work, or that Dudley muffed his exams, it is always somehow my fault. Each time Vernon was pissed off enough to hit me, he was really angry, out of control. He just pulled me up the stairs and threw me into my room. He grabbed whatever he fancied in that moment and screamed that I asked for it, that he would not tolerate me endangering his family any more, and that he would cure me of my disgusting freakishness. Then he started to lay into me without plan or method, the fucking arsehole, until he got tired."

"Mind your language!" admonished Voldemort.

"Sorry, sir," Harry replied perfunctory.

"I understand your anger, but try to curb your tongue a bit." He huffed, frustrated. "It will take time, that we don't have," Voldemort remarked more to himself, before commanding in a louder voice, "Stand up."

Harry rose to his feet again, anger, hate, frustration, bitterness, embarrassment and fear bubbling inside like a volatile potions mix in a cauldron. What was he, a puppet? Why did Voldemort treat him this way? And why did he question him about that bloody fat piece of rotten whale lard shite? Harry wanted to forget Vernon, Dudley, Privet Drive, it was in the past. He barely managed to keep the irritation off his face and stood there, waiting. Voldemort circled around him again, this time Harry moved his head a fraction, to better keep track of the wizard out of the corner of his eye.

"What will take time? Sir?" Harry asked, sounding petulant to his own ears. All this talk about Vernon and those former unfair, cruel punishments brought back so many dark memories, old fears feeding the new fears. How would Voldemort punish him, if - no, when Harry managed to piss him off? Which would happen sooner or later, as sure as the sun rising every morning.

The other wizard didn't reply. He came to a stop behind Harry, who wanted to turn around. The taller man stopped the movement before it had begun by firmly placing both of his hands on Harry's shoulders. Harry flinched. His breath hitched in terror, he felt like a rabbit caught in the headlights, his whole body tense and stiff, but he did not dare to protest or jump away.

"Retraining you," Voldemort stated. "Correcting this. Your attitude. Your distrust against adults, your fear of touch. Your initial reluctance to obey, to follow rules."

Indignantly, Harry protested, "I do follow – ouch!" That felt like a Stinging hex. Blast, so Voldemort could cast that wand- and wordless? So not fair, Harry thought.

"Quiet, Potter, and don't move, but breathe." Voldemort held him steadily, firmly by the shoulders. Harry could feel the warmth of the man's body from behind, they stood almost together, only with perhaps a foot space between them. His thoughts tumbled over each other in a rushing panic. What? Help! I can't get away! And he feels so strange, that must be his Dark magic, it's so much stronger compared to Malfoy's. Oh Merlin, what does he want now?

Voldemort didn't need Legilimency to read Harry's emotions. "Shhh, Harry, calm down. I only want you to listen, and to get used to me. Breathe, yes, come on."

Harry tried to obey.

"You only follow rules if you see no way around them," Voldemort stated. "And you interpret them like you see fit. You need to relearn which rules are important and why." The hands on Harry's shoulders moved a bit, slowly, slowly stroking down to his upper arms, starting again at his spine, gliding down over his shoulders as if they would rub off lingering water droplets after a shower. His muscles were tense, but as the touch didn't hurt, Harry began to lower his shoulders, tried to relax.

"Your attitude at Hogwarts drives Severus up the wall. He believes you are incredible arrogant, like your father. I see that isn't the case at all. As you said it didn't matter what you did, your relatives still hated and punished you all the time. "

Harry felt one hand moving to the nape of his neck, a finger stroking up and down his spine, and back again to his shoulder, resting heavily on it.

"Now you fear me, my touch, no wonder considering your upbringing and our previous encounters. Your instincts tell you to resist, to fight or flee."

Harry shuddered, his breathing hitched, his muscles tensed again when he felt Voldemort whisper from right over his head, his warm breath near Harry's left ear. "And you're correct in fearing me, I could kill you so easily, snap your neck..."

He couldn't take it any more. On instinct, Harry jerked abruptly, raised his arms, struggled, tried to kick back, desperate to squirm out of the man's grip. A sharp hiss, and he felt his arms snap to his sides, his legs were forced together, his whole body suddenly rigid and stiff as a board. He fell backwards, or would have, if Voldemort had let him, but the taller man pulled him against his hard chest, holding on unwaveringly. Harry recognized the spell, this was the effect of Petrificus Totalus, the Body-Bind Curse. Oh shite!

His magic went wild, fighting against the hold of Voldemort's curse and hands, but it was a futile endeavour. The elder wizard subdued him quickly, Harry literally felt as if a heavy blanket of oppressive dark magic doused out his own magic to a helpless, powerless, spluttering, frustrated flame, waiting for a chance to flare up fiercely again.

"Shh. I won't hurt you," came Voldemort's voice from above again. "Well, not now at least. Do not fight me, Harry. Hold still. Trust me, I am going to release you. And breathe, before you pass out."

Harry felt the moment when Voldemort cancelled the curse. He swallowed thickly, glad he was able to move his head and fingers again, but his legs wouldn't cope supporting his weight, so he had to trust Voldemort to hold him steady. Harry's heart was pounding against his rips, his throat dry, his mind and emotions were in chaotic confusion. When nothing further happened, he calmed down again. A slight push from behind, and he stood on his feet again, trembling and sweating from all the adrenaline racing through his blood. He wanted to run away, but knew he couldn't, Voldemort would freeze him again in the blink of an eye.

"All right, can you stand on your own?"

"Yes, sir," Harry whispered hoarsely.

"Very well."

The hands on his shoulders moved again, together, outward again, gently rubbing over his back and the nape of his neck, drawing circles, stroking down his back, up again right and left of his spine and out towards his upper arms. A sparkle, a tingle followed in their wake, pleasurable warmth spread. Harry couldn't believe his senses. Voldemort was giving him a back-rub, infusing some of his magic, to relax him? Why doesn't he just hex and curse me, if he thinks I'm not obedient enough or showing the wrong attitude?

"You appear not to know the difference between suffering abuse and a receiving a reasonable punishment," Voldemort clarified. "Between obeying only out of fear and true submission, because you want to please. Lucius told me about last night, when he showed you the guest room. How you acted, what you thought would happen. Fear not, Lucius would never do that, regardless of how much he desired you. We want you respectful and obedient, yes. Not petrified from fear. To be alert, wary, aware of your surrounding, ready to act or react, that is good, healthy. But so much fear makes people stupid, you cannot think if you are so terrified of me or Lucius."

Harry didn't say anything, he couldn't formulate an adequate response, with all the emotions and confusing thoughts churning inside him. He always thought that Voldemort wanted all people to quake in fear of him. That was the whole point of being He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, wasn't it? Slowly, he got his breathing back under control and tried to obey, to relax, letting some of the tension go with the air flowing out between his lips. Voldemort 's warm hands were still on Harry's upper back, massaging his stiff shoulders in a leisurely way.

He'd never felt anything like this. He hadn't known that a man's touch could feel so good. Voluntarily he had only hugged Sirius, and Sirius was different, because he was his godfather. Lucius putting his arm around him, allowing Harry to doze leaning against him last night had been very nice, he'd felt safe. Well, it was later on, after Harry got over his initial mistrust and fear.

"Last night, in the study and later in my sitting room, you were much more relaxed compared to today. Was that only due to Nagini's presence?" Voldemort inquired, looking down.

"Uhm, yes, sir. She - she calms me down, I feel safe with her," Harry responded, turning his head to glance upwards into Voldemort's red eyes. "Please, sir, where is Nagini?"

"Outside, in the gardens or the fields and woods beyond, hunting."

"Oh, right." Harry nodded, thinking how beautiful the garden was, and that he would very much like to spend some time outside and see Nagini again. Would Voldemort allow him? Probably not. Oh, right, he'd meant to ask him about his cloak and broom. And what had Voldemort said, that he wanted Harry to trust him?

Harry dug up some more Gryffindor courage. "Um, sir? Can I ask something else?"

"You may," replied Voldemort, sounding rather amused, than irritated.

"How – how can I trust you?"

"You shall have to learn. You want me to trust you, you want to go outside. You want your cloak and broom back. Yes, I have your possessions. You should reciprocate, try to trust me. I am aware it is more than difficult, considering our past interactions."

Harry was dumbfounded. Again, Voldemort seemed to read his mind, he had answered to something Harry had talked to himself in his own head!

"Um, sir? I – I want to thank you. For my trunk, and the letters and the newspapers. For once I know what's going on. I appreciate that very much, and I understand why you kept my cloak and broom."

"You are welcome."

Voldemort stopped with the gentle touches. Changing his grip he turned Harry around and released him. He almost smiled reassuringly down at the boy, there was a definite upwards turn of the corner of his mouth.


Harry nodded.

"Very well. Why did you come to my study just now?"

"Because, um, I felt as if you were calling me, sir?" Harry replied.

"Ah. That's interesting. I was thinking of you, I wished to see you indeed." How strange, Voldemort thought.

Stretching his hand out he summoned a piece of crumbled parchment from the desk, it was his list of notes and questions from last night.

"So, Harry, Lucius mentioned that you know what a Pensieve is and how to use it?" inquired Voldemort business-like, boring his crimson orbs into Potter's green ones and wand – and voicelessly casting Legilimens to again subtly probe his mind while they talked.

"Yes, sir. Well, I have seen Dumbledore's Pensieve once last year. I shouldn't have, but I was nosey. He stores memories in a stone basin like Mr Malfoy's, to examine and study them later. But I don't really know how it works or how to extract memories. Sir, what are you doing?" Potter frowned and reached up to rub his scar.

"Very well, I shall show you later. What you felt just now, that is called Legilimency, mind arts. Did that hurt?"

"No, sir. My scar, it throbbed a bit, but it always kind of tingles, stings or burns around you, or if I dream about you. If you look at me this way, it feels real strange, as if you were brushing against the inside of my head, behind my eyes, and as if you can read my mind. Like you did yesterday. I remembered just now what was inside Dumbledore's Pensieve. Did you see the same?"

What does he mean by 'it always tingles, stings or burns around you, or if I dream about you'? Voldemort made a note to ask the boy again later. This was becoming a long list.

"Yes, I probed your mind," he answered Potter's question. "Very gently, well by my standards. I did that a few times already. Your memory just now, you witnessed parts of a Death Eater trial in a Pensieve; you beheld how Dumbledore and Mad-Eye watched Karkaroff, the traitor, ratting out his comrades in front of the Wizengamot, did you not?"

"Oh. Yes, I did. Wait, so you really can read minds, sir?" Harry asked fascinated and worried at the same time.

"In a way. I can scan your feelings and memories. The mind is not a book, to be read at leisure, but I always know if someone lies. You cannot lie to Lord Voldemort. Dumbledore didn't warn you about this skill?"

"No. I didn't know something like this was possible, mind arts were never mentioned in any of our classes so far. Is that a kind of Dark Arts? Dumbledore never brought it up. He wouldn't you know, on principle. He never tells me important things like that flat out, always more riddles and half-truths."

Voldemort nodded, then he decided to test something that absolutely needed clarification. Stretching out his right hand, slowly, so that Harry could see what happened, he took hold of the boy's left forearm above the wrist, on the shirt sleeve. This time, Harry did not flinch away, but he looked up startled and distrustful. The elder wizard pulled, Harry complied by stepping closer, but the widening eyes and the expression on his face told that he didn't feel comfortable, that he was quite scared, again.

Holding the boy possessively with his other arm around his back, he calmly posed his next question. "Does this actually hurt you, being so close to me? Or do you only feel pain when I touch your scar directly, like I did in the graveyard?"

Feeling the boy tremble like a leaf in the wind again he growled impatiently, adding, "Calm down, Potter, for Merlin's sake! I will not harm you. I held you before, I touched your shoulders and back, that was not so bad, was it? I thought you enjoyed that."

Harry shuddered in his grip, breathing too fast. Finally he found his voice again, "No, yes, I don't know. The back-rub was really nice, it felt good. Thank you. But please sir, don't touch my scar. It stings and throbs, but I think just because I am so close to you. When you touched my neck it didn't hurt there directly. The feeling is concentrated in my forehead, where that cursed scar is. When you're really angry, like you were at the graveyard, or – or last night, when you saw how terrible I look like, it hurt fiercely."

"All right. Calm down Harry, don't panic. I just want to test something about this discomfort from your scar. Brace yourself." With these words, Voldemort moved his right hand first downward over the fabric of the shirt sleeve until he briefly touched the back of Potter's wrist. Then upward again, over the arm and shoulder to the neckline of the shirt. He stroked over the boys neck for a moment, then upward over his left cheekbone and temple to the forehead, moving slowly over the brows and tracing the zigzag form of the red, slightly raised lightning bolt shaped scar which elicited a hiss of discomfort from the teenager.

Voldemort withdrew his hand after brushing one salty tear away and loosened his grip around Potter's back. His fingertips tingled, how strange! He felt an intense urge to pull the boy closer to himself, to embrace him, to hold onto him, to – kiss him? Where did that come from?

"Well? How does this feel? Compared with the level of pain at my resurrection?" he asked, stomping down on his own irrational emotions.

Harry was breathing deeply, he was trying to push the confusion about his own insane feelings and the lingering fear of pain and panic away. Because it didn't feel so bad. He only expected it to hurt, expected it to be horrible to be held in such an embrace by a man, by Voldemort of all people. How could something so wrong feel even remotely good?

"It hurts a bit, it stings, all right?" he said. "My scar. When you touch my skin somewhere else, it's okay." He blushed, mortified. "Uhm, it even feels kind of good. Sorry sir, I know I shouldn't - "

"That's all right, Harry. I want you to be honest. Just describe what you feel or felt in your scar as precisely as possible," prompted Voldemort.

"Uhm, well. If you do not touch me, but are nearby, it's kind of like someone was massaging my brain with pins and needles, but not hard enough to hurt. When you touch my forehead, the feeling intensifies, as if the pins and needles in my brain are stabbing more forcefully, " Harry described the sensation as best as he could.

"In the graveyard, it was much, much worse. It hurt when you appeared, as if my head was cleaved open with an axe. And it was pure agony when you came near me and touched me. I thought I'd go insane or die from the pain. Maybe because you were so agitated, so furious on that night, feeling so much hatred toward me, and now you are much calmer in comparison? Please sir, could you let me go?"

"All right. Good to know that I can torture you with my mere touch, should I misplace my wand someday," Voldemort half teased and half threatened with an evil smirk, while taking mental notes of what Harry said and he himself had felt. This was so not normal. It underlined the strong magical connection between them, created by the rebounded Killing Curse.

With a whisper of, "Lucky you," Harry stepped back a pace, trying to calm his racing heart.

Voldemort walked to the side table and took a seat in the armchair, inviting Harry over with a wave of his hand. "Come here, sit down." Snapping his fingers, he called the house elf and ordered tea for both of them, which was delivered not a minute later. He fixed a cup for himself and watched the boy sip his tea and nibble at a scone with jam for a while, mentally going over their previous conversation. Finally he glanced at his list of questions again and quickly jotted down another sentence.


Harry looked up.

"Your scar tingles or hurts not only in my presence, but also when you dream about me? Is that correct?" inquired Voldemort.

"Yes, yes it does."

"When did you dream of me, and what?"

"Um, well, there are different dreams," Harry clarified. "One is very old. I see a green light and hear you killing my parents and casting the Killing Curse at me. As a little kid, I never saw anything clear, it was only the screaming and the flashes of green light, fear and pain. But in third year, when the Dementors came near me, the memories became clear. Since then, I remember and dream about that night. How you tell mum to move aside, her pleading for my life, you saying Avada Kedavra twice, and how the green light rushes towards me. Everything." Harry hugged himself.

"You really remember that?" asked Voldemort astonished.

"Hm, I do." Harry nodded.

"Remarkable. And the other dreams?"

"At Hogwarts, in first year, I got a headache when I dreamt about Professor Quirrell and his turban strangling me, hurting me, and after that detention in the Forbidden Forest, I got nightmares about you. I often had headaches that year. I didn't know the reason then, but later I did – that was you being near me, possessing professor Quirrell. Last summer, in August, I had a new dream. That was when you were in that old house of your father's family."

"What?" exclaimed Voldemort.

Harry flinched.

"Go on. How did you know? When was that? What did I do?"

"At first, I had no idea, I saw a dark room with a lit fireplace. There was a heavy chair. Wormtail was there, talking to you, but I could not see you, I only heard your voice, so cold. You were plotting to get to me, some plan or other. You talked about a faithful servant at Hogwarts, and about a person you had killed," Harry recounted the dream.

"Later I learned that that was Bertha Jorkins from the Ministry of Magic. In the dream, an old Muggle man eavesdropped on Wormtail and you. Nagini discovered him in the hallway and told you. Wormtail opened the door, bade the man inside, and you killed him, just like that. I woke up with my scar burning in pain, I thought you were right outside the Dursleys's house. I dreamed this a few days before the final game of the Quidditch World Cup." There was an accusatory tone in Harry's voice, remembering the fright and confusion this dream had caused him, and why did Voldemort have to murder that old man? Couldn't he have just oblivated him?

Listening to the boy's account, Voldemort's lip twitched with the hint of a smirk, when he remembered how good it had felt to finally be strong enough to kill first Berta and then later Frank Bryce. Then his eyes narrowed in bewilderment and worry. How in Salazar's name could Potter dream something that really happened, hundreds of miles away? Harry looked angry and accusatory at him.

Legilimens. A quick superficial mental scan showed that he was upset about Frank.

"Why does the fate of some random Muggle bother you?" Voldemort asked.

"You're impossible!" Harry exclaimed. "Why did you kill him, and why do you look so smug about it? He was just an old Muggle, too curious for his own good."

"Ah, too curious like a certain young wizard I know?" Voldemort smirked. "Never heard the saying, curiosity killed the cat? I had to kill him, and I relished in the opportunity. Enough of this."

Potter looked mutinous, but backed down and lowered his gaze.

"Any other dreams? When, and where?" Voldemort demanded.

"Yes, one. At the end of May, during the day, in Divination. It was after the incident with Mr Crouch, senior I mean. The tower room was so warm, and I fell asleep during class. I dreamt that an eagle owl brought you a letter. It was from the fake Moody, Barty Crouch junior, but I didn't know that at the time. Later, after the third task, it all made sense. Barty was at Hogwarts and killed Mr Crouch senior, his father, who had broken free from the Imperius Curse and tried to get to Hogwarts to warn Dumbledore about his son, Bertha Jorkins, Wormtail, you, and everything."

Voldemort stared at Harry, quite shocked and disquieted. How was this possible?

"How do you know so much?" he snapped urgently.

"Barty told me," the boy responded.

"What? When?" Jumping up, Voldemort couldn't contain his shock and outrage any longer. He'd wondered, of course, what exactly had happened at Hogwarts after Potter escaped him and returned with the Portkey to the castle. Barty had failed to return, had not send a note, so he had assumed that his loyal follower had been discovered.

When he eventually turned up at the graveyard about an hour later, Severus had told him that Barty junior had been kissed by a Dementor, which that bumbling fool Fudge had brought along as protection. However, Severus somehow failed to mention the rest of the story!

Harry covered from the sudden rage on Voldemort's face; he'd not seen him this angry since the graveyard. His scar throbbed painful. An aura of dark power seemed to shimmer and waver around the tall serpentine wizard, the glass in the window frames rattled, curtains moved, papers fluttered from the desk to the floor.

"You'd better explain Potter, quick! Why and what exactly did Barty tell you?" Voldemort demanded incensed, his wand all of a sudden trained on the boy.

"Yes, yes, I will, sir," Harry hurried to assure him, speaking quickly. "After - after I returned to Hogwarts with – with Cedric's body, Barty, in his guise as Moody, led me away. He brought me to his office, and there he questioned me, about what had happened at the graveyard. He gloated and talked about your brilliant plan, and how he helped you all along. I thought he'd gone insane. He wanted to kill me, but then Dumbledore, McGonagall and Snape came to the rescue. The Polyjuice potion, it stopped working, so Moody changed before my eyes into Barty. Dumbledore told Snape to get Veritaserum, and then Barty told us everything, explained what had happened in the previous year in detail." He gasped for breath, having rushed through his speech.

Livid, Voldemort towered over Harry, eyes blazing with crimson fire, teeth bared, upper lip curled, trembling from suppressed rage.

Harry's head seemed to be stabbed with a glowing needle. He pressed his lips firmly together to keep the gasps of pain and the whimper of fear that threatened to escape him inside, but he still couldn't stop his hand from pressing against his forehead and a tear leaking out of the corner of his eye. Fuck, that hurt!

With what looked like a tremendous effort, Voldemort held back cursing him and abruptly strode to the door, snapping over his shoulder, "Stay, don't touch anything. I'll be back soon. Here, read this." A small book left the bookcase on the opposite wall and soared towards Harry, who caught it automatically with his left hand and placed it on the coffee table.

Harry stared after him when the door had banged shut, then he sunk down on a chair and shivered. What he'd told the Dark Lord had set him off, so much that he left? Why? This must mean much more to him, than to Harry, who got the feeling that he should count himself very lucky to not have been tortured like Wormtail had been in that dream. He listened, but could hear nothing, so he got up and walked to the window to look out into the garden. A sharp Crack rent the late afternoon silence. Voldemort must have Disapparated. Where would he go? Harry had no idea. Gouging by the persistent headache, Voldemort was absolutely furious, royally pissed off.

After five minutes, Harry had enough of staring out the window. Blinking he massaged his temples, while he looked around the study. It was in quite a disorder, parchment and papers had fluttered from the desk on to the floor. Over a decade of training by the Dursleys had Harry starting to clean up automatically, he picked up the papers and put them back onto the desk, sorting them into stacks. Newspapers on one stack, letters onto another, which left files and parchment with notes and what looked like complicated Arithmancy calculations besides them.

He didn't read anything of this. He was a curious person, but now he was for once determined to not let himself be tempted snooping through the Dark Lord's correspondence. Voldemort was already in a terrible temper, no need to aggravate him further. Suddenly Harry remembered the order not to touch anything. Uups. Should he throw everything down again? No, stupid, what's done is done, Voldemort would notice anyway.

Sighing, Harry took his seat again and waited, listening to the birds outside, his stomach twisting itself into knots of worry. The headache was better now, but not completely gone yet. He picked up the book and paged through. Why did Voldemort want him to read this? Bulfinch's The Age of Fable. It was a dusty, worn Muggle book, over a hundred years old, about Greek and Roman Mythology. Huh? Harry scratched his neck. Why would someone like Voldemort have such an old Muggle book in his library?

Starting at random in the middle, he was soon enthralled by the adventures of the young Perseus. He was a son of Jupiter, set adrift as a child with his mum because of some bloody oracle. Likely some crazy old fraud like Trelawney spouted some words, Perseus' grandfather took the drivel seriously and that ruined his life, Harry thought. Poor bloke. But, this Perseus got help from some kind king and two gods. Good.

Reading on, Harry realized that his Head of house, Professor McGonagall, had the same given name as the goddess mentioned in the tale, Minerva. Oh. Out of jealousy, Minerva – the goddess - transfigured the hair of a beautiful maiden into writhing serpents, that caused anyone to look at this monster to - what? This was exactly the same as with the Basilisk, people were petrified! And Perseus – now that was interesting – used something like Hermione had done, a kind of mirror, only he used the polished shield to look into so he could kill the monster. Harry blinked, he'd never known this tale. I must ask Hermione, maybe she read this book before Hogwarts and that is what gave her the idea back in second year that saved her life?

About twenty minutes had passed, before Harry heard someone walking in the hallway outside towards him. The door flew open and Voldemort strode into his study, his robes billowing menacingly like Snape's did. He stopped abruptly and took in the state of the room, and Harry's form curled up in the chair where he'd left him. The boy looked nervous, the very picture of guilt. Narrowing his eyes, Voldemort pinned the boy to the seat with his gaze. He arched a questioning eyebrow, stating, "Very efficient, the Malfoy house elves, aren't they?" His voice was cold, so cold.

"I – I didn't read anything, honestly!" Harry blurted out, scrambling out of his chair and kneeling on the floor before the wizard, bowing his head low on instinct, not thinking, not able to do anything else. He could feel anger and oppressive magic pouring off of Voldemort.

"I just picked your stuff up. I didn't mean to pry or snoop. Sorry sir." He waited, breathing fast, his heart, again, beating frantically.

"What did I tell you before I left this room?"

"To wait and not to touch anything. Sir. Sorry, sir."

Harry didn't hear any incantation, but he felt a sharp throb in his scar and magic rushing towards him. Oh shit!

His world exploded in burning pain. Everything seemed to be on fire and at the same time frozen, his hair, his skin, his lungs, his bones, his blood scorched by red hot flames or stabbed by ice-sickles, he couldn't tell the difference, only that it bloody hurt! He tried not to scream, but couldn't hold in a pained cry, which trailed of into a keening wail. But he would not beg, he wouldn't. Harry curled up in a small ball.

It was over as soon as it had started. He heaved a few deep breaths and then dared to look up, wiping his eyes and nose with his sleeve quickly. Was that everything? This curse hadn't been so bad, compared with the endless, absolute agony in the graveyard.

"I appreciate that you wanted to clean up, but that was not necessary. I can do that myself with a few flicks of my wand," Voldemort said calmly. "You need to learn to follow orders, Harry. Have you considered that certain objects, files or letters might be charmed or cursed to protect my privacy? You could have been hurt or killed. There are for example Dark curses that rot your flesh or drive you insane with pain on touching the cursed object, you know? If the counter is not cast right away, they tend to be fatal."

"Oh. I – I didn't know – I didn't think - ," Harry stammered, pushing himself up with his arms from the floor into a kneeling position.

"That is glaringly obvious." Voldemort stared down at the boy. "Your rashness and impulsiveness will get you killed someday. Please use your common sense and strive to be more careful."

"Yes sir. Thank you, sir," Harry murmured, feeling heat travel up his neck. Gods, he was such an idiot sometimes. He had endangered himself, or his friends in the past years a few times already. He'd led Cedric straight to his death, just because he wanted to be fair. Now he'd earned himself a punishment because he'd cleaned up like a good house elf, and Voldemort of all people was concerned for his safety; similar to Mr Malfoy last night.

Voldemort didn't say anything further; he walked over to the free chair across from Harry's and took a seat, stretching out his long legs before crossing one ankle over his knee. When Harry didn't attempt to move from his position on the rug on his own, he nodded, pleased. "Get up, return to your chair."

Harry hurried to obey, picking up the book that he'd dropped earlier on the way. When seated again, he studied the man, trying to gauge what Voldemort had done in his absence and if his mood was better now. The red eyes were still blazing, but a bit muted now, the wizard seemed alert, but not as furious and dangerous as before, somewhat calmer, sated. Harry's headache had stopped, thank Merlin, and the Dark Lord's voice wasn't as cold and cruel any more when he spoke to him.

There were some specks on Voldemort's robe that Harry hadn't noticed before, and another small spot or some grime on the side of his jaw. Harry leaned forward without thinking, to better see what dirt or whatever it was, when he became aware of a faint coppery odour he recognized, and then the all too familiar colour of the specks registered in his mind.

"Blood! You have blood splattered on your robe and face!" he blurted out aghast, pointing at the Dark Lord for a moment, before his conscious caught up with his actions and he snatched his hand back, covering his mouth, fearing punishment for being so rude.

Voldemort sent him a brief glare, before waving his hand in a nonchalant gesture over himself. Instantly the specks vanished. "Better?" he asked calmly.

"Uhm, yes sir, all clean again," Harry mumbled, too scared and disgusted to ask who the poor sod was that had the misfortune to be the victim of the Dark Lord's temper. He was sorry that someone, somewhere met a gruesome end, but very grateful that Voldemort had not let off steam inside the study, on him. But – why? Why would Voldemort hold so much back on cursing him? Come to think of it, he'd been very patient with Harry, not only last night, but also this afternoon.

After taping the teapot with his wand to reheat it, Voldemort asked, "Tea?" politely, as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened.

"Yes, please," said Harry automatically, reaching over to fill up his cup with slightly shaking fingers, putting in a dash of milk and two lumps of sugar. He needed that, right now.

"Go on then, describe that dream."

"Pardon? Sir?" Harry looked up from the fascinating, swirling depths of his teacup.

"The dream you were telling me about earlier, with the letter from Barty?" Voldemort reminded him.

"Oh, yes, of course. I flew as if I was on the back of that owl, to an old ivy covered house on top of a hill, to a dark room. I saw the back of a chair. I didn't see you, how you looked like, only heard your voice. You were talking with Nagini and Wormtail. You said that his blunder had been corrected; you would not feed him to Nagini, but me. Somebody was dead. Then you tortured him, Wormtail, with Cruciatus. I woke up screaming and clutching my scar, it hurt so badly."

Voldemort asked, "What did you do?" although he could guess the answer already.

"I went to Dumbledore, to tell him about the dream. He didn't know what was going on, but he was sure that the disappearances of Frank Bryce, Bertha Jorkins and Mr Crouch were somehow connected, and that you were getting stronger."

"Hm, yes he would think that. But, how did he know about Frank Bryce? Did he have any explanation for your dream?"

"Dumbledore told me he reads Muggle newspapers, so he learned about the disappearance of Frank Bryce," Harry clarified. "He believes that my scar hurts whenever you are near me, or if you are feeling a surge of hatred, because we are somehow connected."


Harry just shrugged helplessly.

Voldemort's fingers tapped absently on the rim of his teacup. He set it down and picked up his list of questions again, before looking at him again.

"By the way, did you start reading the Bulfinch's?"

"What? Oh, yes, sir, I did. Thanks for lending me the book. It's surprisingly interesting. I started with the tale of Perseus and Medusa."

"Very well. Indeed, you should read that." Voldemort sounded very preoccupied before he lapsed into silence again, reading over his notes and scribbling something down, frowning.

Harry didn't ask why the tale of Perseus was especially good for him, he just waited, opening the book again to glance at the next page. After the Medusa was killed, Perseus faced Atlas and a Sea monster, which he managed to also kill eventually. Sounds like my life, Harry thought, one adventure after the other. No wonder people think I'm a bloody hero.

"So Harry, last night you mentioned your ability to speak to snakes," Voldemort stated, startling him out of his read. "You said you found out in your second year, and people turned on you. What happened?"

Harry quickly closed the book and gathered his wits. "Yeah. Well, in second year there was that disaster of a Duelling Club with Professor Lockhart, the fraud. Have you ever heard of him?"

Voldemort nodded and gestured for Harry to get on with his tale.

"So, Draco and I stood there on the platform and tried to hex each other. He conjured a snake with Serpensortia, to frighten me I suppose. The idiot Lockhart cast some spell to vanish it, with the only result that the snake was extremely pissed off. It slithered towards the students standing at the side of the platform. I thought it was going to bite Justin, so I cried Stop! Professor Snape quickly got rid of the snake."

"All was well then, wasn't it?" commented Voldemort.

"Yeah, one would think so. But the other students went completely bonkers, only because I had hissed something at that snake. Honestly, in the heat of the moment I hadn't noticed that I spoke in another language. I had no clue why everybody was so frightened of me, why people suddenly became so hostile. Ron and Hermione had to explain." Harry grimaced in remembrance of how the students had turned on him. "You know, I didn't know that there was such a language like Parseltongue at all, or that Salazar Slytherin had been a Parselmouth, or that Voldemort was one. The whole school suddenly believed that I was the heir of Slytherin, or your heir, or something, the new Dark Lord in training. It was crazy."

"Ah, I understand." Voldemort nodded, regarding the boy contemplatively. "Although you should have known about Salazar Slytherin and me. Didn't you read Hogwarts, a History and The Rise and Fall of the Dark Arts?"

Harry went brick red. "No, I didn't. You sound like Hermione."

"Hmpf." Voldemort huffed. "Does Dumbledore have any explanation for your ability to speak?"

Harry shrugged. "Yeah, he told me later that you must have transferred some of your powers on me, when your Killing Curse rebounded. Not intentionally, of course."

Voldemort's scarce eyebrows nearly hit his none existing hairline. "Did he say that?"

Harry nodded. "Yes, exactly like this. We, uhm, we discussed you. I was worried because there seemed to be uncanny similarities between you and me. You know, both orphans, half-bloods, raised by Muggles, both Parselmouths; but Dumbledore was adamant that it is our choices who define us. You went bad and I am good." He snorted loudly. "As if it is that simple."

The elder wizard sat there speechless, contemplating what they had just discussed. He wondered, why had neither Severus, nor Lucius mentioned this incident so far? If several students had heard Harry hiss at that serpent, then Draco and Severus must have heard that too, or not? And then, Dumbledore told Harry not only about Tom Riddle's background, but that he, Lord Voldemort, had transferred some of his powers on the boy? That was impossible. Well, impossible under normal circumstances.

A wizard could not simply transfer his magic onto another person just like that! Otherwise pure-blood parents could help their children born as squibs, and consequently there would not be any squibs.

Voldemort was beginning to get a very, very bad feeling. No, he'd had a bad feeling earlier, now he was downright concerned. Picking up his parchment with the notes from yesterday, he read again what he had jotted down last night and this afternoon about Potter's scar and Nagini's ramblings.

Lucius and Garrick protect P. because he's so abused?

N: we are alike, a feeling of mate or kinship.
She likes P.? She protects him. Why?
N: Feeling like a sun warmth rock, comfortable.

P. cannot be my biological son. What does she mean with kin or mate?

P. reacts unexpectedly positive towards N., he feels comforted by her. Why? He should fear her.

A speaker! How can HP be a speaker?

The hat wanted P. in Slytherin! 'I would do well in Slytherin, that house would help me on my way to greatness.' Nearly the same wording as my own sorting. Coincidence? Hardly.

Our wands are brother wands. P.'s wand feels compatible, a near match. What are the odds of us two buying these two specific wands over 50 years apart? When did Olivander craft them? How did he know to eventually bring out the Holly wand for P.?

Holly - Phoenix – Yew. Protection. Resurrection - Rebirth - Immortality!

Evidence of Dark Magic in P's forehead?
Residue from the rebounded AK still discernible after all these years? Should be impossible.

P. seems to suffer from constant headaches in my presence, but not all the time?

The Dementors claim that HP is not like others, he is special. Call him 'The Dark Lord's own.'

Lucius: P. feels something when I call; he shows signs of a headache right after L. felt the DM burn from my summons.

Why am I so jealous when I see P. getting on well with L.?

I want him to really trust me. I want to touch him, hold him, and more? This is irrelevant. Why? What is wrong with me?

In my presence the scar is tingling or hurting, and P. has been dreaming about me?
What did he dream? When?
He dreams of real scenes that took place hundreds of miles away, right when it happened. As if he could look into my head and out of my eyes, or watch me from the outside at the same time.

Reacts with pain in his scar to my emotions.
The more violent and negative the emotions, the more it hurts?

And Potter comes here, claims he felt me calling him, when I didn't – well, I thought of him, yes, I wanted to speak with him, see him. Yesterday, and today, it was so very easy to scan his mind, no resistance at all. I answered as if he had spoken out loud.

And how I feel about him, this connection, this conviction of Mine. And I hesitate to hurt him. I care? No, I don't! Since when do I care about anybody, besides my sweet, loyal Nagini? Such an uncommonly strong feeling. Irrational. Illogical. How come?

Oh, no.

Surely not?

However, what did that Dementor say? Such a peculiar wording. I should visit the Pensieve again, and best take Potter with me, show him. Do the Dementors feel our connection? They do know all about souls, devouring them all the time, I suppose … Yes, that would make sense. Perfect sense.

Oh Salazar. Is Potter my Horcrux?


Voldemort sat back, shocked by his revelation, flabbergasted and suddenly afraid. Is this what The Prophesy foretold?

'He told me in second year that you must have transferred some of your powers on me, when your Killing Curse rebounded. Not intentionally, of course.'

'The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches ...'

Harry Potter is my seventh Horcrux. Oh no. What have I done?!

{Oh yesssss. Thisss explainss everything,} his mind's voice supplied. Or was this Nagini's comment, butting in through that unstable mind link they had?

His gaze snapped to the old book he'd given Potter to read to keep him from making mischief. He'd read that book himself as an eleven year boy, devoured the ancient Greek and Roman myths, the tales of fate, heroes and gods; of supernatural beings and immense powers, of magic, already before he knew what he was, a wizard.

Oh, by Morgana's and Mordred's darkest curses! What a complete, utter fool I am, Voldemort thought grimly. This is a bloody self-fulfilling prophesy, just like with Oedipus, Croesus, Perseus, Romulus and Remus. I attacked Potter to eliminate the possible threat, and thereby empowered the child with my powers, so that he might be able to vanquish me like the prophesy starts out to begin with.

His mother's sacrifice did vanquish me in a way. What does this mean? Is the Prophesy already fulfilled? No, because there must be a reason why we share brother wands. There must be more. Will we fight again and again, until we kill each other? Or could this turn into something positive, like I thought yesterday? With Potter sharing my powers, could he help me? Stay neutral, or better, work for me, fight for me, not against me? If he does, victory is in my grasp.

Why didn't I notice this right away, in his first year? Quirenius nearly killed the boy! I almost killed him in the graveyard! Now I must keep Harry safe, protect him. How? Dear Hecate, oh vengeful Goddess of Sorcery, help me! How shall I proceed? Voldemort asked himself. How do I limit the damage already done? Keep this a secret - or not?

Well, I could tell him there is a prophesy about us and that Dumbledore kept this secret all these years. Hopefully that will shock him into agreeing to help me retrieve the blasted thing. I could always try - . No, better he wants to find that orb on his own; he'll be determined to succeed. Wormtail said Potter is proficient at snooping around. Hmmm.

Perchance Potter could ask Dumbledore directly? Stage a huge temper tantrum, demand answers … could he pull that off convincingly enough without giving away what he already knows? I can use a Geas and … Potter would have to learn Occlumency right away. Nearly impossible, he is too young, and so very emotional.

It might be easier if Lucius takes him along... also a huge risk … In any case, I have to find out where exactly these prophesy spheres are kept … if only Rockwood was here, he best knows his way around that Department of Mysteries - maybe Nagini can get inside and scout it out?

Harry noticed that Voldemort had totally spaced out. The man was awake, but obviously miles away mentally, staring off into nothing. Something seemed to bother him very much. His face had paled still more, if that was possible, he was breathing faster and he had a haunted look on his face, as if something had completely shocked him. Harry didn't know what that could be, from their previous discussion. He'd told Voldemort about Dumbledore's ideas, about the supposed transfer of power. Was that it?

Suddenly, the fireplace lit up, green flames flared high with a rushing sound. Harry jumped. What – oh, he realized, there is a Floo call coming in. Someone wants to speak to Voldemort, or maybe wants to come here. What to do? Nobody is supposed to see me. Should I just leave and go to my room? But would that be showing disrespect, not waiting to be dismissed? I'm not sure how he'll take that? And I suppose Voldemort doesn't want somebody else to see him like this, quite unsettled and not on top of his game.

Harry had to do something quickly. He got up from his chair and stepped close to Voldemort's chair, a bit to the left side, intending to duck out of the way if necessary – he had no idea how Voldemort would react. The sorcerer didn't really sleep, but he would be caught unaware, would be startled and probably respond quite violently.

"Sir?" No reaction. Harry reached out tentatively and shook Voldemort's shoulder. "Voldemort?"

That worked. The Dark Lord jumped up and stared down at Harry, his right hand pulling his wand out so fast that Harry saw only a blur before the wand tip, glowing ominously bright red, was touching his chest. He blurted out quickly, "Sorry, sir, but – the Floo has activated!" pointing over to the fireplace and hoped that he would not get cursed.

Voldemort's head swivelled over to the fireplace, in which a male head appeared right in that moment, moving to the left and right, as if the other wizard tried to see where the occupant of the study was. Quick as a flash, Voldemort cast Tempus – it confirmed that it was already five o'clock, and another spell at Harry, who felt heavy fabric covering him from head to toe all of a sudden. It was a full length black cloak with a cowl to hide his features.

{Go to your room. Eat dinner. Stay out of the way and be quiet, until I come to you or call you again,} hissed Voldemort in a low voice in Parseltongue {Thank you, Harry} he added sincerely, reaching out his hand to briefly caress the raven hair and pull the cowl a bit more down to Harry's great astonishment.

What was going on now? Talk about mood swings, Voldemort is worse than a proverbial pregnant woman, Harry mused.

Swiftly walking to the door, he congratulated himself that he had chosen the right course of action. Phew. He watched how Voldemort strode towards the fireplace, waving his wand around, perhaps to dispel some security charm, or to erect a silencing barrier, like he'd done last night while he talked with Mr Malfoy. Who might be calling now? Harry wondered, as he slipped out of the study, closing the heavy wooden door firmly behind him.

Turning around, he wanted to hurry down the hallway, but he tripped over something and barely managed to catch himself from crashing onto the rug covered hardwood floor. "What the hell?"

{Hey! Don't ssstep onto my tail!} An enraged hiss sounded below him.


{Clumpsssy two legged nuisssance, can't you watch where you're going? Oh, that's you! Not ssso hasssty, little raven.}

{Ssorry, I'm so sssorry, I didn't mean to!} Harry hastily apologized. {Nagini, it'sss you! Great to sssee you again! Do you want to come along to my room, and tell me about your day?}

{Yessss, lead the way, Flattertongue,} hissed the huge snake. {What have you been up to today? Why was massster so angry?}

The Bulfinch's book about ancient Mythology named 'The Age of Fable' does exist in the real world, although I own only a paperback reprint, and not the original first edition like his Lordship. Perseus tale is on p. 93 to 98.
I'm just freaking out here a bit, watching my Traffic Stats page explode. People from 71 countries around the planet are reading this story. Incredibly awesome. :-P How shall I find the courage to write more, how to meet your expectations? I'll just try my best. THANK YOU EVERYBODY!