NEW A/N (5/10/12): This is a two-shot, with possibilities. Brace yourselves; it's het! Well, sort of. More like M/F/M. I know; I usually write slash, but this story refused to go that way. If I'm going to be considerate of the choice of people, I also need to be considerate of the choices of stories and their characters, right?

It's AU & OOC & OC & some bashing. No limes or lemons in this chapter, but I plan on something for chapter two. (Hortensia, I've revised this to a two-shot just for you, my friend!) And let me make this clear: this is about a dominant wizard or two, and their submissive witch. If you are going to get pissy about the lack of a long romance before they make magic together, or about someone being controlling and someone else liking it, please move on to the next story to catch your eye. I will not apologize for the themes I write and plot choices I make. But this is NOT Mary Sue, and – apart from the fact that everyone uses bits and pieces of what they know to craft a story -NOT whatever it's called when people are writing daydreams about themselves as a fanfic hero or heroine. (I've been accused of that twice – both by anonymous loudmouths, of course- and all I can say is "ick".)

Although, if you see any instances of a character beating the hell out of and hating on the people he or she grew up with, yeah, that'd be me.

Also, this is now proofed and slightly expanded. I originally posted it au naturel and wow, the errors ran rampant. I am unapologetic; it was almost 7 am, it's my fifteenth wedding anniversary, and I hadn't even slept yet. Now, it should be closer to perfect, but I'm sure errors remains – lurking.

Happy Reading & Blessed Be, y'all!

WyrdSmith

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LITTLE THIEF

Lucius and Severus were seated on one of the long couches in the Lord's Study, ostensibly reviewing plans and information regarding the activities of the Death Eaters but mostly just visiting with their Lord and friend, Thomas Marvolo Voldemort. This was an evening routine for the three wizards, who had been friends almost as long as the two lesser wizards had served Lord Voldemort. Severus Snape and Lucius Malfoy served as the Lord's Left and Right Hands within the Dark, and had earned their Lord's trust through intense effort, unparalleled loyalty and great personal sacrifice.

Seated in his favorite, wing-backed chair, facing the fireplace, brandy in hand, Thomas looked in every way the epitome of a powerful, dignified wizard just approaching his middle years. He was a tall, powerfully-built, handsome man with strong, even features that were all the more remarkable because they were merely backdrop for the sheer presence of the man. Rich, dark hair cut in a formal style to just brush his collar was beginning to gray a bit. His strong jaw, nose and cheekbones were quite enough to catch interested gazes from both genders. He had straight, dark eyebrows that were remarkably expressive of the powerful wizard's moods and opinions. His mouth was firm and well-formed, with a full lower lip that hinted at the man's passionate nature.

And his eyes were blood red.

Even in a world filled with magic, Lord Voldemort's eyes were unusual. Very few knew the truth of why and how the man's formerly dark-green eyes had turned to vibrant red, although speculation ran wild. Some declared the wizard had participated in the Darkest of Dark Rituals and had become part demon. Others noted that it was 'common knowledge' that only the most powerful Dark Lords had red eyes, as a sign of their favor with Magic herself. Still others were certain that it was a hereditary trait, gained when the young Thomas Riddle was accepted by family magic into the Line and Heirship of Slytherin House.

In truth, they were all correct. But Voldemort did not choose to enlighten anyone. He preferred the mystery that swirled around him, and used the fear that some of the stories generated to further increase the distance between himself and those who yearned for his bed. He did not enjoy such attentions, having sown his wild oats as all young men and women do and decided that the vapid masses held no interest for him beyond the needs of the moment. Now, in his fifth decade, he was considerably more settled into his role as the Leader of the Dark, Master of the Death Eaters, and a powerful Lord in all the ways that matter.

It was amusing to him that, even in the midst of war between the Light and the Dark, somehow Lord Voldemort was still among the most desirable bachelors of Wizarding Great Britain. Despite the fact that warfare was unquestionably being waged between the two opposing forces, neither the public nor the Ministry was particularly interested in seeing the Dark sequestered in secret locations and brewing up evil plans in dark, dank mansions somewhere. Lord Malfoy and Lord Voldemort had taken that dragon by the nares the instant Albus Dumbledore proposed criminalizing the Dark and had walked the Wizengamot and the public (via multiple newspapers, magazines and magical radio) through the utter folly of causing over half of the more wealthy and magically- and politically-powerful citizens to go into hiding. The economic damage alone would be catastrophic. Fortunately, common sense had prevailed and the status quo was preserved. It was in no way a criminal offense to belong to the Dark, and the general attitude regarding the less legal or moral actions of either the Light or the Dark in their efforts to destabilize each other amounted to a sort of interested observation, so long as all of the more harmful activities were not directed at any innocents.

This evening, the three old friends were well past the business of war and the management of the Death Eaters and had progressed to an amused discussion of the gifts given to Lord Voldemort by the individual members of his organization in honor of Yule and the Lord's birthday the prior month. It was now nearing the end of January, and Lucius had been tasked with the chore of directing the plethora of gifts to their ultimate location.

To Severus's endless amusement, he was not enjoying the job.

"Fine, so all of the wines and fine liquor have been added to your Cellars, and all of the lesser-quality spirits are in the Manor's kitchens for use in cooking. You realize you're going to have about thirty inebriated house elves sometime soon, don't you? I believe the House Elves celebrate their bonding anniversary sometime next month, and by giving them all of this alcohol, you're giving them permission to have at it." Lucius peered over his glass at the amused Lord of the Manor, and rolled his eyes when the man chuckled richly as his only reply. This was one of the issues on which the two wizards disagreed. Lucius was of the opinion that elves should be neither seen nor heard and certainly not catered to. Thomas saw no harm at all, and much good, in treating the elves with some amount of tolerance and respect, and occasionally gave them little rewards for their dedication. Lucius felt that all the reward a house elf deserved was the original terms of the elf's voluntary enslavement, which generally obligated an elf's master to provide ambient magic, shelter, food, at least thirty hours of sleep a week, etc.

Of course, none of the Malfoys had ever been saved by their own house elves, either. Several years ago, the Light's forces had attempted to overrun the manor homes of several of the powerful Dark during Samhain, a particularly revered night for those who followed the Old Ways. Dumbledore, Weasley and most of the muggleborns and half-bloods had taken up the muggle version of holy days and converted them simply to 'holidays'. Samhain was, to the Light, a day known as 'Halloween' and – in addition to eating a disgusting amount of candy - was celebrated by mocking the Old Ways, engaging in buffoonery and lampooning witches, brooms, familiars, ghosts, certain magical creatures, and numerous items of Pagan power and significance. The Light knew that those who followed the Old Ways would have gathered in the Darken Woods to honor Samhain as it was meant to be experienced, and used one of the Dark's most holy nights to launch an attack on the mostly-vacant manor homes. The Malfoy's estate had been largely overrun by so-called 'soldiers of the Light', as had been most other targeted manors. Lord Voldemort's manor, however, had become something of a death trap for the invaders, who found to their astonishment that Lord Voldemort's house elves could be just as scary and vicious as the wizard himself.

Possibly more so.

That was one of the rare salvos of the war that had earned the intervention of the Ministry of Magic and the wizarding public. Albus Dumbledore had assured his people that he would be able to use his power as Supreme Mugwump and Chief Warlock to protect them should anything go awry. It was apparently his intention to claim 'spoils of war' on all that the Light managed to steal from the Dark, including the estates and their servants. Dumbledore and his people had been furious when they found themselves fined heavily, some even serving prison sentences, for their openly criminal actions. The damage done to all of the manor homes targeted that night had been horrific, and many family heirlooms and even family retainers had been lost forever. The Wizarding World judged those actions to be more in the realm of organized thugs than war, and the Light's reputation suffered accordingly. Although they were pleased with the public outcry, the elite of the Dark were nevertheless left with a number of severely damaged manor homes.

With the clear exception, that is, of Lord Voldemort's. When Voldemort and his people apparated to his estate, concurrent with the arrival of a corps of Aurors and the Minister of Magic himself (who had been horrified to realize that his largest contributor was about to suffer a huge financial setback that would potentially escalate the war into full-blown devastation), the sight that met them had made the front page of wizarding newspapers worldwide. Stacked like so much kindling on the front lawn of the gracious estate were all of the would-be invaders – some alive, others obviously deceased. Surrounding the invaders like demons hosting a blood magic ritual were what Voldemort cheerfully described as 'house elves in their truest guise'. These fierce, bloodied creatures were a far cry from the slavering, pandering servants that most people overlooked or disregarded. These were warriors, so vicious in their defense of their Lord's home and properties that they earned a personal visit from Ragnok, the chieftain of the goblin nation, who commended them for their bloodthirsty behavior.

Upon arriving at his Manor, Voldemort had simply walked past his servants, completely composed and looking for all the world as if they had done nothing at all unexpected. As he passed his personal house elf Bastion, who was so thoroughly soaked in blood that it dripped from his hair and nose to the ground at his feet, Voldemort said calmly, "Well done. Clean up this mess, then return to your duties. And Bastion? As commander of this effort, you have my permission to bond with Sweedee, and may produce one babe. Be sure the others are suitably fed and rewarded within the next few days. I'll expect my usual bath to be prepared within thirty minutes. Hmm … perhaps a light snack as well? I'm feeling peckish." He had then disappeared into his home without a backward glance at the gaping aurors and Minister - who had been promptly shooed away with their "baggage" – or at his stunned Death Eaters. The latter had ruefully accepted the assistance of the Voldemort house elves at restoring their own Manors to a degree of livability for the remainder of the night (the Ministry would later extract heavy fines from the 'Light" to effect full repairs and punishment) and had learned their lesson. From that point forward, those who served Lord Voldemort – and those others who didn't but were capable of learning from someone else's success – began to model their treatment of house elves after that of their Lord.

Still, Lucius didn't have to like it. It was one thing to give your servants their own small rooms for a degree of privacy, and two meals a day. It was quite another to spoil them rotten and give them tacit permission for a "shindig". He glared lightly at a chortling Severus, who really didn't care either way about the issue of house elves but who greatly enjoyed his friend's discomfiture, and doggedly continued down the list of gifts.

Fortunately for Lucius' temper, he was looking down at the parchment in his lap when the dignified Lord Voldemort winked at Severus and raised his glass of brandy in a cheerful toast for their stuffy companion.

Lucius had just arrived at the very short list of Death Eaters who had no gift by their name, meaning their gift to Lord Voldemort had somehow gone missing or they had not given a gift to him at all. The very idea of the latter possibility would have been laughable, except that there were just a few lower-ranked Death Eaters who would risk such a thing just to get their Lord's attention. Running silver eyes down the parchment, he had just begun to speak when they were interrupted by two sharp knocks on the Study doors.

Exchanging a brief look of surprise, Voldemort set his glass down on the side table and called out in a strong voice, "Enter!" The three men watched as the large doors opened and Leonard Goyle stepped into the room, pausing mere feet into the room as he looked at Lord Voldemort. Bowing slightly, the huge man said with slight irritation, "My Lord, forgive my interruption. Your Librarian says she needs to see you, and insists that it cannot wait." He paused and waited, face expressionless.

Voldemort stared at him for a moment, then glanced questioningly at Lucius and Severus. The potions master said thoughtfully, "That would be …. Miss le Fey, one of the secondary Line." Obsidian eyes focused on Voldemort as the man's remarkable memory summoned the information he required. "Alaria le Fey. Joined the Death Eaters two and a half years ago. Quiet woman, requested her position as Librarian. Done a wonderful job in organizing and preserving your tomes, my Lord." He turned to look at Lucius, who had already tapped the woman's name and was studying the parchment as it provided more information. As Severus stopped speaking, Lucius smoothly picked up where he had left off. "Miss le Fey is one of those who we were about to discuss, having not provided a gift for Yule or your birthing day, my Lord. She is also one of those rare few who could not be marked. I believe both Goyle and Severus did the preliminary test, and her system refused all inks. Probably her fae heritage. Apart from that, I can offer little information, except that she is very quiet, efficient and always seems to be deeply engrossed in some form of research whenever I see her." He paused for a moment in thought, and added skeptically, "I doubt you care overmuch, but she is rarely at any meals."

Voldemort processed the information and matched it up to what he already knew about the unassuming young woman who managed his Library. She was in her late twenties, had graduated from Hogwarts as a Hufflepuff (which shocked the few surviving Ravenclaw heirs), and had mostly distinguished herself by being completely undistinguishable. Looking at Goyle, he quirked an eyebrow in query, to which Goyle immediately replied, "She won't say, my Lord. All she said – with irritating urgency, to be truthful - is that she has to see you tonight. For what it's worth, my Legilimency didn't catch anything, but it wouldn't, of course."

The three men nodded, and then exchanged slightly amused looks. Apart from looking like muggle bobbleheads, they were actually acknowledging the fact that the position of Voldemort's Librarian would require a Master Legilimens, and Goyle was at best at tradesman level. Raising his hand slightly, Voldemort instructed Goyle, "Send her in and close the door."

Goyle nodded, showing no surprise, and stepped out. Moments later, a woman entered the Study somewhat hesitantly, flinching slightly as the doors shut quietly behind her. She paused at the console table that ran along the back of the sofa and looked around, trying to get her bearings, and provided a few moments for the three men to gain a clearer impression of her.

She was of somewhat shorter than average height for a female, perhaps five foot four or so, which made her fully a foot shorter than the three men in the Study with her. Her build was somewhat hard to determine, given the fact that she was wearing a long, full skirt that reached mid-calf and an overlarge sweater. Based on her face and hands, she seemed to have a normal form – neither too thin nor too heavy, although her bones seemed perhaps a bit finer than the norm. Her face was partially obscured beneath long tendrils of wavy hair that seemed as if it couldn't decide whether it wanted to be blond, red or brunette, since it was liberally streaked with each of the shades. Although it was pulled back in a loose tail that seemed to be twisted upon itself a few times, her distinctive hair was definitely quite long. Voldemort noted with some fascination that one of the tendrils that had escaped to trail down her cheekbone extended below her hip. Her face was pretty enough – not particularly outstanding. Apart from her hair, she seemed to the three men to be remarkably average.

Until she looked directly at Voldemort, and they saw her eyes.

Those eyes were achingly intelligent. The fact that they were nearly aquamarine with silver flecks would have been enough to demand attention, but the sheer force of the mind behind those eyes was breathtaking.

And then she blinked, and was once again an average, reasonably pretty Librarian.

"Forgive me, my Lord and gentlemen," she began, glancing at Severus and Lucius before focusing again on Voldemort. "My Lord … I … I don't know if you've noticed or care that I did not manage to give you a gift on time, but … it's almost ready and I need your help to finish it. It has to be tonight, my Lord. I'm sorry for interrupting you."

She stood somewhat awkwardly near the doorway, and Voldemort finally noticed that she was carrying a bulky object low in her arms, as if it was very heavy. Gesturing her into the room, he watched as she first tried to walk around the far end of the sofa, near the wall and away from him, before she realized her mistake. Flushing in embarrassment, she turned and walked along the back of the sofa, turning to cross between it and Voldemort's chair, in order to enter the seating area. She stopped in front of the vacant sofa, standing uncomfortably between it and the huge, square, stone coffee table. And she waited.

Voldemort did not make it easy on her. He studied her closely, as did Lucius and Severus, and waited to see how long it would be before she began to shift beneath the weight of their combined stares. After several minutes passed and she remained still, he cocked his eyebrow and said in a soft, somewhat threatening tone, "Explain why you feel justified in interrupting my evening, Miss le Fey."

She looked at him quickly, then glanced down before tightening her jaw and looking at him again. Her expression was determined. "My Lord, may I put this down on the table? It's very heavy, and quite precious." At his slow nod, she set the fabric-wrapped item down very carefully on the stone table, sighing gratefully at the respite, then straightened fully. Tossing her hair out of her eyes, she once again looked at Lord Voldemort, and he was abruptly aware of the fact that she was looking directly into his eyes, fearless and focused. For that alone, he would have given her these few minutes of his time; very few people were ever able to meet his crimson stare.

"My Lord, I have been studying some of the lost family magics of my Line," she began, and suddenly the three wizards in the room were intensely focused on the diffident young woman. The Line of Morgana le Fey was rumored to have considerably more abilities than the healing and such that they were known for, although virtually all of the documented history about the le Feys had vanished along with that of Merlin and several other vaunted magical Houses.

"I began to hear and feel certain … callings? … in my magic around my sixteenth birthday. I was not in a situation where I could pursue a detailed study of them, at the time, and the noise of my magic gradually grew worse and worse," she said quietly, the evenness of her tone somehow underlining the increasing pain and desperation she felt during those months and years. "I was trapped at Hogwarts, my Lord. My guardians served the Light, and Dumbledore was far too interested in me as it was." Her eyes dropped from Voldemort's, and the powerful wizard began to get a picture of the probable torment she had endured, stifling her magic and trying to avoid the attention of the ever-inquisitive Headmaster.

For the second time since she had entered the study, Voldemort spoke. "Who were your guardians?"

She raised her eyes again, their aquamarine depths filled with bitterness, and said in the flat tone of a survivor of one hell or another, "James and Lily Potter."

Lucius raised his eyebrows in delicate surprise, and glanced at Severus to gauge his reaction. The Potions Master was staring at the little Librarian with narrowed eyes, his mouth thinly compressed.

Voldemort, too, was looking at Severus, and his tone was darkly questioning and dangerous. "Severus? Were you aware that the Potters had a child in their home apart from Harry?" The very idea that the Potters had not one, but two, children to corrupt and mismanage was intensely disturbing. James had abandoned the ways of his family and his Line, turning his back on Charlus and Dorea and forsaking the majority of his inheritance in favor of becoming a 'yes, dear' husband to the overbearing Lily Potter and sucking up to Albus Dumbledore. Even Potter's schoolfriends - Sirius Black, Remus Lupin and Peter Pettigrew – had turned from James when he betrayed his own child and heir on Lily's and Dumbledore's command. It was no secret that young Harry had been deprived of all knowledge of the Old Ways of Magic and was raised from birth to take over the role of "Leader of the Light" when Dumbledore finally turned it over, although Voldemort was certain that would never happen. He believed it far more likely that Harry Potter had been raised as a sacrifice to the ideals of Albus Dumbledore, and would somehow – probably at the hands of Voldemort or one of his people – would be martyred for the Light.

And now, they were learning that Harry was not alone; that a child from one of the most powerful Dark magical families had been imprisoned alongside him. How had they not known?

Severus said harshly, "I knew nothing of this. I did hear rumors here and there of a young cousin of Lily's who visited occasionally …" He was interrupted by Miss le Fey's sound of disgust.

Gesturing to the sofa, Voldemort said calmly, "Sit, Miss le Fey. Explain this." Fully expecting the young woman's immediate cooperation, he blinked in shock when she instead summoned a 'tempus' and checked the time, before frowning at him. He stared at her as his mind tried to process the fact that this forgettable little female was standing in his Study, frowning at the Dark Lord! From the corner of his eye, he saw Lucius turn away to hide his small smile, turning back only when he had raised his wine glass to disguise his quirking mouth.

Le Fey studied the time briefly before dismissing it and sitting gracefully, saying in a voice that forbade argument, "Very well. I can spare roughly five minutes, but then I must focus on the purpose for my visit here, else we lose an entire year's worth of effort to the vagaries of the calendar." Seeing that the slightly-stunned Dark Lord made no objection, she began to explain.

"I was removed from my home with the Carrows on my eleventh birthday, when my Hogwarts letter arrived via Minerva McGonagall and Albus Dumbledore, along with a Transfer of Guardianship signed by the Supreme Mugwump himself. That was when I learned that there is no appeal to be made beyond that Office; the Supreme Mugwump is the final authority with regard to guardianship for any magical child who has no surviving relatives within two degrees of separation. By the way, I have since begun a project to track specifically who has been placed or relocated by Dumbledore and where. It may interest you to know that several Dark Pureblood and Halfblood so-called 'orphans' have been relocated into Light families." Seeing Voldemort's immediate glare, she forestalled his demand with a quelling look and the assurance that she would forward all information to him in a day or two.

Staring at her as he closed his mouth without uttering a word, Voldemort saw Severus lean over to Lucius and mutter, "It must be a Librarian-thing. Pince has the same power, you know." Aiming a scowl at his two old friends, he turned back to the woman on the sofa and gestured for her to continue. She would have anyway, but he wanted to at least pretend he was in control of this conversation.

Checking the time again, le Fey spoke more quickly. "I was placed with James and Lily Potter. James, as you probably know, is completely without a mind of his own beyond endless pranking and a phenomenal capacity for whinging. Lily is probably Grindelwald's long-lost daughter; she is just that controlling and vicious. Harry and I were introduced when I was eleven and he was five. We were bound by vow against our wills to keep my presence in their home secret. We ended up working together to outwit the "Order of the Phoenix" and their sycophants in their quest to make Harry DBP and to explore and exploit my abilities."

Severus, somewhat overwhelmed, questioned faintly, "DPB?"

Sketching runes in the air around the package and on the package itself, Miss le Fey clarified tersely, "No, DBP – Dumbledore's Butt Plug." She returned Lucius's grin mischievously, and went back to her explanation as the three suddenly saw the fae charm of the young woman in front of them.

"You will find that Harry, who on his twenty-third birthday is supposed to officially accept his DBP title, is not on sabbatical as he claimed but is living with Charlus and Dorea Potter and is preparing to pledge himself to the Dark. I was actually supposed to broach that topic with you next month, my Lord, and please do not interrupt; we are running out of time!" She glared very effectively at Severus, who had uttered a startled protest, and nodded in satisfaction when the cowed potions master sat back in his seat.

Unable to repress an amused grin as he watched the slip of a woman intimidate one of his fiercest Death Eaters, Voldemort said mildly, "As you insist we are working under a time constraint for this mysterious project, let us concentrate on that. We will meet immediately Monday morning to discuss everything – and I do mean everything, Miss le Fey. Block out the entire day, understand? With that in mind, let us progress to the original reason for your visit tonight."

Nodding in relieved agreement, Alaria le Fey startled the Dark Lord with a grateful smile that somehow ignited her singular eyes with a radiant glow and turned her from pretty to exquisitely lovely. He was still staring in surprised appreciation when she turned back to the bulky item she had set on the table and said briskly, "It has always been my goal to use every ability I have to serve the Dark, my Lord. The efforts of my guardians," she spat the word as if it was filth, "only crystallized my determination. The fact that all written documentation of le Fey family magics is lost was challenging to overcome, but I am certain I have adequately developed one talent that will serve you and the Dark very well, my Lord." As she spoke, she was unwrapping the item she had brought, revealing a finely sanded block of lumber – it looked like a beautiful slab of yew – and a sheet of delicate, handmade glass. The quality of each was exquisite.

Ignoring their close study, the young woman continued speaking. "It has taken me over fourteen months to get this right. Once I isolated this Wild Talent, I had to hone it. Then I had to think about how I could use it to serve you, my Lord. When I decided on the best possible choice, I had to find the raw materials and hand craft everything, including the tools I used to shape these two beauties. I had to bless them according to the phases of every moon and I even took them to the Masters of each Element to ensure they are properly blessed." She cast a teasing, sideways glance upward to study the Dark Lord as she added charmingly, "For the record, it is difficult to convince a horny triton to concentrate on magical blessings when his inclinations distract him from the task."

Blinking as the seemingly staid young woman suddenly seemed coy and remarkably appealing, the three wizards struggled to follow the plot as she rapidly clarified her visit. They were beginning to realize that Alaria le Fey was not as she seemed. Or, perhaps she was exactly as she seemed, but also so much more. Mulling this over, Voldemort had to force himself to concentrate as she continued speaking.

"In any event, it is all done and ready, and just in time, too! We have just under two hours to complete this – oh, don't give me that look, I'm not the one who scheduled all the appointments and trips that filled your time since your birthday! - and all I require for most of that time, my Lord, is your close attention to ensure I don't blow up your Manor." She sneaked an impish glance up at him from her position kneeling on the floor in front of the stone table, and giggled lightly as her words sank in. Once again, she interrupted him as he began to protest, somehow soothing his instinctive air of command into passivity without being in any way offensive. "Mr. Goyle is very dedicated in his duties of protecting your time from being invaded by your followers, my Lord. I tried very hard, but I could not seem to convince him that your Librarian would have anything of real importance to discuss with you."

Exchanging long glances, Lucius and Severus realized at the same time that they, too, had prevented the little Librarian from accessing their Lord. They had each received notes from Goyle, listing Miss le Fey's request along with numerous other details and minutiae that Goyle needed advice on, and apparently neither of them had seen fit to approve her request. If this went bad, there would be hell to pay. As if reading their minds, le Fey addressed their deepest worry of the moment as she worked quickly and carefully with the wood and glass.

"Fear not, gentlemen, I would not even consider this if I felt I could not do it perfectly. However, I will be testing the success of this after I've crafted it properly – aren't we lucky there is a meeting of the Phoenix tonight in Dumbledore's office! – and I will definitely be weakened at the conclusion. I must explain this part now. My Lord, once the creation is done, you will have up to four hours – true dawn is one minute too late - to become its sole master. To do so, you place four drops of your blood into the orb at cardinal points, and command the orb from your authority as the Dark Lord to serve only you. That's what I decided to call this, by the way. 'Orb', I mean. I could give it a very important name, but for all I know this is entirely my creation – I'm fairly certain it is, anyway. I never heard of Morgana having such a thing, nor anyone else. So, 'Orb" it is!"

Voldemort realized she was nervous, and despite the ongoing mystery as to what her 'Orb' was meant to do, he could not help but admire her. From what he could gather, she had worked on this project of hers for over a year now, going to extraordinary lengths to ensure that it was perfect and powerful, and in the end had been forced by the efficiency of his staff to invade his Study. Despite each of the remarkable – and, yes, somewhat adorable – quirks and characteristics she was revealing about herself, Miss Alaria le Fey was not given to forcing herself on others. Considering the fact that she had been living in his Manor for two and a half years and he and his closest men had only the barest knowledge of her, she was clearly not a gregarious type of person. Once this evening's effort concluded, he would be getting to know this young woman and ensuring that he was adequately informed on all of the abilities she had or thought she had within her blood.

It hurt nothing at all that she was becoming increasingly appealing to him with every tilt of the head and delightful comment.

As if a shadow passed over the moon, the mercurial mood of the little Librarian changed again. Where a slightly jittery young woman had been kneeling, there was suddenly a calm, focused witch in complete command of her magic. She knelt before the stone table, hands extended to either side of the yew and glass, and summoned her magic. Voldemort watched, enthralled with the control she showed, as Alaria le Fey proved she belonged to her Line. The Power in her hands extended through and across the glass and the yew, connecting between her palms and rolling back, spinning and twisting and shaping the elements into something new. Something amazing.

It took over an hour for the magic to work with the incredible control of a master and the exacting technique of an artisan. An hour that raced past with the speed of light, and lumbered with the pain of quivering muscles and sweat-dampened hair. But eventually, the heat of the magic faded and began to cool, and the glare eased into a glow, and the three wizards saw what the little Librarian had dubbed 'the Orb'.

As she sighed in exhaustion and sat back on her heels, Alaria dropped her hands to the stone table and released her magic to fly free again. On the table before her was a large orb of finest glass, resting on a curved, supporting base of yew. Magic swirled and rippled within the globe, which was easily two feet in diameter. It was beautiful. It was exquisite. It was …

"What is it?" Severus asked bluntly. Despite the harshness of his tone, his question was valid, and even Miss le Fey laughed, albeit wearily, as she raised a trembling hand to push damp hair from her forehead.

To his own surprise and greatly contrary to his nature, Voldemort summoned a house elf and, within mere seconds, was pressing a damp, soft, blessedly cool cloth to her forehead. Grateful beyond measure, she leaned into his hand and sighed in relief, smiling slightly with eyes closed at his small chuckle. Rather than return to his chair, he settled himself on the sofa behind her, long leg resting against her arm, and pressed a second cool cloth to her neck when she took control of the first.

An hour ago, both Lucius and Severus would have denied the possibility of such a scene ever occurring. Thomas Voldemort was many things – powerful, brilliant, wealthy, dedicated, even loyal – but he was not a tender or caring man. He was a Dark Lord, in every sense. However, in the past hour, the Dark Lord's Right and Left Hand had witnessed magic they hadn't even heard of before, wielded with proficiency by an apparently average young woman, and they had seen the truth of that woman.

She was anything but average. This young woman, being personally tended by the Dark Lord with close and atypical concern, was Alaria le Fey, blood heir to Morgana le Fey. And they saw, perhaps sooner than Thomas or Alaria did, that they were witnessing the beginning of their Lord's Courtship of the witch who seemed likely to become their Lord's Lady.

Satisfied that she was no longer in danger of fainting, Thomas reached over and picked up the glass of water he had summoned and held it in front of the young witch's face. Seeing that her eyes were closed, he said with quiet amusement, "I appreciate your right to it, but this is not the time for a nap. Drink this." He drew his breath in reaction and held it as she blinked and the swirling glow from the Orb turned the silver-flecked aquamarine of her eyes to translucent jewels. He surrendered the glass as she reached for it and found that he could not look away. How was this one woman so changeable?

She drained half of the glass before she stopped drinking and felt herself becoming alert and focused once again. Sending an apologetic look at Severus, whose question had remained unanswered for at least a minute or two now, Alaria carefully reached around to place the glass on the side table next to Voldemort, only to find herself leaning against the Dark Lord's legs as she stretched. She ducked her head in embarrassment when he took the glass from her hand and set it on the table, chuckling at her efforts. She shook her head ruefully, muttering, "Obviously I'm not as recovered as I thought."

Rubbing the cool cloth over her flushed face, she set it down and began the painful task of trying to unfold and stand. She had remained kneeling for at least an hour now, and seemed to be numb from toes to waist. Giving it up as a lost cause for now, she settled awkwardly next to the Dark Lord's feet, absently noting the high polish on the wizard's shoes, and carefully stretched her legs out with her hands, studying the Orb the entire time.

Just as they thought she would not answer, she started to speak. "As far as I know, Master Snape, this is the first of its kind. I got the idea in Trelawney's Divination Class – probably the only time that woman has offered anything of worth to the magical world. This is considerably more than a crystal ball or anything else she offered, however. This, my Lord, is both a master spy and a master thief, and once you dedicate it, it will serve only you and your Heirs."

Voldemort leaned over to study the Orb, carefully avoiding pressing on the young woman's legs, which he knew were springing back to agonizing life as blood returned to them. He had watched with fascination as the witch at his feet had literally manipulated the very essence of glass and wood. He had seen in the original sheet of glass that magic existed within every grain of sand from which the glass was created. He knew, now, that the yew was fused entirely to the Orb, and served to ground the incredible magic that lived and breathed within the thin glass. Really, the Orb's surface was so thin and delicate it looked like a soap bubble. He was afraid to even breathe on it, for fear of it shattering.

Which is why he could not restrain his undignified yelp of dismay when the little devil at his feet reached up and snapped the Orb – hard – with her finger. The bell-like tone that resulted arrested his look of censure and distracted him from his irritation. On the other side of the Orb, Voldemort could see that Lucius and Severus were equally amazed, first at the musicality of the Orb, and second at its resilience.

Le Fey spoke dryly into the fascinated silence. "It would hardly be effective if it was too delicate to breathe around, don't you think?" She returned the three glares aimed at her with an impish, tired grin and said calmly, "You could throw it at a wall and make a new doorway, if you wanted to. Believe me, this is stronger than it looks. I didn't use silica; I used diamond dust and titanium particles, infused each grain with power, and welded each speck together with magic. Or did you think I just spent 78 minutes basically blowing a big bubble?"

Lucius braced himself for the Dark Lord's sharp reprimand, and was left mentally floundering when Voldemort uttered a sharp bark of laughter and said respectfully, "Apologies, my dear Miss le Fey. Although it really was a spectacular little light show." Next to Lucius, Severus sat blinking, his shock showing clearly in the obsidian eyes that stared incredulously at his friend and Lord.

Turning his head to look at Lucius, Severus whispered almost silently from the corner of his mouth, "Is Thomas … bantering?" Lucius responded with a shrug, accompanied by both a nod and a head shake, which conveyed his own confusion admirably.

Wincing as the last of the feeling returned to her legs with a vengeance, the Librarian retorted, "Just call me Alaria, please, my Lord. Everytime you say 'Miss le Fey', I feel like looking around for Dumbledore." She laughed quietly at Voldemort's prompt, "We can't have that! Alaria it is."

Voldemort looked down at the witch – Alaria – who was still seated on the floor and was presently wincing and hissing lightly at the vengeful pins and needles torturing her legs. Glancing up at his potions master, he said with clear command, "Severus?" Implicit in the name was the order: fix this now.

Staring briefly in confusion, Severus then blinked as he understood what his Lord wanted and leaned around the glowing Orb to look at the young woman on the floor. "Miss le Fey? Will your remaining tasks for the night be effected by a pain potion?"

Voldemort's attention didn't waver from Alaria as she gasped and bit her lip against the next increase in pain. He smirked slightly when she snapped irritably, "Damn it, it's Alaria, all right? And, yes, I can take a pain potion and want one really badly! Why is this hurting so much? It should be fading by now!" As the pain continued to increase without surcease, he could feel the controlled young woman beginning to panic.

Voldemort took the uncorked vial from Severus's outstretched hand and smelled it before holding it to Alaria's lips, saying commandingly, "Open." He raised his eyebrows as she obeyed unthinkingly, and smirked down at her when she scowled at him even as he tipped the potion into her mouth. He felt his magic stretching and purring like a great hunting cat, and closed his eyes briefly in pleasure as it rubbed up against Alaria's magic. Compared to his more aggressive power, her's seemed more quiet, more calm, more …. His eyes opened abruptly as he suddenly realized what his instincts and magic was trying to tell him. He opened his mage sight briefly and studied what his mind had already confirmed.

This young witch, sitting unselfconsciously at his feet, was his magical complement. Where he was commanding, she was responsive. Where he was aggressive, she was passive. When she was in pain, he reacted with care. While she created, he guarded.

Where he was dominant… she was submissive.

She provoked a number of uncharacteristic responses in him. It had been years since he last noticed that another person was attractive, or charming, or mischievous, or enticing, or … Shaking his head mentally, he pulled himself back on track, and settled for understanding that she seemed to make him see things and behave in ways he normally would not. Really, when was the last time (or even the first time) he had ever even noticed that another person would benefit from a cool cloth on their forehead or neck, much less wielded it himself? And, apart from all of this, she made his magic purr.

Watching approvingly as the pain potion began to take effect, he smirked again, gently, as he reached over and used his thumb to wipe a drop of potion from her bottom lip. She was watching him closely, as if he really was the great hunting cat his magic currently reminded him of. Well, if he was the lion, she was definitely the doe. Predator. Prey.

'Perfect!' he mentally purred. Aloud, he explained confidently, "Your magic runs through your blood. You were kneeling, and restricting it. Now, it's all flowing back, along with your blood." He watched with pride as realization dawned in her intelligent eyes. No further explanation was needed, which delighted him. He hated having to explain what seemed so obvious to him, and didn't particularly care that his own intelligence was light years beyond that of the average person.

As she turned back to study the Orb, Thomas sent a sharp, meaningful look at his two old friend, and was rewarded with understanding nods. They had caught the undercurrents of his interactions with Alaria, as well. From this point forward, this young witch would be carefully guarded and monitored. She was far too interesting, and had too profound an impact on him, to remain unprotected.

Oblivious to the silent conversation, Alaria began speaking as she reluctantly resumed her kneeling position in front of the Orb. "Now, to prove the theory," she murmured quietly, as if to herself, and placed both palms firmly on the shimmering Orb. "Gentlemen, if each of you would concentrate solely on envisioning the Hogwarts' Headmaster's Office, it would be helpful."

Startled, each man rapidly put together her explanation of the Orb as a master spy, and promptly began to fiercely concentrate on the office of Albus Dumbledore. If they each wore a particularly malicious grin, it was understandable.

Slowly, as four powerful minds focused intently on a single image that was channeled through the magic of Alaria's hands into the Orb, a room began to form. A very familiar room, filled with dozing portraits, eccentric knickknacks and mechanical devices, heavy furniture, velvet curtains – and people. Several people, at least a dozen or more, who all had one thing in common – they were each members of the Order of the Phoenix. And seated at the desk, in grand ignorance of their lurking presence, was Albus Dumbledore himself.

Within seconds, sound began to accompany the picture, and Voldemort and his men found themselves listening in on what had to be the singlemost boring meeting of a warlike political party – ever! Albus Dumbledore enjoyed pontificating, and smugly twinkled and lemon-dropped his way through one person after another, giving overbearingly personal orders disguised as sage wisdom, and dispensing sadly disappointed looks with an even hand. It would have been unbearably boring to the three Dark wizards, if not for Alaria.

She ignored every word that was spoken, and concentrated on her magic. Thomas watched in complete fascination as the little Librarian once again turned into a master mage. She ran a hand caressingly over the surface of the Orb, seeming to collect in her palm a very fine mist that she then crafted and spun into a long, almost impossibly thin needle. This, she inserted delicately into the globe. The wizards held their breath collectively as the needle seemed to enter the Headmaster's Office, unseen by its oblivious occupants, and hovered over each person like a crystal javelin. With the certain touch of a surgical healer, Alaria le Fey stung the exposed skin of every person in the office, and then stung each portrait, the Sorting Hat, and Fawkes. Of them all, only Fawkes reacted, turning to stare upward at Alaria with ageless eyes, before ruffling his feathers with a distinct sense of "I don't care" and returning to his nap. With each jab of the needle, the person targeted reacted as if to an insect sting or a minor itch. When she was done, Alaria had samples from every senior member and several junior members of the Order.

Watching with bated breath, Thomas, Lucius and Severus delighted in the woman's sure touch and certain magics. They weren't positive of the reason for her actions, although they had an inkling. After all, she was drawing samples of either blood, magic or both. Whatever her reasoning, it could only be good for the Dark Lord and his people.

Delicately withdrawing the needle, Alaria smiled triumphantly up at Thomas, and handed him the needle with extreme care, pointed away from the Dark Lord, requesting respectfully, "Hold this a moment, please, my Lord? Only you or I can touch it." At his nod of agreement, she dropped her hands to the large, yew base of the Orb and stroked lightly along the surface, summoning a small drawer from the wood. Accepting the needle back from the Dark Lord, she carefully placed it in the drawer and nudged it closed with her magic, explaining, "So long as the essence of a person is held within the probe, which is made from the same magic and elements as the Orb, you will be able to follow and spy on that person. So far, my Lord, you are able to sit in the comfort of your Study and spy on Dumbledore, Moody, McGonogall and all the professors, all of the portraits that reside in the office, Filch, Aberforth, all of the Weasleys barring Percy, some of the Aurors, and the two Gryffindors who are supposed to be Harry's best friends. That means you have access to all of Hogwarts, the Hogshead, Gringott's Bank courtesy of Bill Weasley, a dragon preserve if you want it, several departments and offices of the Ministry of Magic, anyplace that Alastor Moody and the Aurors go, etc." She looked around to watch as the import of what she had just given the Dark Lord began to set in, and flushed with pride when he placed his hand on her shoulder and squeezed in pure delight.

Alaria shivered at the Dark Lord's touch, and wondered at herself and her odd reaction to the powerful wizard. She had long ago accepted the fact that she was somehow distant from other people, entirely disinterested in the pursuits of the flesh that so engrossed and delighted most people, especially those near her own age. Even the very masculine Triton she had persuaded to bless the yew and glass had not succeeded in seducing her, despite his best efforts.

And yet, every time the Dark Lord so much as moved near her, much less touched her, she found her thoughts momentarily scattered and her heart rate and breathing slightly disrupted. Frowning, she resolved to consider all of this in greater detail later, when she had time and opportunity. She had a sinking feeling that her reaction, and the unusually accommodating behavior of the Dark Lord, might have something to do with one of the lesser facts she had uncovered during her intensive search of her Line's sense memory. Something about being capable of resisting all bonds except those of the Darkest magics, which was probably why her body refused the Dark Mark. She suspected at the time that none of her blood and magic would ever participate in such a broadly-dispersed bonding.

Shaking her head impatiently, she willfully dismissed those stray thoughts and directed her attention back to the matters at hand. At the moment, she was very busy indeed, and needed to focus.

Which she could do better if the Dark Lord would take his warm, strong hand off her shoulder! Leaning forward slightly on the pretext of looking at Snape and Malfoy, she drew a sharp breath when the Dark Lord's hand simply moved with her, and cast a bewildered look up at him to see him smirking down at her with a knowing gleam in his eye. Flustered, she scowled in response and flushed slightly, wondering what his 'knowing gleam' was about. What, exactly, was he 'knowing'? And why didn't she know it, too?

Allowing her scowl to deepen into a glare, which had the total effect of exactly nothing against the powerful ego of the Dark Lord, Alaria huffed in exasperation and resigned herself to concentrating on the topic at hand. With that in mind, she glanced self-consciously over at Snape and Malfoy, who fortunately – or perhaps just pityingly – were ignoring all personal interactions on this side of the table. Grateful for their ignorance – or kindness – she expanded on her explanations as the four of them watched the members of the Order leave the Headmaster's Office in small groups. "In addition to following and spying on the people I just tagged, my Lord, you can use the probe to tag other people that they encounter. At some point, I imagine that either Weasley senior or Dumbledore will meet up with the Minister for Magic and various members of the Wizengamot and the ICW. Just be really, really careful as you tag them. Given the people we already have tagged, I don't imagine it'll take much before you have reliable access to places like the Department of Mysteries, Gringott's private offices, etc."

Studying the two Dark wizards seated opposite her, Alaria somehow discerned their less savory thoughts and said with careful dryness, "No matter how hard you tag them, you can't kill them. All you'll do is betray the fact that something is wrong and catch their attention. Part of the blessing of the Elementals included the caveat that this would not be a tool for assassination; it would put far too much power in one person's hands." She was unsurprised at the disappointment in their eyes, and carefully didn't look up at the Dark Lord when he murmured in her ear, "Was that the Elementals' idea – or yours, little Alaria?" She was certain if she looked at him, he would have another knowing gleam in his eyes, and she could barely handle the first one! She was very thankful to Snape when he asked cautiously, "You said this … Orb… is both a master spy, and a master thief. How so the latter?"

Smiling at the man's formal manner of speaking, she studied the now-empty Headmaster's Office and said with tense anticipation, "Hopefully, I'm about to show you." She glanced over her shoulder at the Dark Lord and recoiled slightly to find his face much closer than she had expected. Stammering slightly, she instructed, "My Lord, if you will watch this with your mage sight active, please?" She waited until he nodded in acknowledgment, finding herself appreciating the fact that the man rarely spoke if there wasn't a need, and turned back to the Orb.

Thomas summoned his mage sight, and allowed himself to settle into the odd vision that superimposed itself on his normal sight. With mage sight, he could watch all of the currents and flows of magic around him. It required years of practice to do this with any regularity and without emerging from the session with a migraine, but he had accomplished that milestone several decades ago. Now, magesight was as simple as putting on a pair of muggle sunglasses – which were actually one of the inventions of muggles that he had come to enjoy.

He watched with appreciation for her skill, power and delicate touch as Alaria pulled her magic out of her body and into the space occupied by her aura. Here was the area in which a talented witch or wizard could best craft their magic, although few were aware or powerful enough to do so. The ease and skill with which she manipulated her magic showed that Alaria le Fey was both aware and powerful. Thomas was not in the least bit surprised. What she had already given him in the Orb was gift enough to win her a permanent place of wealth and ease for life. It was even enough to cause him to consider courting her, even if she never did another thing. Just creating an heir or two with their combined blood and magics would be an incredible achievement.

And yet, she seemed about to give him even more.

Thomas was fascinated as he studied the magics that Alaria manipulated as she controlled the orb. He reacted as if she had caressed him as she stroked a single finger lightly across the orb diagonally from bottom to top, and he hissed in delight as the view of the Headmaster's Office abruptly zoomed in. She did it again, and then again, until the three wizards found themselves staring at a very close-up view of Dumbledore's desk. Thomas could not help but shiver in an atavistic reaction as Alaria reached forward and slowly pierced the Orb with her own hand, sinking into the fabric of the Orb as if it were gel. The surface seemed to bend to her hand before popping back, allowing her hand access. They watched, completely frozen and even holding their breath, as Alaria extended her arm into the Orb and touched the Headmaster's desk.

Concentrating fiercely, both Thomas and Alaria studied the protective magics and alarms that booby-trapped the desk. Thomas didn't know what she wanted from that drawer, but by Merlin and Morgana, he was going to help her get it! Just the exercise alone was educational; whatever she came back with would be frosting on the cake of this wonderfully, surprising meal she had prepared for him.

Together, they negotiated the traps, Alaria responding with perfect obedience and control to every whispered direction and murmured caution of the Dark Lord, who was now leaning against her back, head positioned on her shoulder in the intensity of effort to see exactly what she was seeing. Finally, she opened the drawer, taking comfort from the powerful body against her back and holding her breath in anticipation of alarms that never came. Allowing herself one small sigh of relief, she slowly reached into the drawer, all the way back, and then curved her hand to somehow reach up and over the false back that none of the three wizards had even spotted.

Lucius and Severus sat tensely, eyes focused and every muscle frozen in anxious support of their little thief. Once again, they held their breath as Alaria slowly retracted her hand from the drawer, carefully clinging to something she had retrieved from Dumbledore's hiding spot. With agonizing care, she edged backwards, slowly rebuilding each trap and trigger as they retreated. Thomas was now actively supporting her to keep her trembling body from falling forward into the magical glass, one strong arm positioned across her ribs and wrapping upward between her breasts so that his hand rested on her shoulder as she stole something secret and vital and somehow important to the Dark Lord from the very heart of the Phoenix's nest.

Painstaking inch by painstaking inch, Alaria retreated, clinging with purest will to the object she had stolen. Just as she closed the drawer and rebuilt the last trap, her strength failed, and for a horrifying moment she was certain she had failed along with it. But she was held tight in the Dark Lord's arms, and he was more than strong enough for both of them. Obeying his murmured command to just keep her arm frozen and extended, she felt the powerful Lord pull her backward slowly and smoothly, supporting her body completely as he extracted her from the Headmaster's Office and from the magic of the Orb without leaving a single ripple to show she had been there.

Fist clenched in a painful spasm around that which she had stolen, Alaria could not keep herself from emitting a single, exhausted sob as she fell backward against Lord Voldemort and shook. Nor could she prevent the tears of relief and success from running down her face, although she tried to hide them beneath her hair as she dropped her head forward. When he turned her around and pulled her back into his arms, she had the brief thought that she'd been foolish to think she could hide anything from him, but then all thought was gone as the tension and worry and stress and anxiety and sheer, unmitigated effort of the past fourteen months, and the crescendo of it all over the past few hours, came crashing down and sent her into exhausted weeping, secure in the arms of the Dark Lord.

Blinking and stretching his neck as he slowly recovered from the tension of the past half hour or so, Lucius realized that Severus was trying to not draw their Lord's attention as he attempted to peel Lucius' fingers from his thigh. Abruptly focusing, the Malfoy Lord had to stifle an incongruous snicker as he realized that he had sunk his fingers clawlike into his oldest friend's thigh and drawn blood, and poor Severus was trying to make him let go so that he could stop the bleeding. Slowly peeling his fingers from Severus's leg, Lucius leaned forward to laugh quietly in his friend's ear and muttered, "Sorry, Sev. I'll make it up to you with a sampling from the 1440 Usquebaugh taken from Clan McGonagall when they supported the Bonnie Prince."

Severus had an uncharacteristic grin of pure enjoyment on his face, even as he flinched at the deep clawmarks in his thigh, and erupted in open laughter that summoned forth Lucius' laughter in accompaniment. Neither man could remember when they had last been so lost in a moment or enjoyed an evening more than tonight, and it was all thanks to the wit, wisdom, courage and power of their little Librarian.

Well …. Librarian cum Master Spy cum Master Thief, that is.

Leaning on each other in helpless laughter, the two dark wizards looked over at their Lord and Master and wondered if they were about to punished severely for this complete lapse of decorum. But no, it seemed that the Dark Lord Voldemort had a greater concern at the moment, and she was wrapped securely in the Dark Lord's powerful arms and weeping against his broad chest. Both the Dark Lord and Alaria were clearly exhausted and elated, and Alaria was unquestionably well past her ability to cope with even one more thing. Very pleased with the abilities of the Orb she had created for him, and with Alaria on her own merits, Voldemort just held her and let her cry, rubbing strong, warm hands soothingly across her back and rocking her slightly as she shivered and wept. Normally, the mere thought of one his followers dissolving into such an emotional mess would have probably earned someone a crucio or two, but he had been with her every second of the past two hours and knew that this small woman had used more power and mental capacity in that brief time than the majority of his Death Eaters were capable of generating and sustaining for even ten minutes.

And in the long minutes during which he held the shuddering, weeping, exhausted witch during her recovery, Lord Thomas Marvolo Voldemort made a decision. This woman had more than earned a place in his Inner Circle, but he found he wanted more from her. Just three hours ago, he had no interest at all in taking a spouse, male or female. The only person he had ever truly wanted at his side was lost to the past and to the Light's determined annihilation of all knowledge and means by which he could bring his heart's yearning back to the living world. Voldemort had thought to eventually choose a Dark pureblood and make him a true heir through blood adoption. But now, somehow, Alaria le Fey had awakened the Dark Lord's determination to take a spouse and create heirs the time-honored way.

Voldemort was nothing if not decisive; he rarely made a decision without acting on it immediately. Besides, both his blood and his magic were purring at the presence of the woman in his arms. This was one of those times where he reveled in being Lord and Master; his every desire became law. And he desired Alaria le Fey.

So mote it be.

Somehow, during Alaria's emotional meltdown in his arms, Thomas summoned his personal house elf again and made the arrangements that would result in the young witch being in his bed and at his side by dawn's light. He assumed she would cooperate, having registered and understood her submissive response to his more dominant magic and character. In truth, it didn't particularly matter if she cooperated or not. Certainly, he would not force her, but he would not accept a refusal or delay, either. Just one of the little perks of being a true Dark Lord.

As she wept and shook, Thomas arranged for his bed to be newly made up in coolest silk, for extra pillows to be provided in the style that the Lady Malfoy and other fine ladies preferred, and appropriate nightwear be prepared for the young lady as well. He demanded that all of Miss le Fey's possessions be retrieved from her room within the Manor and brought into the Master Suite. He instructed the elves to convert the unused nursery into a private study/library for the Lady le Fey, and to decorate for now in the tones and colors that seemed most prevalent in her most often-worn items of wardrobe. He also advised that if Alaria had a favorite elf, that elf should be assigned to care for her during the next several days until things could be fully sorted out.

Alaria, lost in tears and shakes and loud thoughts of sheer relief, heard none of it. She only surfaced back to the conversation of the three Dark Wizards after the house elf left and she found herself, once again, having her face washed with a cool, damp cloth by the Dark Lord Voldemort. Blinking as she slowly returned to what she might refer to as a reasonable state of mind, she grumbled quietly, "I can wash my own face, you know, my Lord."

Voldemort ignored her efforts to take control of the washcloth, pinning one hand down between his ribs and his elbow as he continued his attentions. Finally satisfied, he threaded the long fingers of both hands through her multi-colored hair and tilted her triangular-shaped face up to his. Smiling down into her bewildered face, he said with quiet confidence, "You can, and when you aren't shaking and reacting to the ordeal you are enduring, I will allow you to. Otherwise, I will do it for you." He tapped admonishingly against the arched eyebrows that had started to draw together in a preparatory scowl and said firmly, "You will not argue with me, Alaria. I am your Lord and Master, and in very short time I will be more than that, unless you have a particularly strong and pertinent objection otherwise."

He studied her blank, shocked stare for a moment before dropping a gentle kiss on her forehead and declaring, "We will table that discussion for when you are more coherent." He kept her tightly in his arms, most often pressed against his chest, and glanced over to see how Lucius and Severus were faring. They looked exhausted, but Lucius was still alert enough to say, "Remember, my Lord, Miss le Fey said you must attune the Orb to yourself with four drops of blood at the cardinal points."

Nodding abruptly, Thomas turned to lift Alaria in his arms before settling her gently against the cushions on the long couch. Summoning a soft blanket, he draped it over her trembling form, smiling briefly at the stunned expression on her pretty face, then turned back to the Orb and swiftly but efficiently performed the procedure that bound the Orb to his will. Turning back, he saw that Alaria had watched and supervised even this little bit of procedure, despite her profound bewilderment, and was now holding her hand out toward Thomas – her clenched hand.

Gently taking her hand in his own, he helped her to release her clenched fingers from around the object she held so tightly. Finally, it sat in his palm, and he kissed her hand in reward before turning his attention to seeing just what she had deemed vital enough to steal for him. All he knew for certain was that it would be something meaningful to him in some way. Knowing Dumbledore, it would probably be an object of power or strong meaning to the Slytherin Line.

Drawing his breath in shock, Thomas stared, stunned, at the object in his hand. It was something he had been told by Gringott's had been destroyed in a fire in the Founders' Vault, thirty years ago. Its loss was the reason he had reached the conclusion that he would never take a spouse or bondmate. He had been devastated at the news of the destructive fire, as had the twice-ensouled portrait of Salazar Slytherin that graced Thomas' bedroom.

Salazar Slytherin – the one person for whom Thomas's very soul yearned. Who yearned for Thomas, too. Darkest bondmates, separated by a millennium, and the machinations of the Light.

Until Alaria.

There, gifted to him by his beautiful little thief and sitting in the palm of his hand, was Salazar Slytherin's locket - and horcrux. The rest of his ancestor's soul lived in the Founder's portrait. It was the slightest sliver of hope that somehow they would find a way to return Salazar to blooded life that kept Thomas from claiming the Slytherin Lordship for himself. So long as even a possibility existed, he was content to remain the Heir of Slytherin, and to search for a way to bring its true Lord to his side.

Family legend held that when the portrait and the locket reunite in the presence of a heart-bonded Slytherin heir, it was possible for Salazar to return to living form. The only magic that existed that could unite the two was that of the Old Families; lost knowledge that had disappeared over the centuries through the determined efforts of the Light. With the loss of that knowledge, the only way for a divided soul to return whole and entire to life was through the combined, soulbonded magics of the living heir and a bondmate from one of the ancient families. It was a failsafe, built into the blood and magic of the most powerful Old Lines. Should the conditions be right, should the need be true, should the magical world require such a union – then, and only then, would one of the rarest of soulbonds ignite. A triadic soulbond, powerful enough to defeat Death and Time.

Thomas had never even allowed himself to entertain the dream of it happening, since the locket was by all accounts destroyed, and none of the families had any of the old magics to help them along. He had almost given up, almost surrendered to what he and Salazar both believed to be inevitable – and then came Alaria, mercurial, magnificent, brilliant Alaria.

Submissive Alaria.

And she was bearing gifts.

Now, studying the priceless locket that held half of his ancient love's soul, and the young woman who had obtained it for him but also seemed to have captured part of his own soul for herself, Thomas shook his head in wonder. Had she chosen this item simply in an effort to prove she could steal something that rightfully belonged with the Heir of Slytherin and return it to Thomas as a demonstration of both her skill and her devotion? Perhaps she thoughts so.

Magic was certainly capable of such a deceit.

With an intense surge of pure elation, Thomas Voldemort suddenly found himself with the possibility – nay, the probability – that his most precious and hopeless dream could come true.

Tonight.

Barking a quick order to his two old friends to secure the Orb, Thomas lifted his little Alaria into his arms, tightened his grasp on Slytherin's locket, and headed purposefully upstairs to the Master Suite and Salazar's portrait.

It was time to make some magic. Dark, delicious, utterly delectable magic.

ooooooooooooooooo